Your relationship with your significant other is one such connection that goes a long way in shaping you as a person and your goals in life. In my everyday work with couples, I come across a multitude of problems that couples go through – ranging from trust and infidelity to financial problems and differences in child-rearing opinions.
Whatever the roadblocks that you may be experiencing in your relationship with your partner, DO NOT wait for them to fester and remain unresolved. Sit with your own and your partner’s feelings, discuss what your fears are, and seek professional help if needed.
Also, when relationships move through challenges, it is time for couples, go back to the basics.
1. Evaluate your relationship goals. Remind yourselves of the goals of your relationship. Where do you see your relationship 5 years from now if you work on the current problems Vs what would your relationship look like if you choose to let them stay unresolved or “brush them under the rug”.
2. DO NOT let your partner do the guesswork. Avoid following the “you should’ve known” belief set. There are fair chances that unless you put your thoughts into words, your partner may not actually and genuinely are aware of what you are thinking and feeling.
3. Are you validating your partner? Many couples oftentimes verbalize a lack of appreciation from each other. Let me put it out there that there is no shame in acknowledging the things that your partner does to maintain and uplift your relationship. Put in simple words for your partner to know that you’ve seen them sticking around because they care, even though they may not actively solve the problem for you, or just acknowledge them for their reassuring presence in your life.
4. Consistent discipline of children. Couples with children may go through differences in their opinions about child-rearing practices and parenting styles which can create feelings of anger and bitterness. Other than creating dysfunctional sub-units in the family, constant disagreements on parenting styles in the presence of children can expand the space of differences in a couple. Prioritize two things: goals of positively effective parenting, and using your strengths as a couple to present as a parent-team to your children. Avoid creating situations where you are stepping-in to side with your children against your partner to “protect” them from the “strict parent” (exception- abuse of a child, or endangerment of a child). When you come together as a parent-team and present a united front to your children, you give a boost to your couple goals and enhance your faith in your relationship.
5. Respect individual differences. Know that your partner/spouse had specific interests and had a circle of people that existed in his/her life before you came along. Communicate respect for that individuality through acknowledging and encouraging your partner to continue to engage in those areas of interest and socializing with those sets of people.
6. Build that trust. Keep it simple, keep the communication lines open. In situations where partners have been unfaithful (emotionally, physically, sexually, or financially), it becomes increasingly difficult for the hurting partner to reinvest trust in the unfaithful partner (consider feelings of vulnerability and betrayal). The unfaithful partner may experience feelings of remorse and guilt and may want to “make it up” to the hurting partner. And in doing so, may want everything to “go back to normal” as soon as possible- again not knowing that the healing for the hurting partner may take an extremely long time.
7. Seek professional support. If you both want your relationship to have a positive future, but feel that you are unable to make progress, seek the help of a professional that specializes in Couples/Family Therapy, agree to be vulnerable in those therapy sessions, be ready to work hard over a span of weeks, months, or even years on your relationship and prioritize your relationship goals.
Even though it’s never too late to work on strengthening your relationship, I will strongly recommend seeking the services of a professional as early as possible into your relationship problems – before the sourness and challenges in your relationship become more intense and complicated with time.