It's been said that relationships are the hardest yoga. I agree that relationships take the same focus, effort, and flexibility. In marriage and other romantic relationships, as in yoga, we salute the sun each day, seeking to honor the best in ourselves, our partner, and our lives together. We bend by adapting to life's unexpected curveballs; we twist when we wrestle with conflict; and we stretch by striving to love our partner even when it's not always easy. And when we seek poise between autonomy and intimacy, it can be as challenging as a one-armed side plank.
In the varied contortions required by a relationship, many couples search for THE magic bullet. However, there are many keys to a healthy relationship and loving communication. No two couples are alike; each pair must find their way through love's challenges. There is no one-size-fits-all in love and marriage. Yet, finding your stride as a couple has long-lasting benefits and makes the dedication and effort worth it!
Let's explore the most common challenges in relationships and then look at a few ways to increase relationship success.
Top Challenges in Love Relationships
- Division of household chores: Who does what?
- Money conflicts: Is there contribution equity? Is one partner frugal and the other an extravagant spender (or a saver versus risk-taker)?
- Work stress.
- Different parenting styles and involvement.
- Issues with sex, including affairs and infidelity.
- The in-laws: Their influence, financial support, involvement, and expectations.
- Varying ideas of recreation and adventure-seeking.
- Tech addictions: Should a bedroom be tech-free? What is reasonable phone use?
- Quality time as a couple versus individual pursuits and hobbies.
- One or both partners expect the other to be a mind reader.
- Unhealthy boundaries.
The challenges above are so common that you've likely experienced some or all of them, and at times they can seem insurmountable. Luckily, there are three simple things you can do to help your relationship and keep your love alive.
However, each step of the three tips I'm about to share with you will require you to master yourself. Applying and mastering these tips isn't always easy, but once mastered, they are game-changers! They will help you build a relationship so sweet and robust that you'll be pinching yourself to see if it's for real.
Tips for a Loving, Healthy Marriage and a Love Relationship That Lasts!
TIP #1: Honor Your Differences
In love and marriage, a lot of conflicts are caused by expecting our partners to be just like us. They're not! When we accept this fact, we can then begin to appreciate our differences rather than using them as fuel for arguments and fighting.
For example, in the first few years of my marriage, my husband could not understand (or accept) my physical sensitivity to stimulation, such as smelling a gas leak that he couldn't smell; being disturbed by bright lights in the morning; or being annoyed by the noise of the car's heater fan. At first, I was hurt by how often he dismissed my experiences.
Then, I got it! How could he understand? He was as different from me as the moon is to the sun. For instance, he was introverted; I was extroverted. He had very low sensitivity in his temperament, toughened by a critical mother; I had high sensitivity heightened by a traumatic childhood. His energy was mild with a slower response time; my energy was fast-moving and always on the go!
Once that insight sunk in, I sought to deeply understand my husband's perspective and experience. With that dramatic mindset shift, it became like watching a great sci-fi movie and being in awe of the special effects. My previous consternation with his behaviors turned to fascination and acceptance of his internal universe and all the falling stars!
What I learned was that he wasn't trying to hurt my feelings; he simply did not have the same lens. It's human nature to see life through our own lens. However, healthy relationships are about building a reliable bridge between each other's private universes—not by compromising! Love and marriage require us to be uncomfortable at times to care about another human.
TIP #2: Presume Innocence
It's so easy to assume we know what our partner is thinking or their intentions, isn't it?
Years ago, I had a client who insisted that her long-time boyfriend was having an affair. Instead of discussing her jealousy with him, she began checking his texts and emails, following him to and from work, and stewing in her fears until she was sick with worry. And much to her surprise, she didn't find a scrap of evidence to validate her concerns.
As we explored her anxiousness further, she uncovered a bewildering and unsettling memory from when she was eight. She had been awoken in the middle of the night by her dad's yelling. He was accusing her mom of an affair. As we worked to integrate the tender feelings of a little girl that had stuck with her, her obsession with her boyfriend's behavior dissipated.
Presume innocence. Get curious and begin a meaningful dialogue together instead of making accusations, criticizing, or faulting your partner. Suspend judgment and see life from their vantage point.
TIP #3: Ask Better Questions of Yourself and Your Partner
When we ask more meaningful questions, we get more quality answers that lend greater understanding, encourage exploration, and invoke deeper trust in ourselves and our partners.
- Instead of asking your partner why they continually forget to take out the garbage, ask yourself what motivates your partner.
- Instead of getting angry and throwing emotional darts at your spouse, self-calm and ask yourself, "What about my partner's behavior triggered me?"
- Instead of complaining that your partner doesn't open up and badgering them to talk to you, ask yourself, "Am I saying or doing anything that makes it unsafe to be open and honest?"
Seek to understand your partner's perspective. Learn to appreciate how different they may experience life, your relationship, family, and work.
Just like stretching in yoga builds limber muscles, choosing to stretch by seeking to understand your partner instead of reacting creates a flexible relationship. And just like a great yoga session, the good feelings keep you coming back for more!
If you'd like more support and are googling "relationship counseling near me," contact us today!