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Improving Your Relationship

Need a Better Relationship? Five Strategies You Can Implement Now

Couples often seek relationship counselling when they’ve arrived at a place of intense hopelessness. They may no longer feel connected to one another, and may struggle to remember that spark that initially brought them together. Sometimes all you need is a little nudge in the right direction to get back on track, and relationship counselling offers precisely this. Struggling with a more serious issue? You might be surprised to learn that changing the way you communicate and interact with one another may be all that’s necessary to get things back on track. Here are five things you can do right now that research suggests will improve your relationship.

Give More Compliments Than Criticisms

Research suggests that you should give your partner five to 10 compliments for every criticism. Most couples, though, constantly criticize one another while rarely offering a compliment. Relationship counselling helps you slow down and see how frequently you criticize your partner. From there, you’ll gain the emotional control and self-awareness to recognize when you’re being unfairly critical. This can help you offer your partner more warmth and love, which will encourage your partner to provide you with the same.

Try Something New Together

Have you and your partner lost the spark in your relationship? You might think it’s gone forever, but think again. You can regain the spark. Several studies have shown that couples who do new things together report more feelings of excitement and romantic love. Couples counselling can help you overcome any roadblocks to trying new things. For example, if your spouse is itching to go hiking but you’re afraid of wild animals, your therapist can help you find a compromise. Conversely, if you feel jaded and are worried that there’s nothing new under the sun for either of you, your counsellor can help you brainstorm new ways to have fun and be in love.

Turn Toward One Another

You may not realize it, but your partner often makes bids for your attention – by telling you a story, looking at you, complimenting you, or even by being mean. When a partner’s bids for attention are constantly rejected, the relationship can quickly deteriorate. To get back the spark and end the endless fighting, you and your partner need to get better at addressing one anther’s bids for attention. Oftentimes all this requires is simply slowing down and noticing what your partner needs.

Likewise, happy relationships are those in which partners turn toward one another during times of stress. Many couples, though, avoid seeking support from one another because history suggests doing so is dangerous. Your counsellor will work with you to unpack the obstacles to turning toward one another. For example, if your spouse is excessively critical of your emotions, your counsellor can work with her to help her understand how this shuts down communication and destroys intimacy. Over time, this can help both of you rely on one another as strong sources of support, comfort, and love.

Know Your Partner

When you live with someone day after day, week after week, year after year, it’s easy to see that person as stagnant and unchanging. But we are all constantly evolving and changing, and the person you married five or 10 years ago may not be anything like the person you’re with today. Research has repeatedly demonstrated that happy couples know one another well, carefully keeping track of mutual growth, personality changes, life events, and changing interests.

Ask yourself: Can you name major events in your spouse’s life? Do you know his or her fears, hopes, dreams, and hobbies? Do you understand why he or she likes the things he or she does? What is your partner’s favorite sexual fantasy? What’s stressing him or her out the most right now? If you can’t easily and correctly answer these questions, then you and your spouse have got some talking to do!

Relationship counselling helps you get to know your partner once again. And if there’s anything there you don’t like – such as a changing sexual fantasy, a new hobby, or a changed political belief – your counsellor can help you learn to appreciate your differences, even if you don’t always understand them. Further, counselling encourages you to keep getting to know one another, by asking probing questions, listening with an open mind, and showing genuine interest for the rest of your lives together.

Understand the Different Types of Problems

Marriage counselling can help you understand the difference between and directly address both solvable and unsolvable problems. Solvable problems are often the source of petty ongoing disputes. They include specific behaviours your partner can change, such as the way he cleans the house, how he kisses you, or what words he uses to describe your relationship. Identifying these solvable problems and implementing specific behavioural changes is key to making progress in your relationship.

But what about unsolvable problems? Famed relationship researcher John Gottman argues that every relationship has some unsolvable problems. This doesn’t mean the relationship is doomed to fail. Instead, it means that every couple faces some issues over which they will continue to have conflict. If you’re an extrovert and your spouse is a homebody, for example, this probably qualifies as an unsolvable problem. Unsolvable problems can be managed by making accommodations, consistently negotiating and renegotiating the rules of your relationship, and gaining an understanding of and respect for the differences between you and your partner.

It’s not always easy to do what’s right for your relationship. If you find that you’re struggling to implement these changes on your own, this could signal a need for relationship counselling. You may be surprised to see how quickly a good counsellor can make a big difference.