As a relationship leaves what we know as the “honeymoon phase” both partners begin to feel less connected and more consumed with the “task” of being in a relationship. There is much to be said about the work and dedication it takes to keep a relationship or marriage connected and exciting.
Remember above all, you need two partners willing to take responsibility for themselves and work towards the same goal of improving the relationship.
The four A’s are high in the beginning of a relationship and just need tuning every so often. The four A’s are essential to improving your relationship:
Attention: In the beginning, you wanted to pay more attention to what would make that person smile and feel good. You put in work to go above and beyond; to “be cute” or let the person know you were thinking about them. We forget in the later part of the relationship how much attention is needed to keep both partners in tune.
Affection: You wanted to be close to your partner and meet their needs for affection also. Sometimes there is even a steamy part in the beginning where we can’t keep our hands off each other! It is exciting and new. Affection can be kept alive by having romantic evenings and dates paired with sexy events and reasons to get all dressed up. It is fun to see our partners in different settings on a regular basis.
Appreciation: You were thankful for the other person and having them in your life. You often vocalized or reminded them of this appreciation. Once the relationship goes on we assume the other person knows how much we care about them and that we don’t need to vocalize it anymore. However, this vocalization should continue throughout the duration of the relationship or marriage. Positive appreciation of both partners breeds positive emotions in the relationship.
Approach: The approach you took in the beginning of the relationship was different from the one you take in the middle. You were apologetic for your downfalls and open to differences. Your approach was very open-minded. You approached the beginning of your relationship with fascination and hope. In the middle, we begin to get defensive and often have trouble being as open and forgiving as we were in the beginning. Try to look at your relationship with a fresh approach each and every day.
You can improve your relationship at any point, if you are willing to work hard. It is never too late to implement the same principles that you used in the beginning of the relationship. These simple changes will help both partners to better understand one another and to bring back the happiness and love that has always been there.
I continuously read articles and books about relationships. Love relationships, specifically, seem to have something in common across local articles, such as the OC Register and popular relationship books like The Seven Principals for Making a Marriage Work by the Gottmans; they discuss how love helps us to live longer and healthier lives. The notion is that: the immune system is affected by stress or arguing. Couples that have less conflict tend to get sick less.
This concept makes sense when we discover that we are bound not only biologically to our immune systems but also psychologically and socially.
What this doesn’t mean is that you can blame the cold you had last week on your partner! What it does mean is that stability in a relationship can be the beginning of good psyche and overall better health. Once you get sick, your immune system is alerted and it tries to fight back. When stress levels are high, our whole being (physically and mentally) has less fight left, including our immune system. In regards to your relationship, prevention is the key. Talking about issues and communicating can prevent arguments as well as sickness.
We were designed to give into certain biological responses. Being in relationship with other people is natural. Cultivating those relationships is not as natural, and it takes work from both parties. Remember these tips to increase the love you put out and the health benefit that it will put back into you:
1. Breath. Make sure you take deep breaths throughout the day or breath regularly to increase the overall calm that your body feels. Sometimes we are not conscious to steady and regular breathing. Controlled breathing can decrease anxiety.
2. Be aware of responses. Our initial responses are often not the best ones. When someone irritates us we are quick to anger. Be aware of eliciting calm and peaceful responses. *This will take some work. Remember that the only thing you can control is your reaction.
3. Love, Love, Love. The articles I discussed before addressed being a caring and loving person as an important part of being healthy. You can increase love feelings by evoking caring in your overall life.
Try being more in tune to your “love” self.
In the relationship world, this tune plays out in real life and in the movies. Someone might let you down by claiming all the responsibility and breaking up with you by letting you know that “It’s not you, it’s me.”
But who is it really? When it comes to whose fault it is that a relationship doesn’t work out, can any one party be to blame?
