No relationship is perfect. There are always things that we can do to better our relationship. There is always room for positive growth. Healthy relationships do take work, but the work is usually well worth it. How about you? Are you ready to grow? Are you ready to take your relationship to another level? Take a look at several things that may help you improve your relationship.
- Watch out for negative labels and identify confirmation bias: Confirmation bias is the tendency to look for evidence that supports what you already believe about a situation or a person. It is the tendency to overlook things that do not fit into your particular schema. It is almost as if you are wearing glasses that shut out anything that is contrary to your original belief. Let’s say, for example, that you believe your spouse never picks up after him or herself. You may notice the mess, but dismiss the times when he or she picks up around the house. You only notice what you believe to be true (your original schema). Be aware of the negative labels that you may create for your partner. When the words “always” and “never” are used, you can be pretty sure confirmation bias is at play.
- Pick a good time to discuss emotionally charged relationship issues: Most couples have issues in their relationship that continue to come up again and again. This happens because the issues are never really resolved and put to rest. These emotionally charged issues are usually discussed in the heat of the moment. What starts out as an argument about something unrelated, turns into the same old dance around the same old issue. Try to pick a time to discuss these issues when you are not feeling angry, tired, stressed, or under the influence of alcohol. Sometimes it is better to discuss core issues in the morning when you and your partner are rested. Don’t wait until you are ready to erupt to start the conversation. Communicate when neither of you are upset. Sometimes going to bed a little angry and agreeing to discuss an issue in the morning is better than fighting it out when you both are irritable and exhausted.
- Look for the positive: When we first enter into a relationship we usually feel like we are on an emotional high. The things that we like about the other person really stand out, and we are blind to their annoying idiosyncrasies. As our relationship grows, reality sets in and things begin to bug us. This happens in all relationships. When this begins to happen, it is extremely important to focus on our partner’s positive qualities and forgive the little bothersome idiosyncrasies. Remember that none of us are perfect.
- Ask yourself, “What am I bringing to the relationship?”: Focus on being the best partner that you can be. Take the higher road. This is a win-win situation. Whether the relationship works out or not, you will know that you did your best. You will know that you did not sacrifice your integrity. Stay away from the tit-for-tat game. Don’t try to get even. Focus on your own growth rather than dwelling on the growth of your partner. Your positive growth may end up spreading. Try it and see.
- Look behind the anger: Knowing what is behind your partner’s anger may help you take it less personally. Lurking behind anger is usually fear, pain, and/or insecurity. Look for the real issues, and discuss these at a time when both of you are calm. Many times core issues such as a fear of abandonment or a fear of rejection will present themselves in different ways. Your partner may not say, “I am scared you will leave me,” but he or she may get angry when you accept a Facebook friend request from your ex. Your partner may not say, “I am feeling rejected,” but may get angry when you spend too much time on your smart phone. You may want to look deeper to better understand one another. Rather than responding to your partner’s anger with anger, you may want to just listen and try to understand the bigger picture.