MSc Psychotherapy -King's College- London, Pg diploma in counselling
For years I have been practicing as a psychotherapist in different parts of the world and what I have noticed is that no matter what kind of relationship or marriage a couple are in, when they end up in my office it's always for the same reason: they want to be happier, healthier and more-connected even though the issues can vary - money, sex, infidelity, in-laws, children etc.
Despite this each relationship is completely subjective and no clear cut rules can be executed on it, yet following certain guidelines may help proceeding happily in a relationship.
If you are struggling in your relationship (and if you are reading this article there is a big chance you are unless you are one of my friends..or both) you might find it helpful to follow some of these ideas:
1. Love yourself
You must love yourself before you can love another. By accepting yourself and fully being what you are, your simple presence can make others happy. Accepting yourself fully as you are and showing yourself this same unconditional love will provide protection, healing, and confidence to work on your shortcomings.
2. Adopt a positive lifestyle
There are many different ways in which you can embrace a more positive lifestyle - practice affirmations, express gratitude, meditation, exercise... just find something that helps you unwind and enjoy life. And most importantly - keep doing these things repeatedly.
3. Empathize with your partner
The ability to empathize is what inhibits us from just going through life doing whatever we want, without any regard for others. It is what makes compromise in a relationship possible. If I realize that something I've done has hurt you (because I can empathize with your pain or unhappiness) I will hesitate to do that again.
4. Take responsibility: Don't try to figure out who's right
When couples come for therapy, one or both tend to think that the primary problem is their partner. Both people co-create the climate of the relationship. And both need to do some things differently to create the marriage or relationship they both really want. If your intention is to create a more positive world for yourself and those around you, it's up to you to have the thoughts, moods, and actions that will create that world.
5. Stay connected
When there is distress in the marriage or relationship, one or both usually feel some emotional disconnection. Frequently, sexual passion diminishes as well. (However, sometimes one partner will try to increase frequency of sex in an effort to feel connected.). And often, people will busy themselves with work or kids instead, or do other things to either try to feel connected or to avoid being alone with the person with whom they feel the pain of disconnection
6. Express thoughts, feelings, and wishes
Resentment can build when couples sweep things under the rug, so be vulnerable and don't bury negative feelings, but try to express them in a respectful way.
Opening up to your partner can make you feel vulnerable and exposed, but it is the most important part of an intimate relationship. In Daring Greatly, Dr. Brene Brown defines vulnerability as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. Given this definition, the act of loving someone and allowing them to love you may be the ultimate risk. Love is uncertain. It's risky because there are no guarantees and your partner could stop loving you. Exposing your true feelings may mean that you are at a greater risk for being hurt or criticized.
7. Try new things together
Boredom can be a major obstacle to lasting romantic or companionate love.
Psychological research has suggested that couples who experience the most intense love are the ones who enjoy participating in new or challenging 'self-expanding' activities together.
8. Preserve your independence
Dr Perel, in her popular TED talk explains that neediness and caretaking in long-term partnerships - which can easily result from looking to the partnership for safety, security and stability - damper the erotic spark. But if couples can maintain independence and witness each other participating in individual activities at which they're skilled, they can continue to see their partner in an ever-new light.
If after trying the above you are still struggling with your relationship, make sure you go and see a couple therapist.
Two couples talking in one couple's living room...
One says to the other, 'The work being done on your marriage.. are you having it done or are you doing it yourselves?'