When any relationship ends, whether it is a friendship or a romantic relationship, a small assessment is done. The assessment takes place by talking to friends, looking back on old relationships, and by replaying what went right or wrong during the past few months leading up to the loss of friendship or break-up. We try to find answers, but the truth is that sometimes those answers don’t exist.
We tend to think about all the bad things that happen when ending the relationship rather than having an objective idea of what the relationship looked like. Both parties contributed to the ending of the relationship in some way. It is important for you to be able to evaluate your contribution so you can be aware of it in future relationships. Never try to assess or blame the other person’s contribution; this is when we get into trouble and make a bad situation worse. Always use “I” statements instead of “You” statements.
We live in a world filled with more break-ups and breakdowns than commitment. Working hard to mend a relationship or assertiveness to make one’s life better seem like daunting tasks. We are too used to giving up being the new “norm.” I am not suggesting that you try to stay with someone who is abusive physically or mentally, but that you take the time to assess your life, your hang-ups, and your past to understand where it puts you in your relationships today.
It is easy for us to pass the buck and the blame onto someone else or to profess ourselves the blame to slip out of something. Maybe in a world filled with easy outs, it is time that we went back to fighting for the health in our relationships. It is time that we seek out professional help to overcome the barriers that lead us to struggle in romantic relationships or friendships.
A recent article posted in the Telegraph reports that couples spend about ten days a year arguing about household chores. The article addresses common tiffs such as: leaving clothes around the house, not emptying the dishwasher, putting off home improvements, not taking out the trash, not making the bed, or leaving the toilet seat up.
The article outlines what we argue about and how much we argue, but what about solutions to these disputes?
First, you must know that you are not alone in domestic chore arguments. Second, let’s discuss some alternatives to dealing with the issue, so you can spend less time on edge about you and your partners disagreements.
1. Work a cleaning person into the budget. The arguments stem from everyday upkeep chores. I am not talking about a maid, but a cleaning person; once a week or once every two weeks. The scrubbing and “deep cleaning” will be done by the hired help, but keeping up with the little things, such as taking out the trash or not leaving clothes lying around will take place routinely by the family members. The deep cleaning that takes place inspires family members to keep up with the everyday chores.
2. Change the way you ask your partner to help. Sometimes without being aware of it, we bark orders to our significant other rather than asking them if they could please help. Use “I” statements such as; I could really use your help. Or be encouraging; You are really great at making the bed. Or be thankful; Honey, thank you so much for putting the dishes away.
3. Change the way you react. Honestly, when you move in with your partner, you might have to get used to habits you aren’t happy with; try to find a medium. You should discuss these things prior to cohabiting. (Hint: A good indication of how they will be in a shared habitat is how well they take care of their own apartment, home or even car.)
Overall, these arguments can be reduced. Helping around the house is a learnt behavior just like arguing is also learned. Sometimes all we need to do is be teachable in our relationships to make them work.
Are you mad at me, is the relationship equivalent to the kids yelling in the back of the car, are we there yet? It is the annoying question that gets inserted when we are not sure what our partner is feeling.
For some reason, this phrase has become the go-two when we want to spark a conversation with how our significant other is feeling. I would also venture to say that 90 percent of the time the answer is going to be “no”. Even when the person is mad at you, literally, they will say no. It feels like it is a trap. It is confusing, for everyone. The person asking the question is, more than likely, directing their feelings of inadequacy towards the other person. Not inadequacy as a person, but inadequacy in communication. As we partner together in relationships or marriages we go through a huge learning curve on what the other person is feeling. Even after that curve has been met, we spend ample time getting to know the other person throughout the relationship.
So why even ask the question? You are waiting for their tone and demeanor, not actually the answer to the question. Try to wait and watch their tone and demeanor in normal conversation. After you gather the appropriate amount of information and consider that they possibly are mad (or sad, upset, tired, preoccupied, or hundreds of other emotions that we as humans may feel), then maybe offer your listening and insert something like; Babe, how are you today? How was work? How was school? All these questions provoke conversation; the person will begin to discuss the day with you and eventually some type of emotions will come out and they will also divulge who those emotions were directed at.
