Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Keeping The Connection With Your Partner

In a time when Jesse James can have Sandra Bullocks' back and be the love of her life one week, and they split up in a nuclear fashion the next week, everyone seems to realize that relationships are fragile and really shouldn't be taken for granted. Love relationships are dynamic, not static. Couples are always needing to find ways to deepen and enrich the connection. We need to look for new ideas to have fun and lightness together. Here are a few thoughts from my hours and hours helping couples get closer.

Each person needs to bring their best self to the relationship. The relationship can't make you happy. Each partner needs to make himself/herself happy and share it with the other.You cannot extort happiness from your partner.

I love Dr. Phil's line about "How much fun are you to live with?" Each partner needs to bring a positive attitude, an openness to grow and experience new things. Research on couples with children shows they are especially vulnerable to the relationship narrowing down to kids, work and passionless task sharing. Unless you fight for more.

Find stategies to disagree respectfully and fight fairly. Don't hit below the belt, call names, or say things that are hard for your partner to heal from. All couples have their own unique set of perpetual (unresolveable and reoccuring) issues. It is finding a safe process to discuss these issues that matters. Pretty much everyone has leftover hurts from childhood, and you don't want to choose a partner to cherish and rub salt in their childhood wounds. Better to help them heal and help be a healing agent.

You each need to develop your ability to listen----REALLY listen from the heart without getting defensive. Asking questions to better understand your partners' perspective is an important tool. Each person also needs to be able to voice their needs and concerns without going on the attack. The goal is to appreciate the differences between you and your partner, and cultivate your curiosity about each of you. Don't assume anything.

Remember back to Geometry in high school? I often draw two overlapping circles for couples and look at the way each couple has to negotiate how much separate self and how much togetherness they want. It may change over time as well.

Physical and emotional intimacy are both important glue for couples. All relationships can be vulnerable to infidelity, especially in the technologically advanced world we live in. Staying physically and emotionally connected is your most important defense against these betrayals. I am always encouraging couples to talk more openly with each other about how they are doing at meeting each others' needs in these areas. Don't take your partner for granted. A shared faith can make a huge difference.

There are predictable crisis points couples have in their life cycle, too. It is a challenging time for couples anytime someone joins or leaves the family (birth of new baby, teens preparing to exit, death of a parent, etc.)Special care and attention needs to be given to the couples' relationship at these times.

I love the book about the 5 Love Languages also. It feels so good to have your partner affirm and appreciate you in the right currency(yours!)

While these are challenging times for couples, perhaps we have never needed that comfort more than we do now in the current economy. I am glad that divorce stats are down some in recent surveys. I do believe that good, lasting relationships are as much about being the right partner as they are about finding the right partner. In this time of facebook , texting and voicemail we still long for real connection with a person of substance who has our back. And we have theirs.

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