After twenty five years of marriage with it’s ups and downs, plus working with thousands of clients over the past 35 years, I’ve learnt a few things along the way about how to have a long and strong relationship. So here are my Top 10 Tips!
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate!
The absolute key to any relationship is being able to communicate with each other. When everything is going well it can seem really easy, but when the going gets tough, or even sometimes for small niggles, it can feel like climbing a mountain. This is often when people shut up, close down and internalise their frustrations. They might avoid dealing with stuff but eventually it will come out in other ways. If you’re really stuck for words or think it will come out all wrong, then write it down in a letter and give it to the other person. It’s better than staying silent.
This is a key skill of communication. I know that some of the time I am guilty of half-listening to what John says but when it matters, I stop, tune in, put my own needs to one side, and really listen. This means not prejudging what someone is going to say. It means hearing them first before considering what comes out of your mouth next. Second guessing and getting it wrong is not good as it will lead to frustrations, misunderstandings and resentments.
3. Don’t go to bed on an argument
Firstly, falling out doesn’t mean the end of a relationship but getting a good night’s sleep after an argument or disagreement can be difficult, because the mind and body tend to stay active with negative thoughts and feelings. Far better to try and sort things out before you go to bed…..which leads me to the next tip.
4. Say sorry if you know you’ve screwed up
Being right can come with a high price tag and is just the ego doing its thing. We can sit on our moral high horse and feel a sense of righteous indignation but ultimately it doesn’t change a thing. So if you know you have done or said something that was misplaced or hurtful, be a grown up and just say sorry, because ‘pride comes before a fall’. ‘But I’m not in the wrong!’ Well if you truly believe this, try saying you’re sorry that things aren’t going well, and express a desire to sort it out. It’s a way of opening the door for a more positive outcome.
Being in each other’s pockets all the time can be claustrophic, and can also be a sign of emotional neediness. Most people need a bit of breathing space and it doesn’t mean the end of the world if your partner wants to do something on their own for a change. In my mentoring, I often hear that just an hour or so would do it, and it can be refreshing in all respects. One of my favourite wedding readings is from The Prophet by Khalil Gibran. Just remember that ‘I need a bit of time out’ doesn’t have to mean ‘I don’t want to be with you’. If it does, then you have bigger issues to address.
6. Respect, acknowledge and value
We all need to feel respected and valued. That doesn’t mean our partner saying they love us every five minutes, it might just be saying how nice a meal was, or how good they look. If they do something for you, tell them how much you appreciate it.
Cherish your time together and remember that you never know when it might end. This might sound a bit dramatic but I think a lot about my Aunty D, whose husband died two years ago. Until that time, whenever I spoke to her she complained about him in some way. Now when I speak to her, she says she would give anything to have him back, even for five minutes. She misses him so much. So when I’m feeling grumpy or disenchanted with John for some reason, I try and remind myself what it would be like without him.
I love the saying ‘People who play together, stay together’ and laughter is a powerful part of a good relationship. If everything is always heavy and serious, it doesn’t bode well. Obviously there might be times when brevity isn’t appropriate but as a general rule of thumb, laughter is essential. How about ‘A laugh a day, keeps divorce at bay’ ….just a thought!
9. Sometimes just do it……
Relationships are about give and take but if one person is doing all the giving and the other all the taking, this is seriously out of balance. However sometimes we need to be selfless and just do something we might not be overly enthusiastic about. Perhaps your partner wants to see a particular film that doesn’t appeal to you, but they really want you to go too. At that moment you can decide to say no, or you can take a deep breath and say yes.
The key here is that if you say yes, you follow through with good grace and not resentment. If it’s the latter, neither of you will enjoy the experience. Just to be clear …I’m not suggesting you always do what someone else wants at the expense of your needs, just that occasionally it can be good to put your partner’s needs above your own.
In my work as a therapist I have sometimes heard couples say that once they made the commitment to be together, they thought that it would all be ‘happy ever after’. They were shocked that stuff had come up and hit the fan. The good thing was they were taking some action to sort it out because as I say in my wedding ceremonies, it takes courage to ask for help sometimes. A good, strong, enduring relationship takes working at. Over the years, John and I have rowed, fought, not spoken and a few times we’ve been on the way to the solicitors. However, even though it was really tough on occasions, we found a way through …..all the way to 25 years!
Now where’s that Champagne……
PS: I asked John what his top tips were and he said ‘All of the above and if they don’t work, just do what you’re told!!’ 🙂 As if …..
If you think these top 10 relationship tips might be helpful to someone else, please share this.
If you have any relationship tips of your own, I’d love to hear them. Just put them in the comments box below.
~ laugh often, live simply, give generously~ Akasha