Relationships - making a difference
“Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticise me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you. Love me and I may be forced to love you” penned William Arthur Ward.
While Ward was not specifically talking about couples with problems, he has I think hit on something which is at the heart of many relationship issues. In essence he gets to the heart of the quality of the relationship.
Relationships often start with so much hope but somehow along the way the spark goes out. Rarely is it a conscious effort to quell the flames of passion and romance, somehow the practicalities of life get in the way. You settle into your roles and perhaps pay less attention to each other, do less together, take things like making meals or cleaning for granted. While this may not seem crime of the century, it is rather like slicing salami - it doesn’t matter how thin the slices eventually the sausage is gone.
If you are to feel valued and loved, it is important that you hear and feel that from your partner. As Mr Ward’s quote shows, this love and value has to feel real - not fake flattery that might come from the occasional remark, but an on-going dialogue. Like all worthwhile things in your life it will only happen when you spend time on it. Not hours and hours but regularly maintaining your relationship, checking in with each other.
Does this mean that if you talk regularly and encourage each other, fights and conflict are a thing of the past in your relationship? No absolutely not, relationships involve you both and you will disagree, but when you feel love for each other - when you respect and are respected - it is easier to fight well and to come to decisions that you can accept. This is because you are doing it as a couple.
So if your relationship is in trouble how do you improve things? There are two key things: that you both want things to change and that you both accept you are going to change. There is little point in entering therapy or trying to fix a relationship on your own. Similarly deciding that the entire fault lies with one partner is similarly unlikely to succeed. If you can both accept the premise of change then you can start to talk about how to bring that about.
Counsellors will tell you that couples arrive at their door when their relationship is in intensive care, and while it is a positive and good thing that they have come to repair their relationship, good communication will usually have made the problem simpler and easier to fix. This is because communication enables you to see it coming at an earlier stage, which can help with making simple changes and allows couples to explore the options before it becomes a jugular issue.
Many couples away from going to see a counsellor, worrying about talking about their business to a stranger. Yet you will find that having a trained professional can help you to communicate more effectively in a non-judgemental space, where your privacy can be guarded. Many couples find that it is the catalyst that makes the difference and they are only sorry they left it so long.
So if you are to guard the longevity of your relationship why not look at increasing the love and encouragement and leave the flattery and criticism on the counselling room floor.
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