10 tips that work

Hav­ing re­cently cel­e­brated 10 years of mar­riage, coun­selling psychologist RAKHI BEEKRUM has been re­flect­ing on what she knows as a mar­i­tal ther­a­pist that has proven true in her per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence. This led her to come up with 10 tips she can vouch for af

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Happy cou­ples of­ten main­tain a healthy bal­ance be­tween soli­tary and joint ac­tiv­i­ties. Time apart is healthy and helps achieve a sense of in­de­pen­dence, so you do not lose your­self in the mar­riage. It also gives you more to talk about. It’s un­healthy for cou­ples to do ev­ery­thing to­gether. Hav­ing said that, both part­ners need to be sat­is­fied with the amount of qual­ity time spent to­gether and the ac­tiv­i­ties en­gaged in dur­ing this time.

It’s hu­man na­ture to pick on things that our part­ners do that up­set us but we need to form a habit of show­ing ap­pre­ci­a­tion, ex­press­ing grat­i­tude and “catch­ing” your part­ner do­ing some­thing right.

No-one wants to feel taken for granted. As hu­man be­ings, we are more likely to re­peat things that we feel ap­pre­ci­ated for.

My num­ber one rule of com­mu­ni­ca­tion is “Say what you mean and mean what you say”. Do not ex­pect your part­ner to be a mind-reader. Don’t say you’re not up­set when you clearly are.

Make your ex­pec­ta­tions clear in­stead of be­ing dis­ap­pointed when your part­ner hasn’t lived up to them (just be­cause they didn’t know).

It’s vi­tal to be a good lis­tener, which means pay­ing at­ten­tion to your part­ner and un­der­stand­ing what they may be feel­ing.

If you are uncer­tain, clar­ify with them. Once they have fin­ished, you can take your turn to speak.

Ar­gu­ments are in­evitable in any re­la­tion­ship. The fairest fights are those where one part­ner ex­presses how they feel in any par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tion; for ex­am­ple “I feel frus­trated when you do not as­sist with chores like you promised”. Give your part­ner a fair chance to re­spond. Then ask for what you would like; for ex­am­ple “It would make me feel less over­whelmed if you could help the kids with their home­work, while I pre­pare din­ner”. Don’t crit­i­cise, name-call or bring up past is­sues. The key is reach­ing a so­lu­tion.

There are some things in mar­riage that are non-ne­go­tiable (for ex­am­ple, faith­ful­ness) but there are some ar­eas we can com­pro­mise on.

Com­pro­mise should never feel like a sac­ri­fice but rather some­thing you do to ac­com­mo­date your spouse (even though you’re not thrilled about it), ex­pect­ing they would do the same.

For ex­am­ple, join­ing him for an ac­tion movie some­times know­ing he will at­tend fam­ily func­tions with you (that he’s not usu­ally keen on).

Re­la­tion­ships can­not sur­vive with­out trust. In or­der to in­crease trust, there needs to be hon­esty (in word and ac­tion) and trans­parency.

Mis­trust creeps in when there is secrecy (for ex­am­ple, with phones) and when one part­ner has been caught ly­ing. Even if you lie once, your part­ner will have a hard time trust­ing again.

The strong­est mar­riages are be­tween in­di­vid­u­als who ac­knowl­edge when they are wrong and apol­o­gise sin­cerely. A sin­cere apol­ogy is not just say­ing “sorry”.

You have to say what ex­actly you are sorry for. It shows that you are ac­cept­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity. Then state how you will re­solve the is­sue be­fore ask­ing for for­give­ness.

Some peo­ple apol­o­gise even when they do not feel that they are wrong – sim­ply to keep the peace and move on. This can do more harm than good in the long run.

Re­sent­ment can eas­ily creep in when one part­ner feels they bear more re­spon­si­bil­ity than the other. Re­spon­si­bil­i­ties such as fi­nance, parenting and house­hold chores need to be dis­cussed and agreed upon. Money mat­ters are not easy to dis­cuss but es­sen­tial to en­sure both part­ners are com­fort­able as well as to en­sure your in­di­vid­ual and joint fi­nan­cial goals.

Many pa­tients tell me that they love their part­ners but when I asked how they ex­press this love, I’m of­ten met with a blank stare. Know what makes your part­ner feel loved and do more of that.

While some pre­fer qual­ity time, oth­ers re­quire phys­i­cal af­fec­tion, while some feel spe­cial by acts of ser­vice, such as be­ing wel­comed home with a cup of cof­fee.

Re­alise that what makes you feel loved may dif­fer from your part­ner’s needs, so it’s an im­por­tant topic to dis­cuss and im­ple­ment.

When cou­ples present for ther­apy, many ap­pear to be on dif­fer­ent teams as if they’re fight­ing a bat­tle against each other. Un­for­tu­nately, in such in­stances, no one wins!

As hus­band and wife you are on the same team and if you sup­port each other and stand to­gether in fac­ing chal­lenges, you strengthen the mar­riage.

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