You are making a lot of assumptions when you even ask if a person is mad. You are making a tremendous amount more when you insert: at me? Of the many emotions that we can feel as humans and the thousands of people in our lives that we can feel them at; maybe we can corporately and consciously try to leave this phrase out of our relationships.
In a relationship, we develop many words or actions that we only share with the other person. It is the language that both parties make up all their own; may include sarcasm, baby talk, or funny somethings. An example is ours (my boyfriend and me) became, “Are you sad at me?” It was a funny way for us to develop our own way to talk to one another. We understand that the phrase is not literal and we joke and talk between one another. Develop and alternative with your partner to replace the dreadful question, “Are You Mad at Me?”
Whether you are in a long-term relationship or marriage, are just dating, or are seeking out a relationship; a relationship status is something you might be concerned with. To understand the application of this concept, let’s begin with a story.
I was listening to a woman chatting with a friend the other day. It went something like this:
“Oh yeah, we broke up. I don’t understand why, though? I did everything for him. I would make his lunch before he went to work. I would do his laundry on occasion if it was lying around. I would grab his favorite beer if I was at the market. We would cook dinner and always watch his favorite sports team. I just don’t understand? But I am dating someone else. He works at five a.m. usually, so I am going to go over to his place soon, so I can make his lunch and hang out with him before he goes to bed.”
I wanted so badly to intervene this conversation right then and there. I wanted to scream out to her. I wanted to tell her that she would find herself dumbed again in a couple of months, with no understanding of what she did wrong and why she can’t keep a man around.
Instead of imparting my unsolicited advice to a stranger, I will offer it here to anyone who would like to read it. I call it PPS- Partner Preoccupation Syndrome. A syndrome is defined as; a collection of signs and symptoms known to frequently appear together but without a known cause. During Partner Preoccupation Syndrome, you are more preoccupied by taking care of your partner than taking care of yourself. This syndrome is more commonly found in women than in men, but it can make a good relationship unbalance quickly.
The example above exhibits this. PPS is not contagious; it is actually the opposite. Both partners can not have it at the same time, as it only affects one party; if there is equal share and collaboration in a relationship, we would not see this happen. However, when a partner gets PPS they don’t really understand it. If PPS goes on long enough in a specific relationship, the other party will probably break it off or walk away, simply because there is no challenge. This is not the same as, ” They ask you to jump and you say how high.” This is more subtle and most people do it without realizing.
PPS is easy to diagnose and treat. If you have ever told a story similar to the one above, you probably have PPS. If you have a good heart and a need to take care of people, try putting that energy into something else other than your partner. Volunteer somewhere, help out your grandma, or establish a hobby or routine that does not involve doing something for your partner. Do your own laundry. Watch your favorite shows. Stay at your place or clean only your house.
You will probably have to consciously think about stopping this pattern, but once you have trained yourself to not be too preoccupied with your partner; you may be able to free yourself from PPS.
Now, there is nothing wrong with taking care of your partner, but it becomes a problem when it is a pattern that includes multiple failed relationships as a result.
If you ever have this question of your extinguished relationships: I don’t know what I am doing wrong, maybe it is time to change that.
Often times, we think that our significant others nag us. Our friends are supportive and laid back about our life decisions, but our partners seem to be much more invested in our decisions or our actions. Why is that?
You created the reasons they nag: the bar that you set when you first got into the relationship.
When we are in the beginning of dating someone, we are putting our best foot forward. We are trying to secure this person for a relationship. We are quick to feel nagged later in the relationship, mostly as a result of the bar that we set. We try very hard in the beginning to be the best partner we can be, and not to their fault, that is what our partner will expect of us always.
No relationship is as similar or intimate as that with our partner. Our partner asks a lot more out of us, than our friends or family. Our partner also sees us in many different roles than others do, and shares those roles with us. We are a supporter, lover, friend, therapist, motivator, or parenting partner.
