Relationships are often a source of challenge for people. Getting into a relationship and out of one are both challenges by themselves, but maintaining a fulfilling relationship is no small effort. It takes work to make it succeed, but with the right tools, you can fast-track your relationship life from stress and disorder into something that you love. To assist in this endeavor, I’ve listed these 5 ways that you can make your relationship more awesome.
1. Start Doing What Fulfills You
If you don’t love what you do, it’s going to be hard to love yourself, and that makes it more difficult for someone else to love you. Not doing what you love adds an incredible amount of stress and confusion into your life, which can sometimes lead to blaming others for your pain when you feel you have no way out of it. This commonly translates into making your partner into the cause and/or dumping ground of your unhappiness.
By engaging in more things you truly love to do, you enable your natural skill of giving and receiving love because you’re fulfilled with what you are doing. In this way, you’re not using your relationship as a band-aid for a shitty life, but as a partnership to creating mutual fulfillment.
2. Set Healthy Expectations
Relationship chaos is a common effect of falling in love with a fantasy we’ve made about the person, mostly in expecting our partner to be nice without mean, kind with cruel, supporting without challenging, or happy without sad. By expecting a behavior that is impossible, when your partner does display their frustrations, we label them as having a problem and blame them for how we feel about it. This can lead to entirely missing the possibility that it is you who is creating the space for them to be unhappy, through your actions or inactions.
It’s wiser to recognize that human beings are going to be nice when you support their values and mean when you challenge their values. By expecting a balanced person, you open up the space for listening and dialogue towards building a healthy partnership. Relationships are designed to include support and challenge, to help you grow in your authenticity and your maturity.
3. Clear Your Past Baggage
Oftentimes we get into new relationships to replace old relationships where we’ve experienced pain. It’s often discovered that, over time, the new relationship starts displaying the unwanted parts of the last one. This can create a feeling that you can’t escape these challenges and you are destined to be disappointed with all relationships. The reality is that the responsibility for your pleasure and pain falls solely on you. By taking ownership of this fact, you can begin liberating yourself from judging the pain in the past and thinking of it as something that shouldn’t have happened.
If you are still wounded by and resenting your past relationships, you are living in a state of fight or flight, which leads you to search for problems in the new relationship which may not be there, in an effort to protect yourself before the pain begins again. This behavior can blind you to what’s going well in the relationship and can create confusion between yourself and your partner. The way out is to recognize that every partner you have had was there to teach you another form of love. By appreciating your past relationships, you grow more as a person than you will by holding on to resentment.
It’s wise to write down your most painful memories with your past partners and start making a list of how these experiences served you. Any ‘negative’ experience you can see as serving your life lessens your stress response and opens you up to being more resilient in similar situations to come. This is called growth and it’s important to build up your character in this way, to help you communicate through new challenges rather than withdraw and run to seek more illusions of pleasure without pain.
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4. Listen & Have Real Conversations
Relationships are all about conversations and it’s important to have open, honest, and transparent dialogues. The more open you are about how you feel in your dynamic, the more you can understand each other and how you respond to each other’s actions and inactions. However, great conversations require great listeners, so it’s just as important to allow the other person to express their feelings without judgment or you reacting to them, making them wrong for how they feel.
So often we block out what the other person is trying to say because what they are saying somehow triggers us emotionally. We put up a wall to protect our needs rather than pay attention to their needs. It’s wiser to sit through the uncomfortableness and give the other person the respect of your attention and consideration. This allows for the space to have an open dialogue about how you both feel and what you can start doing to change it.
5. Stop Assuming You’re Right
The most destructive force in a relationship is assuming that how you do things is the right way to do things. It may be the right thing to do for yourself, but your partner isn’t you and by constantly thinking that you are correct, you don’t allow your partner to feel that they are being listened to and taken seriously. By being open to reconsider how you behave and react around your partner and by considering the mutual goal of your relationship, you open the space to create harmony between two people who both want similar things – to feel loved and appreciated for who they are.
Stephan Gardner is Visionary of Self-Management and Personal Growth. A Human Behavior Consultant and master facilitator of personal evolution, he helps professionals create the shifts in their lives necessary for fulfillment, achievement and excellence. You can find him on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/stephangardnercoaching.
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