Relationships can offer trying times for each of us. They hold us responsible for being mindful in our daily routines. Not only do we have to be considerate in how we speak, but also in how we listen. Our emotional selves are constantly being tested, but it’s moments like these that offer us tremendous growth individually and together.
I have found myself in many blunders with past partners because of our varying views of an ideal relationship, which we have both based on past experiences rather than accepting each other for how we uniquely are together.
Each connection offers a new reality for the varying relationships that exist today. There’s no “one size fits all” motto here.
Whoever said relationships are supposed to be easy never understood that considering two minds instead of only your own is a constant challenge. Not one relationship is the same, and while we can all offer a healthy perspective to a problem, it’s not entirely easy to determine how effective it will be when no individual is the same either.
A favourite poet of mine, Alex Elle, depicted her communication challenges with her husband Ryan perfectly, stating that:
“We knew we were in love; we knew things wouldn’t always be easy, but we hadn’t prepared for the communication process that came with the not-so-good moments in our connection. He’d never been in a relationship that required communication that ‘mattered.’ Being alone for so long, I had gotten to the point where I didn’t want to have to teach someone how to love me. Well, that was silly and not effective to say the least.”
This spoke volumes to me because we often expect for our partner to adapt to our needs and wants almost instantaneously. This seems to be a growing problem with our generation. The mentality that if someone isn’t meeting our needs initially, how can they possibly do so in the future?
Men and women are not mind readers.
So how do we help our partner understand our wants and needs? Well, this is where arguments ensue. We fight for our voices to be heard. We fight for understanding and consideration.
It’s in these arguments that the opportunity for further connection exposes itself.
It’s in relationships that we learn to communicate ourselves effectively not only with our partner, but with others as well. We also learn how to problem-solve within ourselves, which is a great exercise for self-awareness. We can learn to humbly admit our faults and make promises to be better for our partner and for ourselves too.
“I wasn’t on the journey by myself, which helped me open my mind and heart more than I ever had before. Being a team and building our love language took time and is a daily learning process.”—Alex Elle
A close friend of mine and her fiancé have been in couples therapy for a few years now. They’ve had their problems in the past, as most couples do, but that wasn’t what triggered the desire to seek out a therapist. They admitted they needed help in communicating with each other and just because they are happy and in love now doesn’t mean that they don’t have something to clear up when the next session rolls around.
It was her who showed me Alex’s blog post and one of her solutions for better communication with her partner.
Alex crafted this worksheet:
“It’s important that both partners are ready and willing to be expressive and open to learning new communication techniques. If one partner is ready, but the other is not, do not force the communication exercise. Simply do your part and hand your completed worksheet to your partner to read. Hopefully, they will come around and be open to participating in the exercises with you. Remember, relationships take work, understanding and they require compromise. Love is not forced, allow things to flow. If both parties are ready to explore open communication it will happen with time and dedication.”
The Gottman Institute, run by psychologists John and Julie Gottman, is devoted to helping couples build and maintain loving, healthy relationships based on scientific studies.
In 1986, John Gottman set up “The Love Lab” with his colleague Robert Levenson at the University of Washington. They brought newlyweds into the lab and watched them interact with each other. They ran a series of tests, monitoring how the couples physiology responded to certain questions asked with their partner beside them.
Six years later, Gottman and Levenson followed up with the couples and with the data they gathered, and they divided them up into Masters and Disasters. Naturally, they found that the Masters were happily married after six years while the Disasters had either broken up or were un-happily married.
In their follow-up meeting with the couples, they learned that the Disasters physiology was always in fight or flight mode while appearing calmly sitting next to their partner. In this state, they almost always responded negatively or verbally attacked their partner.
They found that contempt is the number one factor that tears couples apart. And that couples who exhibit kindness and generosity toward each other are more likely to lead a happy and fulfilled relationship.
They compare the idea that kindness is like a muscle: the more you use it the stronger it will be. “Kindness doesn’t mean that we don’t express our anger,” Julie Gottman explains, “but the kindness informs how we choose to express the anger. You can throw spears at your partner. Or you can explain why you’re hurt and angry, and that’s the kinder path.”
Your relationship isn’t going to flourish by itself. You have to be active in listening to your partner’s needs all while monitoring your emotional state to ensure you don’t respond in a way that may strain your emotional connection.
The more we exhibit kindness to ourselves and our partner, the more likely we will receive kindness. Practice kindness daily and you will receive abundant love in return. If you find that your relationship still leaves you dissatisfied and unhappy then you have a choice to make for your well-being.
To read more about “The Love Lab” click here.
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