Think back to that bar that you set at the beginning of dating your partner. Try to always be that person in order to keep yourself from feeling nagged by your partner. If you can achieve this level to secure the relationship, you can keep it as a standard all the time.
During the first few dates, most people talk about jobs, school, plans for the future, etc. If you talk about plans to build a house and three years down the road, you still live with your parents, you can not be mad at your partner for nagging you on this issue. Be careful of the goals you discuss with others that you had set for yourself. Your significant other is bound to keep you accountable later. That is the nagging you don’t like.
Now if nagging is something that you tend to do to your partner often when nothing is ever good enough, then that is a different story. Nagging all the time is not going to help your partner get going with something. Nagging about daily chores rather than significant life choices can get exhausting for your partner. Try to be more positive about what they have gotten accomplished or little steps they take towards the big picture. Positive motivation will get someone moving more than nagging.
Relationships can be understood through stages. Each of these stages may be unique for each couple, but they have common similar themes. The themes and actions in these stage can help us determine if our relationship is just going through a “normal” stage or if something is seriously going wrong. It is normal to have resistance in certain stages.
1. The Honeymoon Stage: This is the infatuation stage. The dopamine in our brain is increased during this time and it is easy for us to ignore all the little things we might not enjoy about someone. We are smitten and determined to make this relationship work.
2. The Toilet Seat Up Stage: This is the stage where reality sets in. The dopamine levels have come back down and we are aware of the little things that we dislike about our partner. The “toilet seat is up” (or anything that bothers us) has become a common theme for arguments. We are easily irritated as we try to get used to someone new.
3. The Suggestion Box Stage: This is the stage in which couples want to put their expectations on one another. They use it less as a suggestion box and more as a way to try to turn the person they met into the person they think they need. Irritation has subsided and we feel comfortable enough to voice our opinion on this person. Voicing our opinion is important, but we must do it in a loving and appropriate manner.
How to Get Through Stages 2 and 3:
- Keep your attitude in check. Don’t let little things bother you. Learn what you will and will not compromise on with this partner.
- Be mindful to include the other partner in your decisions.
- Take time with your friends and time away from your partner.
- Keep your hobbies, so you don’t resent someone else after the honeymoon stage. You are responsible for your actions.
- Communicate with words that will not harm the other person. Try to be calm.
- Be self-reflective during this time, other than finding flaws in others.
4. The Rainbow Stage: This is the stage where you realize that you can not change the other person. When you can learn to let go and just roll with the punches, life will flow as smooth or as rocky as you want to make it. The two middle stages may bring storms and rain, but if you can get through those on an equal playing field you will see the rainbow after the rain.
5. The Never-Ending Stage: This is the last stage in a relationship. It will never end. Relationships that survive trials have two people who are always diligently working at the relationship. You may marry, you may have kids, you may have job loses, moves, careers, and the list goes on and on. Relationships take work and dedication, but you get back as much as you give. Don’t let the rough stages discourage you. A lot of what you feel after the honeymoon stage is normal.
A huge communication barrier in relationships occurs when one party feels told what to do. If one partner is too direct in their delivery or is telling the other partner what to do, that partner will probably respond defensively.
The easiest way to resolve this too often communication problem is to:
Ask, don’t tell.
Ask your partner if they want to run the race with you, don’t just tell them. If you feel the need to boss your partner around, you need to address this and back off of it. The best communication occurs when mutual respect exists first.
If you ask your partner and they tell you no, do not respond with a scoff or an eye roll. Be conscious of your non-verbal signals. Also, if you are the partner who has to say no, be sensitive with your no’s. When saying no, don’t just say it out of spite. Give a legitimate reason why you can’t do something and even try to offer an alternative.
- Ask! Don’t Tell
- Don’t be irritated by hearing an answer you don’t like
- Be mindful of the way you say no and suggest alternatives