Head­case

How to re­con­nect with your part­ner

Good - - CONTENTS - with Dr Alice Boyes Psy­chol­ogy ex­pert Dr Alice Boyes is the au­thor of the book, The Anx­i­ety Toolkit.

E very long-term re­la­tion­ship goes through pe­ri­odic lulls – bad patches when you’re ir­ri­ta­ble and lack feel­ings of close­ness and warmth to­wards each other. Here are some so­lu­tions to try.

Take a break from dis­cussing in­flam­ma­tory top­ics

When you’re feel­ing dis­con­nected, there is a temp­ta­tion to bring up top­ics you know are likely to lead to ar­gu­ments. To re-estab­lish close­ness, press pause on men­tion­ing these for a pe­riod of say two weeks, while you qui­etly work on restor­ing your bond.

Don’t fan­ta­sise about jump­ing ship

It’s easy to see leav­ing the re­la­tion­ship as the most ob­vi­ous so­lu­tion to prob­lems. How­ever, if you spend your time fan­ta­sis­ing about leav­ing, you won’t fully in­vest in re­con­nect­ing, and that’s set­ting up a self-ful­fill­ing prophecy. Leav­ing or stay­ing is a deeply per­sonal choice but make it a con­scious, de­lib­er­ate de­ci­sion rather than just slid­ing into it.

Un­der­stand when your re­la­tion­ship feels most and least valu­able to you

If your part­ner is amaz­ing at tak­ing care of you when you’re sick, be­ing sick will be one of the times you ap­pre­ci­ate your re­la­tion­ship the most; if they’re com­pletely hope­less, you might find your­self won­der­ing “Why am I with this per­son?”. Un­der­stand­ing the strengths and weak­nesses of your part­ner­ship can help pre­vent you pan­ick­ing when you feel less bonded, taken care of, and in-sync.

Nos­tal­gia

While you’re paus­ing from talk­ing about top­ics that trig­ger bick­er­ing, try talk­ing about pos­i­tive mem­o­ries from your shared past e.g., the birth of your chil­dren and va­ca­tions.

Recre­ate con­di­tions from hap­pier times

When were you both hap­pi­est in your re­la­tion­ship? What was dif­fer­ent about how you spent your time then? You won’t be able to com­pletely turn back the clock but there may be el­e­ments you can recre­ate. For ex­am­ple, you re­mem­ber you used to cook to­gether at the week­end. Dis­cover new things about each other

Know­ing a lot about some­one en­hances feel­ings of close­ness, but per­ceiv­ing that you know ev­ery­thing there is to know can lead to a sense of stal­e­ness. Dis­cover things you didn’t pre­vi­ously know. What are their hap­pi­est mem­o­ries from their child­hood? What was their first car? A bar­rage of these ques­tions isn’t pleas­ant, but a sprin­kling of­ten is.

Cer­tain ba­sic prin­ci­ples are ex­tremely im­por­tant for re­la­tion­ships. In brief, these are: mind­ful greet­ings and part­ings; hav­ing a 20-minute con­ver­sa­tion each day that helps you both de-stress; ex­press­ing ad­mi­ra­tion, ap­pre­ci­a­tion and af­fec­tion daily; and hav­ing a two-hour pe­riod of qual­ity time to­gether once a week. These prin­ci­ples are known as the Magic Five Hours, be­cause they take about five hours to com­plete each week, but make the dif­fer­ence be­tween happy and un­happy re­la­tion­ships.

An­other hugely im­por­tant foun­da­tional re­la­tion­ship skill is per­spec­tive-tak­ing. Put your­self in your part­ner’s shoes re­gard­ing your ar­eas of ten­sion. What are your mis­reads? For ex­am­ple, you think your part­ner has changed but ac­tu­ally they’re the same as they’ve al­ways been, but it’s both­er­ing you more now. Part­ners in long-term re­la­tion­ships fre­quently fail to do de­lib­er­ate per­spec­tive-tak­ing when it’s needed. Do­ing so can quickly dis­solve ten­sion, and in­crease em­pa­thy, com­pas­sion, and warmth.

Do the ba­sics right

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