ONE Always make time to talk about how your day went. Even ten or fifteen minutes spent in conversation can help the two of you stay in touch and feel closer. As simple as this seems, schedule this time together and take turns relating some of the events of the day. Try to choose a time that is not extremely hectic. You may have to practice just listening to your partner, especially if you both have very busy days.
TWO Understand that there IS such thing as a good argument. As long as honest feelings were expressed and eventually understood, and as long as there was some conclusion where both partners believed that something was accomplished, then you had a successful argument. Extremely abusive language, sustained hostility, or open threats are NOT part of a good argument.
Avoid knots in communication, or recurring circular arguments that keep going nowhere without ever getting resolved. These snarls of circular logic seem like endless loops and can take on a life of their own. Try to get at the underlying issues behind these kind of arguments, and view them as a puzzle for the both of you to solve. Attempt to see the humor in some of these patterns. Here's an example:
I am angry that she did not call me to say she would be late.
She resents that I am angry that she did not call to tell me she would be late.
I am hurt that she resents my anger at her not calling to tell me she would be late.
She did not call me to tell me she would be late because she wanted to see if I would be angry that she did not call.
Now I am mad at her for trying to see if I would be angry if she did not call me to tell me she would be late.
She has called me immature because I am mad at her for trying to see if I would be angry if she did not call me to tell me she would be late.
I told her it was mean of her to not call me just to see if I would be angry at her for not calling to tell me she would be late.
You can see that the above argument is going nowhere. If you followed it, you can also see that there are no real issues being discussed or resolved, only underlying anger and petty word play. Try to think of disagreements as opportunities to improve or understand your partner better. Though difficult to develop, this attitude will make almost any argument easier to resolve.
THREE Don't forget to maintain the "little courtesies", such as saying "please" and "thank you" and generally showing respect and recognition for everyday things. Even simple the little things become more important, not less so, as relationships mature. Get small, thoughtful gifts even when there is no occasion. Give your partner cards, even when it is not their birthday. Bring home flowers, or a special dessert, or just take time out to show your partner how much you appreciate the everyday things they do. The little things are most likely what attracted your partner to you in the first place.
FOUR Never rely on your partner (or anyone else) to make you happy. Only you can do that. Have your own hobbies, interests, pastimes, and activities separate from your partner. Although it is a goal of a healthy relationship to enjoy things together, doing everything together can result in boredom, resentment, and feeling trapped. If you get satisfaction from your daily activities, you will be more relaxed and content when spending time with your partner.
FIVE Do not assume that your partner will automatically know what your feelings, needs, wants, and preferences are, or what mood you are in. Of course, don't assume you know what your partner is "really" thinking or feeling. Don't rely on ESP. Even close partners are not mind readers. If you want to know what your partner is thinking, just ask. If you want your partner to know how you feel, tell them. Take what your partner says at face value, and stop second guessing.
Sexually, learn how to ask for what you want. Again, don't assume your partner has ESP or Psychic powers. A little bit of talking while being affectionate will help your partner understand your preferences. Don't be afraid to ask for and give feedback. learn how to listen.
SIX In a healthy relationship, both partners are always growing and improving. Healthy relationships should bring out the best in us. They should inspire, motivate, and enhance our creativity and well-being. If you are waiting for your partner to "change" or actively attempting to make them into something they are not, you may be very disappointed. Individual personality, habits, and general style are not likely to change very much. What you see is what you get!
SEVEN Learn how to accept the natural ups and downs of a relationship. Nothing is perfect, and love will always be accompanied by a certain amount of hurt, tension, frustration, misunderstanding and jealousy. If your relationship is mostly healthy, with a reasonable amount of communication and a minimum amount of anger and resentment, and if you continue to find both you and the relationship growing for the better, you have very little to worry about. It's those people who never argue that usually make us suspicious!
EIGHT Recognize some of the differences between males and females. MEN: Women enjoy conversation, communicating in groups, and expressing detail verbally. They dream in more detail, interpret situations in terms of personal motives, feelings, and consequences, and appreciate positive feedback for personal accomplishments. Women want to hear words of support and understanding, not advice, suggestions, or harsh criticism. WOMEN: Men enjoy variety, respond well to good-natured challenge, and place a high value on personal space and privacy. In social situations, men are more likely to interpret events at face value. If men display their sensitive or emotional side, be sure to give them positive reinforcemnet. Stereotypes can be very dangerous, but recognizing real differences between men and women is vital in good communication.
NINE Every relationship can benefit from a periodic change of pace. Try a new restaurant. Take a trip to a nearby location chosen at random. Rent a hotel room even if you have privacy at home. Experiment with fantasy. Try a style of clothes that you have never worn. Learn how to be playfully unpredictable. Creativity will keep a relationship fresh. For a sense of romance, try looking at old photographs of you and your partner, read cards and letters that you have sent to each-other, or recount what your first few dates were like.
TEN Give yourself reinforcement after you have successfully tried one of the techniques to improve your relationship, even if the outcome was not exactly what you wanted. It is very important to be "self-rewarding". Both you and your partner should reward yourselves for working together. Try listening to a favorite CD together, playing a game, or going out together to a movie, or for some special dessert.
These suggestions are only the beginning! For more about intimacy and balance in relationships, click on the next button below. As with all the advice on these pages, the suggestions are not meant to be a substitute for individual therapy or relationship counseling, but can be used as a starting point for improvement. If you feel that you have a serious problem with anger, abuse or miscommunication in your relationship, please inquire about services available through this website, at the private practice of Fred L. Holtz, Ph.D., or seek other professional sources near you.