HEALTH

SHIN­ING A LIGHT ON YOUR UNION TAKES COURAGE – BUT THEN THE RE­SULTS CAN BE TRULY IL­LU­MI­NAT­ING

New Zealand Woman’s Weekly - - WEEKLY PEOPLE -

Kiss­ing is good for your re­la­tion­ship and your im­mu­nity.

We all know ef­fec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion is es­sen­tial to a strong and sat­is­fy­ing re­la­tion­ship, but where to start? With the will­ing­ness to ques­tion each other, and our­selves, of course.

“Some­times it may make us un­com­fort­able, but a lot of good can come out of ask­ing ques­tions of you and your part­ner,” says life coach

Lindsay Tighe.

“If you don’t treat it like an in­ter­ro­ga­tion, the right kind of ques­tions can help to high­light any is­sues. And the sooner dif­fer­ing views and po­ten­tial con­flicts are iden­ti­fied, the hap­pier and more peace­ful life at home can be.”

What do I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate about our re­la­tion­ship?

“Of­ten we fo­cus on what the other per­son isn’t do­ing. So ask­ing your­self what you like about your part­ner and re­la­tion­ship is a help­ful start­ing point,” ex­plains re­la­tion­ship coun­sel­lor Fiona Ben­nett.

“If we hit a bumpy patch, we have nothing to fall back on if we don’t have that aware­ness. It can be ap­pre­ci­at­ing small things they do or how you pull to­gether in tough times. Ques­tions need to be a point of con­nec­tion.”

Who am I? And who are “we”? This is a ques­tion for you and your part­ner. Do you have an iden­tity in your re­la­tion­ship or per­haps your re­la­tion­ship is your iden­tity? One part­ner may be more dom­i­nant, so the other may feel their needs are the last to be met.

“If you’ve al­ways done what some­one else wants, then you can get nig­gly and an­gry,” says psy­chol­o­gist Dr Mandy Deeks. “Think about who you are as a cou­ple, your role and what you’d like it to be. Talk to your part­ner, listen and work out your roles to­gether.”

What as­pects of the re­la­tion­ship need to change and what would my part­ner say about this? Think­ing about any changes in your re­la­tion­ship from your part­ner’s per­spec­tive can pro­vide a re­al­ity check, Lindsay says. Ac­tu­ally nam­ing exactly what it is you’d like to do dif­fer­ently in your re­la­tion­ship can re­move some of the anx­i­ety of making those changes too, she adds.

“Peo­ple also don’t think about what they could change for the bet­ter in their re­la­tion­ship when there isn’t much wrong,” tells Lindsay. “But that’s the time to dis­cuss your ideal vi­sion and what that looks like for you and your part­ner.”

What do I need to work on? Over time, it be­comes easy to take your re­la­tion­ship, and spouse, for granted. “Do you treat your part­ner with re­spect?” asks Dr Deeks. “Do you say good­bye when you leave home? Do you spend time with each other?”

Think about what you could do to im­prove the qual­ity of your re­la­tion­ship. Then try to understand your part­ner’s per­spec­tive on your shared plans and prob­lems, and ask them to tell you more about that be­cause your cu­rios­ity shows that you care.

Who has an ideal re­la­tion­ship and what can be learned from them?

This ques­tion is for both you and your part­ner, and it can help with shift­ing out of any rut. “Think of role mod­els who, in your eyes, are do­ing things well. Think about what they do in their re­la­tion­ship and how they make it work. What are their strate­gies?” says Lindsay.

What do you need from me in this re­la­tion­ship?

This is a ques­tion to ask your part­ner, no mat­ter how well you think you understand them.

It helps if you think of your re­la­tion­ship as a third per­son – as some­thing that to­gether you are look­ing af­ter and care about, Fiona sug­gests. “It’s not just about bring­ing each other a cup of tea in bed, it’s about of­fer­ing sup­port when one of you is stressed. This ques­tion lets your part­ner know that you care about what you have,” she says.

If I demon­strated I value this re­la­tion­ship, what would

I be do­ing dif­fer­ently?

It’s easy to drift but if you are se­ri­ous about keep­ing a re­la­tion­ship healthy, it helps to show your part­ner that you re­ally value it. Ask your­self what you could do dif­fer­ently to demon­strate the im­por­tance you place on be­ing with your part­ner. Could you spend more time to­gether, share new in­ter­ests or fight less?

What will hap­pen if nothing changes?

This is a ques­tion for you. Of­ten we need a cat­a­lyst or a rea­son to make changes. This may cause a little pain but with­out pain, there’s no gain, tells Lindsay. “Think about how you will con­tinue to feel if your re­la­tion­ship doesn’t change. If you don’t want to feel that way, then you have to do some­thing about it. Think about the worst-case sce­nar­ios so you have some real mo­ti­va­tion to change.”

What can I do to help my part­ner understand me bet­ter?

Of­ten we think peo­ple are mind-readers. “If you want a per­son to re­spond to you the best way they can, you have to ar­tic­u­late your thoughts, needs and val­ues,”

Lindsay says. “The clearer you are, the more op­por­tu­nity your part­ner has to re­spond con­sid­er­ately. Think about what you want your part­ner to know about you and how you com­mu­ni­cate that. But do it in a calm space – not in the mid­dle of an ar­gu­ment.” How do you com­mu­ni­cate? Ask your­self whether you com­mu­ni­cate via anger. Do you start ev­ery sen­tence with, “You drive me crazy” or, “You don’t understand me”? Or do you say, “I know you’re stressed, I know you are busy and I know it’s hard to find the time, but I re­ally need you to listen”?

Dr Deeks says, “Find­ing a way to talk to your part­ner that’s re­spect­ful means you’re likely to have a suc­cess­ful re­la­tion­ship.

“When com­mu­ni­cat­ing, treat each other as you would a friend, ex­pect re­spect and try to use

‘I’ state­ments, not ‘you’ state­ments. And al­ways pick your mo­ment!”

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