Humans are all about relationships. We are a social species that thrive when we are connected to like-minded, supportive people. But let’s face it relationships can be hard. Whether it is a friendship, work relationship, or romantic relationship they take a bit of effort. Throughout the lifespan of a relationship there can be ups and downs, a natural ebb and flow. This is easy to accept in our friendships and even work relationships but harder in our romantic relationships. We expect to be madly in love and hungry for each others bodies always and forever. Yeah, that’s not actually reality. All relationships have a natural rhythm but it’s how we nourish those relationships that makes a big difference as to how far apart the ebb and flow will go.
Whether things are going amiss or you are just looking to connect, here are some ideas to get you started:
Make the time. Setting aside time to talk and connect with each other is relationship DIY tip #1. If there is one thing that you can do that can help to improve your relationship, it is this. We live in a very busy world and time is often in short supply. Where we spend our time says something about the things that are important to us. Making the time to spend with your partner shows that you are important to each other.
If at all possible, try to make this a recurring event in your calendars. Dr. John Gottman’s research has shown that 6 hours a week spent with your partner has a dramatic impact on the feelings of satisfaction in a relationship. These 6 hours are made up of many smaller (and shorter) interactions throughout the week and also includes a 2 hour date. (Woo hoo!). While the amount of time to spend together can vary, I would suggest a minimum of 20 minutes for chatting together about your day or things that you have experienced when you were apart. And hey, you never know 20 minutes could grow to be an hour (who needed to watch Netflix anyway?). Do what works for you, just be consistent.
Do it together. There are lots of ways that individuals can improve their relationships just by changing some of the things that they do or how they approach their partner. But let's face it, it is more fun doing it together. When looking at making changes in your relationship progress can be made faster and with greater benefit if you and your partner are tag-teaming it. Read this blog together, talk about it and share what you think you would like to try in your relationship. If you partner is not interested in this, do not fear. There will be future blogs on some solo Relationship DIY.
Talk to each other and choose topics wisely. I am not suggesting you stay away from certain topics but instead to choose to talk about things that fit the time that you have. If you have concerns about the upcoming trip to your in-laws or how you feel disconnected because you don’t have sex anymore, you want to give it the time it needs. Those probably aren’t going to be short conversations so make sure that you create the time to have them.
That being said, don’t withhold bringing up the subject just because you don’t have time to talk about it right now. If you are going to talk about something that is sensitive don’t surprise your partner with it. (Does that ever go well?) Make sure you give some lead time and tell them that you want to talk about this. Mention to your partner that you would like to talk about a specific topic and would like to make some time to do that. Adding the topic to the standard phrase “We need to talk” can go far in increasing communication. Leaving out the topic makes the request seem really ambiguous and leaves the topic open for assumption and potential anxiety. Remember we are trying to increase connection not make our partners worry. Saying “I would like to talk about our upcoming weekend trip” is more clear and allows your partner to prepare for the conversation.
If you are going to talk about a big topic, or your partner has asked to talk about a big topic take the time to look at what is really bothering you about the situation, what role you play, and what possible options there are. It’s also helpful to ask yourself, “What can I change here?” or “What kind of partner do I want to be in this situation?”. Knowing yourself clearly can help you to articulate that to your partner when the time comes.
Care for each other and Be Curious. Remember that this is a person that you love. They are not your adversary or nemesis so don’t treat them like one. They are your partner, team mate, and lover. Even if they are not acting like the partner you would like them to be (maybe you aren’t acting so great either), treat each other with respect and care. Be honest, speak from the heart and ask for what you want but don’t be demanding, that isn’t respectful to your partner.
One of my favorite Gottman phrases is "Listen to Understand". When you are talking with your partner, about anything, are you listening to understand your partner or are you just waiting for your turn to talk? Are you curious about what your partner thinks, feels, or does? Being open to really hearing your partner and summarizing what they have said (not in that robot regurgitation kind of way but in a way that shows that you were listening) can build connection by helping your partner feel heard and truly seen by you. That is one of the best gifts we can give our partner.
Know when to call in the pros. If you find that there are some topics are really touchy or have been festering for so long that it is hard to come to a place where you can talk about it productively it’s time to call in the pros. Even a good DIYer needs to call in a professional sometimes. I have some resources for you to be able to find professionals (like me) that can help you navigate them. Click here for more on this.
If you are experiencing Domestic Violence (emotional abuse, manipulation, physical abuse, verbal abuse, etc.) please contact someone in your area who specializes in helping victims of Domestic Violence. Click here for Domestic Violence Resources.