There's much we can do to improve our relationships with our partners by working alone on ourselves. We can change our distorted beliefs, become more self-accepting, repattern our behavior, learn to accept our partners better, improve the atmosphere of our home, learn assertiveness, and learn to integrate/desensitize emotions. Making these kinds of changes on our own can have a profound and positive impact on ourselves, on our relationships, and our partners.
You can learn how to accept yourself and not be critical of yourself or others. You feel good. You're less likely to distort what you partner says, and in doing so you create less chance for conflict. A better atmosphere is created for your relationship to thrive and grow. Read the Tips on Self-Acceptance.
Learn to stand in your partner's shoes and look out through their eyes in learning to understand and accept their viewpoints.
You learn assertiveness and speak up for your preferences and needs. You set boundaries and raise the probability of getting what you prefer and need. Read the Tips on Assertiveness.
You learn to accept your partner and their shortcomings. You don't sweat the small stuff about your partner, and you are not so easily annoyed by them or the things they do. You can imagine how this would impact their mood and stress levels.
You learn to stand things and become more patient.
You hang through difficult periods because you have good frustration tolerance. These periods are not so difficult because you don't suffer from "I can't stand it-itis."
You don't bring up difficulties and conflicts with your partner. (Unless it's really eating up your relationship, like they're having affairs, suffering from alcoholism or substance abuse, seldom coming home, they're walking scream-fests, or some other big ticket item.) You learn to accept your partner's differences and view them as "facts of life", maybe even find novelty or interest in some of them. Instead of talking about difficulties and conflicts, you bring up stimulating subjects, suggest fun things to do together. Basically you crowd out the negative stuff with good and fun stuff. It's difficult to ramble on about how you dislike how your hubby parts his or her hair when you've got some good conversation going about something meaningful, stimulating, or pleasurable. The more good times and upbeat emotions you have, the more your relationship will be valued and enjoyed.
Learn to integrate or desensitize emotions that are intense, very uncomfortable, and attention grabbing. This will leave you in good mood and pleasant to be around.
Develop a great relationship with yourself. Learn not only to accept yourself (See the Self-Acceptance page), but to treat yourself in caring and loving ways. Do good things for yourself.
Speak from your heart to your partner's heart. Let them know your passion for them. Making love can make your relationship pleasurable and can be a deep, passionate expression of how you feel toward your significant other.
If you tend to be hungry or needy because of feeling lonely or empty, allow yourself to feel your aloneness and emptiness. Feel your aloneness and emptiness into integration. Steadily feeling your aloneness and emptiness not only heals it, it eventually brings us to the well-springs of our essential self. Never avoid or run from aloneness and emptiness. Feel them to integration.
Learn to forgive and drop your resentments. Notice how that effects your interactions with your loved one. See our Forgiveness Exercise. If they make mistakes, be willing to forgive. Human beings are fallible and make errors. See mistakes as part of learning.
Many difficulties can be solved on your own and put to rest by your own actions. You needn't involve your partner.
Alter your moods by activities, changing your beliefs, and integrating feelings. When you're in a good mood this creates a better atmosphere in your relationship.
To enjoy your partner more, make an inventory of all their positive qualities. Pay attention to the good stuff. Compliment it. It seems to grow with cultivation.
What vitally absorbs you, feels pleasurable, and is meaningful and important? You can do more of those activities by yourself or with friends. You don't have to rely on your partner for fun times unless they want to come along.
Notice if there are any actions you're doing that are adversely affecting your relationship? Can you alter those actions? See the Pattern Tree and the Habit Cracker.
Ask yourself: How do I make myself angry, anxious, depressed, guilty, ashamed, jealous, happy? What are my evaluations that make these emotions? Can these situations be viewed in another way? I can learn all about distorted thinking, be able to spot it, and change it. See our Tips on Distorted Thinking.
What can I do instead of criticizing or advising my partner? What can I do for myself?
Be prepared to set daily time aside to have quality times with your partner. Find fun things to do together like conversation, making love, going out to dinner, plays, concerts, movies, hanging out with friends, parties, exercising together, reading together, or whatever turns you on. This quality time together is a pleasurable or relaxing time together that makes relationships worth having.
Be wary of trying to fix your partner as this can cause contention and make them feel unaccepted and unloved. Anytime you think of fixing your partner let it be a reminder to practice better other-acceptance. Is that same quality worth repairing in yourself?
If you are ambivalent about your relationship or see-saw back and forth about being in a relationship, focus on the many good things a relationship offers in terms of intimacy, love, warmth, sharing, conversation, growth, and in particular the many good things your partner offers.
Practice restraint with your partner. Avoid saying things in the passion of the moment unless they're loving things. Count to 10 and bite your tongue before you say anything that will hurt and that you will later regret. Say something pleasant or appreciative instead. There's likely much to appreciate.
Sometimes choosing to act "as if" you are feeling loving and caring for your partner can do a world of good for a relationship. It can get the ball rolling and make them feel good. They might come back with something positive on their own or at least feel good about what you did.
Honor each other’s alone time for growth where you both can be in touch with your own feelings and thoughts.
