10 tips to help improve your relationship
We can all feel stressed when our closest relationships seem to make us more miserable than happy. Are you finding things difficult at home with your partner or kids? Here are a few quick tips to help you get back on track... Why don’t you try following them for a week and see if you notice a difference?
1. Ask for what you want, instead of being angry about what your loved-one hasn’t done.
It’s easy to show our anger when we feel let-down and disappointed by someone’s actions - or lack of actions. But if you keep the anger out of your voice and body language, you’re more likely to get what you want.
It seems obvious but instead of saying, “You haven’t put the bin out!” try asking, “Would you mind putting the bin out, please?” Remember to thank them afterwards.
2. Remember that how you ask for something determines what you get.
Sometimes when we’re angry and upset with our nearest and dearest, we can sound quite rude. Try talking to them as if they were one of your good friends. If you talk to them nicely, you might be surprised at how nice they are back.
- “Would you mind if…?”
- “Is it ok if…?”
- “Do you think you could..?”
3. Try not to criticise.
Most of us don’t feel like going out of our way to be nice to someone who criticises us - it only makes us resent them and not do anything to please them. If you are upset by something, say what it is without blaming them. And try not to be too hard of yourself too!
4. Aim to say at least five positive comments to every one negative comment you make to your partner. Relationship researcher John Gottman noticed that 5:1 was the minimum ratio that kept couples from getting divorced. Ideally we should say more than 25:1!
5. Are you shouting at your kids more than you’d like to?
It’s easy to feel things sliding downwards into a negative spiral, and before you know it you feel your child's behaviour is making you miserable and you’re all in a rut. Really focus on noticing what they’re doing well or trying hard at, rather than commenting on the negative stuff. After a week, see if you notice a difference.
- “I noticed how kind it was of you to share your sweets...”
- “Thank you for clearing the table.”
- “I can see you tried hard to write the card neatly, well done.”
There’s always something that we can praise.
6. Try looking at things from each other’s point of view.
If you’re not sure what they’re thinking, ask them! No one is a mind reader and our partner can’t be expected to understand all of our thoughts and needs.
7. Perhaps your partner is angry because they’re hurt.
We can show anger when we’re feeling hurt, rejected or afraid (perhaps afraid that we’re not cared about). If you imagine that your loved one might have felt hurt when they snapped at you, does that change how you look at the situation?
8. Do you and your partner talk to each other as adults?
Or does one of you play a ‘parenting’, ‘looking-after’ or ‘bossy’ role sometimes, and the other a child-like role? What do you each do that keeps you in those roles and how can you try to change them?
9. Do things separately sometimes.
Have a healthy amount of time apart pursuing your own interests and social lives. If you’re happier as individuals, you’ll be happier in your relationship.
10. There are no ‘shoulds’ when it comes to relationships.
It’s a big mistake to compare your relationship with others: or what we imagine other peoples’ relationships are like. After all, we never really know. Something is only a ‘problem’ in your relationship if either you, or your partner, are unhappy about it.
If you feel you need some extra support in improving your relationships, this is where couples counselling or a relationship counsellor can help. Counselling can be a way forward and the first step to recognising the changes that may need to be made.
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About Ruth Murtagh
Ruth Murtagh is a relationship (and parenting) counsellor in the Leeds area. She is a counsellor at Relate, and in private practice. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org