Every long-term relationship has its bumps, and they can pop up at any time. Learn to navigate them smoothly — before they send your relationship into a ditch.
3. Stop Blaming Your Partner For Everything That’s Wrong: It’s tempting to blame your partner when you feel angry, disappointed, bored, betrayed or stressed out about your relationship. The next step is seeing your mate as the one who must change for the relationship to improve.
That’s a cop-out. Trying to improve your partner puts him or her on the defensive and casts you in a negative light. The result? Nobody changes. Nobody takes responsibility. Everyone is unhappy. And making your partner the bad guy means ignoring the 90 percent of him or her that’s good.
The true fix: Change yourself. When you address your own flaws and seek the best in your companion, magic happens. Optimism increases.
Your partner feels better because he or she feels appreciated, not chastised. And you both feel motivated to change in ways that lead to even more joy.
4. Improve Your Relationship by Relaxing: The classic advice experts give to singles seeking a perfect match: Be “the one” to attract “the one.” Same goes in a long-term relationship. The happier you feel, the happier your relationship will be, and the easier it will be to manage conflicts. If 15 minutes of morning yoga, a switch to decaf, or a new hobby help you relax, the good feelings can’t help but lead to happier, richer moments together.
Meanwhile, admit it: You used to fuss over your hair and obsess over the sexiest item to wear to bed. Now, it’s stained sweats and a ratty old T-shirt. Time to spruce up your look. Comb that mane, brush those
teeth and throw on a new robe. Feeling good about the way you look makes your eyes sparkle. You’re more likely to make eye contact. That sends a spark to your partner. You know what to do next!
5. Fight Fair: Conflict is a normal, even healthy, part of any relationship. What’s important is how you handle it. In a Florida study of longtime couples, joint problem-solving ability was cited as a key factor for 70 percent of satisfied pairs. With the right tools and attitude, conflict becomes a gateway to deeper intimacy — the chance to be seen and loved for who you truly are, to accept your mate’s adorable, vulnerable real self, and to build a strong union without silently seething.
First, steer clear of criticism, confrontation and hostility. They’re like gas on a fire. University of California researchers who followed 79 couples for more than a decade found that early divorcers fought long and loud and were always on the attack — or the defensive. Happy couples, on the other hand, avoid verbalizing critical thoughts, keep discussions from escalating, and don’t use absolutes like “never” and “always.”
If a fight does start, try to change the subject, inject gentle humour, empathize or show your partner extra appreciation. Too late? Call a truce, walk away and cool off for a while.
6. Pick the Right Time to Argue: Don’t start potentially tough talks if you’re not well rested and well fed. Hunger and fatigue can unleash nasty remarks and dark thoughts. Ban booze for the same reason. Save it for when you’ve achieved detente. That’s worth a toast. Don’t ever try to deal with serious marital issues if you’ve got one eye on something else. Turn off the TV, the phone, the laptop. If you’re distracted or going out the door, pick another time to talk. You can’t resolve conflicts on the fly.
7. Learn to Listen: The single most powerful step you can take to keep a relationship solid? Speak less and listen more. Blame, insults, criticism and bullying predict a bad end, or at least a living hell.
When talk turns combative, don’t interrupt, offer a solution or defend yourself too soon.
When feelings are at issue, they need to be heard. So nod, rephrase or provide a soft “um-hum” to show you honour the emotions behind the words. Sometimes, all we really need to do to feel closer to someone is pay closer attention to what it is that they’re saying.