Relationships are one of the most significant and influential aspects of our existence as humans. And while romantic relationships provide a sense of connection and fulfilment, they can also at times be complicated and tricky to navigate.
Our upbringings directly influence how we engage in relationships, such as how we communicate, show affection, behave during conflict, and so on. In situations where there was not a healthy example of how to navigate romantic relationships, this leads to repeating the same dysfunctional behaviors that were witnessed, as well as a lack of knowledge about how to engage in a more positive manner. The fact is, it is incredibly difficult to be good at anything we were not effectively taught or shown how to do, and this is no different for relationships.
It is important to note that just because you might be lacking a framework for healthy romantic relationships, doesn’t mean it’s too late to learn new and effective ways to not only improve, but also strengthen, your relationship. Here are five ideas to get you started:
1. Understand your partner’s love language: Learn to love your partner in the way that they need to be loved. This can be confusing because if you feel loved a certain way, you might think this is also how your partner feels loved. However, without knowing what your partner needs, it is easy to miss the mark. Consider taking the Five Love Languages quiz (www.5lovelanguages.com) with your partner, so that you can each start loving in the way the other needs.
2. Provide frequent positive feedback: Focus on the positive aspects of your partner and point them out regularly. Take a second to reflect on how often you compliment, praise, or thank your partner for not only the big things, but also for their daily contributions. Expressing admiration and gratitude is a surefire way to increase positive interactions.
3. Use validating statements: When your partner shares something that matters to them, it is crucial that it is appropriately acknowledged. For example, if your partner says they were hurt because you didn’t call them back, avoid statements like, “Relax. We talk all the time.” And instead consider, “Your feelings were hurt because I didn’t call. I’m sorry.”
4. Use “I” statements: When expressing needs or hurt feelings, start the sentence with “I” versus “you.” This method of delivery decreases the other person’s tendency to become defensive. For example, “I am hurt that I didn’t get a call back” versus “you never call me back.”
5. Spend time apart: Spending all of your free time with your partner can actually backfire and lead to an increase in conflict and boredom. Conversely, when you spend some time apart, this can increase both novelty and desire. Finding the perfect balance of time together and time apart can be a very effective way for keeping the spark alive.