The choices are easy.
You can either throw in the towel and quit
You can stay and put the work in.
Most of us have bought into the Hollywood depiction of the happily ever after relationship.
So when things aren’t going well, we start to panic.
“Maybe they’re not right for me after all”
Here’s the truth that noone wants to admit:
Relationships are hard work…like super hard work.
Alternatively, you could grab your phone, install Tinder and be swiping right in minutes. If that’s what you want?
Only you can answer that question.
But, if you’re serious about your relationship and want to make it work, you have to accept that nothing is perfect.
A lasting, healthy relationship takes constant effort.
What can you do when there’s problems in the relationship?
Sure. You could do that.
If you have a tuxedo in your closet and a decent florist nearby, that may smooth things over for an hour or two.
But it’s not going to fix anything in the long term.
We’ve compiled a list of 5 powerful ways you can fix your relationship and get things back on track.
1. Listen in the right way
If you’re having issues in your relationship, are you truely listening to your partner?
You probably think you are.
But in reality, there’s a high probability you’re not listening in the right way.
Most people assume there is only one way to listen, but there are actually FOUR LEVELS to listening:
- Cosmetic Listening: You give the impression that you’re listening but actually your attention is somewhere else.
- Conversational Listening: You listen to the other person but you are also thinking about what you are saying. In this mode you’re only giving the other person half your attention.
- Active Listening: You focus entirely on the person talking and try to understand what they’re saying. You check understanding by asking questions and summarizing the information they are providing. This type of listening makes the other person feel appreciated and understood.
- Deep Listening: This is a state of intense listening. You hear the information AND detect the emotions and unspoken implications from the other person.
Have you noticed?
We have a primal desire to be right.
All the time.
So when there’s issues in the relationship and the time comes to discuss them, your emotions take over.
In all likelihood, you’ll listen in Cosmetic or Conversational mode. Waiting impatiently until you can jump in and defend your point of view.
If you stop needing to be right, and take the time to REALLY listen, the conversation can go a lot different.
Deep Listening may be a stretch, but Active Listening is something we can all do easily.
But only if we park our own agenda for a few minutes.
All you need to do is:
- Stop thinking about yourself and what you’re going to say.
- Listen to what your partner is saying.
- Ask questions to check you understand.
- Summarise what you think they said.
It sounds easy but most of the time we don’t do it.
So next time your significant other wants to discuss your sloppy laundry habits, try to listen more like this:
And less like this:
2. Say it in the right way
We’ve all felt like this right?
You come home from work…
Slump down exhausted…
…and there’s a pair of soiled underwear left on the sofa.
You can’t take it anymore.
It’s time for a relationship ‘chat’
…You walk calmly into the kitchen where your partner is cooking
“WHY THE HELL DON’T YOU PUT YOUR STUFF AWAY? YOU’RE SO DAMN LAZY!!!”
OK…that didn’t quite go according to plan.
If you want to avoid tears and give more productive feedback, you need to stop attacking the person.
Instead, focus on the behavior and the emotional consequences of that undesired behavior.
There’s a very simple formula you can use:
“When you do X it makes me feel like Y. Could you please do Z instead?”
- Where X = the undesired behavior you would like to change and
- Y = how it makes you feel when you observe that behavior.
- Z =the desired behavior
As an example:
“When you leave your dirty underwear on the sofa (X), it makes me feel disrespected (Y). Could you please put it in the dirty laundry basket instead? (Z)”
At first it feels weird. As if you’re talking to a shrink.
But with practice it becomes natural and your partner will respond better to this method of feedback.
3. Try to fix you
Here’s a surprise revelation.
A lot of the problems in your relationship come from you.
Let me tell you why…
Sometimes we are unhappy because our partners don’t behave, feel or talk in the ways that we want them to.
But have you ever asked yourself:
Why should they?
BE AWARE that you carry an invisible Operating Manual for your partner in your head.
- How you expect them to behave
- How you expect them to feel
- What you expect them to say
And here’s the rub:
Our partners never get to see this manual and for the most part, they have no idea what’s in it.
All these rules are in your thoughts.
As much as we may want our partners to behave in certain ways, we have no right to expect it. Especially since they don’t know what those expectations are.
Rather than try to change the other person in the relationship, why not change yourself?
If you don’t set expectations for your partner, then you won’t feel unhappy when they break your rules, which means…
You accept the other person unconditionally, and don’t rely on anyone else for your happiness.
4. Don’t play the blame game
It’s Wednesday night.
You’re watching TV with a glass of wine and feeling Zen.
Your boyfriend bursts into the room…
“Why did YOU forget to buy toilet paper again?”…he yells
You calmly place your wine glass down…
and before you can stop yourself…
Why is it that blame and accusations are so good at triggering the attack response?
Because blame is a destructive conflict resolution method.
When we use it, we hurt others.
We use blame in attack mode, which triggers a negative response from the people we direct it at.
Despite the fact that it’s destructive, we LOVE to use blame.
The reason is simple.
Blame makes us feel better.
The implication being that if you’re not to blame, then SOMEONE or SOMETHING else is.
The problem is that when we use blame, we’re not taking responsibility for the situation. And a common reason we blame our partners is for not following their Operating Manual, (see above).
Blame is based on the assumption that YOU ARE right.
But actually you’re wrong.
No REALLY. You ARE wrong.
It’s all down to something called ‘Positive illusions’ and the ‘Above Average Effect’.
These biases trick us into believing that we’re better than we are.
You may think you’re doing all the housework in the apartment.
But your brain is wired to notice the things that YOU do and what YOU consider important.
Maybe you didn’t notice that the dog smells better today.
The point is: That blame relies on the assumption that you’re right.
In reality, this is only YOUR view of what’s right.
If you can accept that your blame is flawed, shouldn’t you stop using it?
Next time you’re tempted to blame your partner, try using the XYZ formula, (described in point 2), instead.
5. Speak their language
Have you ever been to France and asked for a ham sandwich only to receive a croissant?
Nope. Neither have I.
But it could happen.
If you go to France and don’t speak French.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Then consider this:
The stakes are even higher in relationships.
Even when we think we speak the same language as the other person.
Sometimes we don’t.
This is a problem Gary Chapman identified in his book, “5 Love Languages”.
There are 5 Love Languages we use to express ourselves and experience in relationships:
- Acts of Service
- Quality Time
- Words of Affirmation
- Physical Touch
According to Chapman, everyone has a primary and secondary love language. The recommendation is that you identify your own preferences and those of your partner.
Once you understand each other’s preferences, you can communicate in those languages.
If your partner’s primary love language is “Acts of Service”, you could try to do nice things for them.
If they know your primary love language is “Gifts”, they could buy you small gifts now and again.
You can identify your own preferences by taking the free test on the website:
There are 5 powerful recommendations to help fix your relationship:
- Listen in the right way: Put aside your own point of view and the need to be right. Actively listen to what your partner has to say and try to understand it.
- Say it the right way: Deliver feedback in a positive way. Don’t attack the person. Use the XYZ formula instead.
- Try to fix you: Think about the invisible rules you have for your partner. Work on destroying the “Operating Manual” and try to accept your partner unconditionally.
- Don’t play the blame game: Blame is a destructive conflict resolution method. Be aware that blame is often based on flawed observations. Biases make us think we’re better than we are.
- Speak their language: Identify the ways that you and your partner express yourselves in relationships. Make the effort to communicate in your partner’s preferred language.
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