Be committed to your relationship. Commitment to your relationship helps a great deal if the relationship falls into challenging times. This way you work together to bring love and warmth back into your relationship. Being uncommitted and having a foot out the door is fear based and will likely make your relationship difficult should hard times comes your way. Love is not only warm, loving, and romantic feelings, it is the commitment to stick with it and bring love and warmth back even when you temporarily don't feel that way. If you have more positive emotional experiences than negative over time, the love will return. A loving formula exists that works to return loving and warm feelings: Spend quality time together, accept your differences, deliberately have more positive emotional experiences together than negative and your relationship will be loving and warm again.
Avoid sarcasm, eye rolling, and frowns when talking with your partner. Avoid threats, mocking, or any form of hostility or putdowns. Better to praise your partner and let them know what good things they do. Put your focus on what's right, rather than what's wrong.
Avoid disrespectful criticism. Stay away from blame and attack that focuses on your partner's personality or character. Calling them names or giving them negative labels is hurtful and damaging. Example: "You fool!”
Stay entirely away from trying solve problems late at night when you are both tired. It just causes big fights.
Do some good stuff for your partner. Don't put it off--do it now.
Hit them with some pleasant surprises.
Drop 50/50 splits on chores. This gets couples to watch the tap for fairness and just doesn't work. 50/50 splits on chores just creates friction and crummy feelings.
Avoid defensiveness. You deflect or counterattack what your partner is saying. You make excuses, deny, or don't listen. Always hear what the other person is saying. You don't have to accept what you're partner's saying, but at least hear them through. Agree to disagree.
Want to dampen sexual feelings in a hurry? Waiting for the right mood or inspiration to make love will sink the old love boat especially if you are in a power struggle with your mate. Set a specific time or just do it. You find it's more pleasurable if you don't play the waiting game.
Stay away from contempt. This is criticism underscored by disgust or hostility. This is when someone is being sarcastic or rolling eyes at what you say. What’s contempt? Mocking, really bad name-calling, and bullying. Instead, find good things to note about your partner and say them.
Avoid stonewalling. This is when the person withdraws from conversations and is inattentive. They may be impatiently tapping their foot or checking their watch. They offer no verbal or physical cues that they're affected by what they hear. You might as well be talking to a stone wall. Instead find ways to give your partner complete attention.
When partners reach out to make an emotional connection, acknowledge them. When a bid for emotional connection is heard and acknowledged with openness, then you two will feel closer to each other. What drives a wedge between partners is either ignoring those bids for emotional connection or reacting with anger or hostility.
Develop listening and intimacy skills. These skills increase our emotional connection with another.
Show appreciation and gratitude as much as possible. Be willing to accept appreciation and gratitude, too.
Develop the friendship side of your relationship. This is the bedrock of your relationship. Respect your partner and demonstrate affection and empathy. Pay close attention to what's happening in each other’s daily life. Make positive comments about your partner and recall the many good times you've had together.
Avoid third partying or triangulation. This is when you go and complain to others about your partner instead of talking directly to your partner. Not only is this taken as a sign of disloyalty, third-partying weakens the partnership. Third parties often want to help the complainer and can make the other partner appear like an unchangeable negative label and that the relationship is hopeless. Better to talk with your partner.
Develop a healthy lifestyle. Exercise, sleep well, and eat a healthy balanced diet.
Depression and anxiety can be damaging to relationships. Depression and anxiety need to be worked through with self-help or with a therapist. Depression and anxiety can strongly distort how you view your partner. Depression's negative moods can profoundly magnify your partner’s negative qualities and distort your memories of a positive past. Anxiety, about getting close, can make the relationship uncomfortable and have you searching for what's "wrong" with it.
Know your core values and priorities and live from them. You'll be happier and this will benefit your relationship.
Let your partner know that you love and value them in your actions and speech. Make an inventory of their positive qualities and tell them about them when it's appropriate. Maybe let them know at least one a day.
Remember relaxation and humor. Spend some relaxing times together so you both feel comfortable and get to de-stress. The sharing of humor lightens the load through a non-serious view of life and makes for more pleasurable companionship. Learn to calm down and relax. Learn to take "time outs" and how to relax. (See our Longevity Maneuver or the Dive Reflex.) Relaxing helps block being flooded with high arousal.
If you suffer from love fear or relationship claustrophobia, spend time exposing yourself to this fear and desensitizing it or it will destroy your relationship.
If you suffer from extreme neediness or loveaholism, go to the feelings of loneliness and emptiness and expose yourself to them and desensitize them. If you don't desensitize your extreme neediness, it will make your relationships challenging – if not impossible.
Practice good will toward your partner. Think, “If I felt good feelings toward my partner I would do _______________ for them.” Make an inventory of the good things you'd do and chose ones to go do.
Notice if you are having a conflict with your partner. How might that conflict be solved if you knew their viewpoint and empathized with it? How might it be resolved if you did not press for your point of view, but gave the conflict time to lose strength? You wait it out and put your attention on what is working in your relationship or elsewhere. Later when the conflict naturally resolves itself, note how it resolved itself.
What do you deeply enjoy doing that brings you meaning and pleasure? Fill up some of your free time or time by yourself doing activities that bring you meaning and pleasure.
Take care, Steve