Everyone seems to be searching for one–The One. There are enough dating sites out there to indicate that people, young and old alike, want to be in a relationship, or at least save the one they have. People want to share their lives with another person; they want a witness to their journey. It would seem then, that finding someone and living a life with that person would be a cinch, a piece of cake, a walk in the park.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
Building a strong and solid relationship can be as difficult as running a marathon without going through the proper training.
Think about it… How much training do we get in constructing and maintaining strong and healthy relationships? Parents have “The Talk” with their teens; schools focus on math and science; social media on “hooking up”, etc. But there are no schools out there that teach you how to help your relationship when it gets into trouble. And most relationships do, at one point or another. It’s a fact of life.
You can’t expect two people coming from different backgrounds to get along fabulously all the time; to never have disagreements that turn into something more serious. It is at these critical times that relationships need a save.
Perhaps you find yourself in a relationship such as this. If you do, I want to remind you that almost all relationships need saving every once in a while. That does not mean that the relationship is bad or that it’s doomed to fail. Before you call it quits, I’d like you to try the facilitative relationship savers below. They may sound silly and ineffective, but allow me to prove you wrong. They may, in fact, end up being the only relationship help you need. Remember, often the simplest things are the most effective.
Before I present you with these conducive approaches, keep in mind that in order to have a strong and healthy partnership you’ll need to have the following ingredients: 1) Trust 2) Loyalty 3) Honesty, 4) Respect, and 5) Compromise, to name but a few. The following suggestions will help you achieve these relationship must-haves.
So, without further ado, let’s begin!
1. Become Teammates
The first thing you need to remember is that you chose to make a life with this person. There are reasons you did so. No matter what’s going on right now to make you doubt that, look at your person and know that you’re both on the same team.
Focus on your similarities; the things you love and respect about each other; the things that brought you together in the first place. Take time to review the history channel of your life with each other. You may currently be at odds, but if you say to yourself, “Wait a minute, this person is on my team. We are in this together! Maybe we just need a referee,” you might find your perspective shifting from Enemy to Ally.
Any time my husband and I have a falling out, or we start to argue, our reset is always to say: we’re on the same team! Let’s look at what’s really going on. How can we make things better, not worse?
Ask yourself, “What were our original goals? Do they need to be modified?” In her article, 12 Powerful Habits of Happy Relationships, Tiffany Mason writes, “Work as a team toward goals (short & long term).” When you understand you’re teammates, you’re more apt to want to work together for the benefit of the unit, not the benefit of the “I”. You’ll feel a camaraderie and discover that teamwork strengthens the relationship; that teamwork can save it by unifying it instead of ripping it apart.
When I was in graduate school, often times the professors would break us up into groups to work on certain projects. It would always turn out to be a huge bond-building exercise. The team members felt connected and worked steadfastly on promoting their team efforts.
2. Find a Common Ground
When you’re in the middle of a heated dispute, it’s important to find something on which you both agree. I once treated a couple fighting over what to do with their 7-year-old son. Dad wanted to send “Billy” to summer camp and Mom was dead set against it. He thought it would be good for Billy to have the experience away from home. Mom was fearful that Billy would be too far away, and should anything happen, they wouldn’t be there to care for him. The situation was tearing Mom and Dad apart. They needed a save.
Finding common ground did just that. In this case, the common ground was that they both loved Billy and wanted the best for him. Each of them had different ways of expressing that love. Once they remembered that they both had their son’s best interest at heart, they started talking. They agreed to let Billy go on the condition that they could call the camp site and check in on him. And if at any time Billy felt like he wanted to come home, they’d go pick him up. In order to find the much-needed common ground, it was necessary for both Mom and Dad to take a step back and listen to each other’s thoughts and ideas. They had to respect each other’s perspective and come to an understanding.
In an article written by Collen Morris, a counsellor and family therapist, she talks about “accepting influence.” She states that in a conversation with your partner, that might mean saying “Good point”, or “I see”. She points out that, “Giving the respect of acknowledging your partner’s opinion is the beginning of negotiation…If that rarely happens in your relationship, it may be time to step back and listen to your partner’s thoughts on the subject at hand, instead of responding from a negative, closed position.”
3. Tell Your Partner What You Need
Nope, no one is a mindreader. Not you nor your partner. Yet often in relationships, you might hear someone say, “If he loved me, he’d know that I need some time away from cooking!” Or, “If she loved me, she’d let me spend some time with my buddies.”
One of the things that causes relationships to break down is a breakdown in communication. Each person is assuming that the other person should know what they want. In the film The Break-Up, starting Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn, there’s a scene that clearly encapsulates a total communication breakdown. Vince Vaughn’s character yells…