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Behaviour Exchange. A simple route to a happier relationship

Our relationships are central to our overall happiness. Human beings are social creatures and we all we all desire satisfactory, mutually pleasing relationships.

At times, however, these relationships develop difficulties which can be extremely distressing. This article aims to outline a simple behavioural intervention that can help to bring more pleasure and harmony into what may have become a distressed relationship.

Step 1.

Working individually, each partner takes some time to think of, and note down, a specific thing their partner has done that they found especially pleasing. Try to think of a time when your partner has behaved in a way that you really appreciated. Have they done something that really made you feel they understood you, supported you and cared for you?

Step 2.

Come back together and share your work with your partner. Tell them in as much detail as possible what it was that they did that really made you feel good. Tell them how you felt  when they behaved in that way, and tell them how much you appreciated them behaving in that way.

Once your partner has told you the behaviour they appreciated, repeat it back to them, making sure you understand exactly what it was you did that they enjoyed, and why they enjoyed you behaving in that way.

Step 3.

Now that you both have some idea about what sort of behaviour your partner appreciates, spend some time, as individuals, creating a list of specific behaviours that you think you could carry out that are entirely designed to please your partner. These can be simple things, such as remembering to ask about their day, or more extravagant things such as buying a gift or arranging a night out. Ideally it would be a mixture of the two.

Once this list is prepared, share it with your partner, making sure the things on it match up with your partners wants.

Step 4.

Over the next week, make an effort to try and engage in some of the behaviours from your lists. As well as trying to engage in pleasing behaviour for your partner, try to notice and acknowledge when your partner is engaging in pleasing behaviour for you.

Step 5.

After engaging in this behaviour exchange for a week, get together to discuss how it is going and give each other feedback. Take the time to thank your partner for all they've dome for you, and listen to your partner offering their gratitude to you. You may wish to add things to your lists as you go along and continue to engage in this exchange of behaviours.

By carrying out this simple intervention, we can try to move out of the adversarial position that distressed relationships can often force us into and begin to move towards a healthier, more pleasurable and happier relationship. 

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