Couples who enter therapy do so for a number of reasons but one issue tends to stand out amongst all others and that is poor communication. It seems that once a pattern of not being able to handle conflict or express differences maturely sets in, it is very difficult to change. A mixture of emotions cloud the problem from anger through to resentment with a dash of pride thrown in. This is, of course, in complete contrast to the early stages of a relationship when we are all on our best behavior. During this time, we are at our most attentive, most concentrated and most communicative as we are trying to attract the other. The real hard work comes when the “falling in love” period is over and we move into the decisive phase of the relationship, a phase that usually decides if the couple are to part or have a chance of staying together.
Maintaining a relationship is like running a business. You have to take care of it, work on it every day and build it into something sustainable. It is often the small interaction between couples that make the difference. It is very easy to forget to say good morning properly, forget to say goodnight in a loving way and to allow small conflicts to build up into something longer-lasting because pride does not permit you to admit that you might have had a share of the blame. Communication, an open mind and open heart, and a willingness to forgive and work together for a strong, more lasting relationship are the most vital elements of happy, committed relationships. Above all, relationships are not easy, but they are absolutely worth the struggle and effort. It is also a common complaint, one that too many people panic at, and think incorrectly that it means the relationship is failing, when they think or hear the following:
- “The magic just isn’t there anymore.”
- “He’s not the man I fell in love with.”
- “When we first dated, my heart beat faster when I saw her. Not anymore.”
The common theme in all of these is that things in the relationship just are not amazing as they used to be. It’s not the end of the world, and it is definitely a problem that can be fixed. During the initial exploration phase of the relationship, it is wise to discuss future goals and plans. After all, if this is the beginning of a long-term relationship you will want to be on-board with those plans, mix them, or find a compromise that works for both of you. This will set the standard for when the relationship becomes more “routine”, which it certainly will.
Here’s an example of what I am talking about: If you happen to plan to be a career student then you are setting a standard for your lifestyle. Add that desire to that of your new partner that wants to be an archeologist in a faraway place. A compromise may need to be reached. This would be the case if one of you wanted a house full of children and the other did not want children. The possibilities are endless but the solution is the same; either one partner must give up his plans or a compromise will be needed. The friendship will provide that each partner learns about the other and respects the desires, dreams and goals that he has. Compromises are not always easy but in almost every situation an agreeable solution can be worked out. Another important element to a relationship is having some ground rules when it comes to disagreements. It is vital that the couple learn to talk about problems rather than argue about them. Openly discuss in the beginning what is and is not acceptable in the relationship. This includes any expectations that each of you may have of the other. Decide early in the relationship how to deal with disagreements.
Simply talking things out will go a long way in keeping the relationship strong. Some couples agree to never end the day with angry feelings toward the other. It is wise to realize that each day is a new beginning. No matter what has happened up until now you have today to work on a solution.
Take each day as a new opportunity to make things better than the day before. Dwelling on the past will not help; focus on now and tomorrow. This will build a strong relationship that will not fail. Even when things seem hopeless the appropriate actions can turn the situation around.