Improving Your Relationship For Dummies
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Chapter 3: Developing the Ground Rules for a Successful Relationship But what if friendship with your partner is a real struggle at the moment? If you need some extra incentive, imagine a huge cash prize is on offer for the person who writes the most encouraging and honest advertisement. Think about all the characteristics your partner offers a friend — loyalty, kindness, generosity, sense of humour. If this is the case, you may find Chapter 15 helpful. Research has shown that people who have good friends are physically, psychologically and emotionally healthier.
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One study even suggested that friendship can help you to earn more money! Being friends with your partner may not make you better off financially, but it does make your relationship a lot richer. And as the world slowly comes into focus, the inevitable differences between couples begin to show: differences that you can either walk away from, leave to blight your relationship forever, or discover how to respect and live with amicably.
In fact, nothing living on this planet can truly be called identical. Even rudimentary attempts at cloning have failed to reproduce another living organism perfectly. Human beings are a particularly diverse group of individuals. The complexity of head, heart, body and soul means that even more room for differences exists.
These differences spill over into our relationships and can either make them more interesting or more stressful. Happy couples enjoy uniqueness and grow with each other. That may simply be not laughing at the same jokes or may mean getting angry or hurt by different things. Some talk more than others, share more secrets, invite people around more or are much louder or much quieter. Apologies to any footy fans who would put point two on the list of mega, mega stuff.
As you get to know someone, you discover more and more ways in which you differ. Chapter 3: Developing the Ground Rules for a Successful Relationship Challenging romantic idealisation Hollywood has a lot to answer for. In romance land, couples agree on pretty much everything.
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The problem that many couples have with their differences is that they confuse them with incompatibilities. When you can accept that differences are an inevitable part of being in a loving relationship, you can discover how to cope with them healthily rather than fighting against them. As a couple, some of those differences are okay; in fact, they may be very beneficial.
Or perhaps you discovered that what you thought was a very unorthodox way of managing finances is actually much more efficient than your own method. Differences in relationships can give you great opportunities to grow. You can overcome other differences with compromise or mutual accommodation. Or if you want to be bold, go stripy. If you often worry that you get things wrong or doubt your opinions, you may see differences between you and your partner as a matter of right and wrong, rather than simple variations.
Or if you have very different political views, focus your conversations on topics you share an interest in. For example, if as a child you always opened your Christmas presents after lunch on Christmas Day, discovering that your partner wants to open them on Christmas Eve may feel like sacrilege.
Unfortunately, some differences are almost impossible to live with. You can find more on this in Chapter 2.
Discovering the many ways in which you and your partner are different can be a trigger for personal growth and it can stop your relationship slipping into boring mediocrity. Chapter 3: Developing the Ground Rules for a Successful Relationship Adapting to Change Accepting and adapting to change is an essential ground rule for a successful relationship. Change can keep a relationship interesting and provide an opportunity for couple growth and intimacy. You need to support each other through good times and bad, and build a solid relationship that can be a safe haven for both of you.
Not only does life change, so do individuals. You may change as a response to the events you experience in life, or you may make a positive decision to do things differently as a part of self-development. But for others, the prospect can be terrifying. Some of these changes are predictable: events that you want and expect to happen at some time, such as moving house and having a baby. Other changes are unexpected and unwanted, such as illness and redundancy. Feeling able to talk about the effects of change and share the load can certainly make adapting easier, but even more important is simply acknowledging the fact that change creates at least some degree of stress.
All changes bring with them a degree of loss and a need to adapt to something new. In some cases your roles change, so you may find yourselves needing to find different ways to relate to each other. In most cases your routines are affected, so you need to find new ways of balancing the needs of your relationship with time for yourself and others. Change can be a real test, for you as individuals and for you as a couple. Faced with a major change, some couples instinctively pull together, while others find themselves falling apart.
Some people find depths of resources within themselves, while their partners struggle to keep everything together. Some instinctively turn to others, including their partners, for support, while others prefer to manage alone. Women marry men with the hope they will change. Invariably both are disappointed. Personal growth, or personal development, is another of those inescapable facts of being human.
You grow in your skills, your knowledge and your potential. However, personal growth can put a pressure on relationships. If you loved the person you married just the way he was, you may experience difficulty in sitting by and watching as he morphs into something else. For some, this can create confusion and anxiety, provoking fears that the partner may turn into someone they can no longer love or who may no longer want to stay in the relationship.
Dealing with fear of change Fran and Bo had been together for 27 years. Their children had left home and Bo was approaching retirement. This frustrated Bo. As they tried to resolve their differences over the course of therapy, Bo shared other concerns. Fran had a new group of friends, had radically changed their diet to healthy eating and had even changed her physical appearance by cutting her hair short and wearing a different style of clothes.
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Bo was openly critical of all these changes, which upset Fran. She had enjoyed focusing on herself since the children had left home. In therapy Bo was able to talk about his fears, and Fran reassured him that she still wanted to share the rest of her life with him. They had to renegotiate the timings, but the agenda was just the same. Chapter 3: Developing the Ground Rules for a Successful Relationship Sometimes, change can drive a wedge between people. As life changes and people grow, some relationships drift apart.
The relationship journey twists and turns. Are you envious of his success? Are you anxious that it may highlight problems in your relationship? Are you fearful of him meeting someone else? Let him know you love, respect and value him. Invest more time on mutual interests and focus conversations around the things you have in common, especially dreams for the future. Talking to Each Other The bedrock of any successful relationship is the ability to talk to each other.
Many different ways of communicating exist — such as through behaviours, physical gestures and affection — but by far the fastest and clearest way is by opening your mouth and your ears. Flick to Part III for lots more on communication. Breaking barriers to intimacy Talking to your partner is the only way you can find out who each of you is, what each of you wants and why you behave the way you do. Without talking, you are two individuals living in the same space; with talking, you become a couple who share a space.
But when you can talk to your partner and find out about his inner world, you break down the barriers of space and create a new continent together. Some couples are really good at talking to each other in the early days. In their eagerness to get to know each other, they ask lots of questions and listen eagerly to the answers. But as time goes by, this level of communication can slip.
You can horribly easily become complacent, thinking that you know your partner inside out and you have nothing new to discover.
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But people do change and grow, and your possible topics of conversation are endless. If communication between you and your partner has deteriorated, the first thing you need to do is talk about it. Say that you miss the conversations you used to have and that you want to make more time for keeping in touch with each other. Chapter 3: Developing the Ground Rules for a Successful Relationship Chapter 4 has a lot more about how you can build intimacy in your relationship, not just through talking but also through creating and spending quality time together.
And in Chapter 8 you can find more information on improving general communication skills.
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Building bridges across differences Differences of opinion are a normal and common part of relationship life, so for a relationship to be successful, you need to find ways of managing those differences. Communication provides the bridge that couples need in order to build their understanding of each other and to find ways to work together when differences are getting in the way of their happiness. Some couples work hard at avoiding conflict. In fact, a good disagreement can bring a couple closer, because they can feel confident about their relationship and their love for each other.
Check out Chapters 9 and 10 for more on healthy disagreeing. This part is all about building positives. Creating and making intimate connections with your partner through word, touch and behaviours that will build your bond and put funds in your relationship bank account. I start by talking about how to prioritise your relationship and how to discover ways of being close through companionship.
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