Everyone seems to be searching for one–The One. There are enough dating sites out there to indicate that people, young and old alike, want to be in a relationship, or at least save the one they have. People want to share their lives with another person; they want a witness to their journey. It would seem then, that finding someone and living a life with that person would be a cinch, a piece of cake, a walk in the park.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
Building a strong and solid relationship can be as difficult as running a marathon without going through the proper training.
Think about it… How much training do we get in constructing and maintaining strong and healthy relationships? Parents have “The Talk” with their teens; schools focus on math and science; social media on “hooking up”, etc. But there are no schools out there that teach you how to help your relationship when it gets into trouble. And most relationships do, at one point or another. It’s a fact of life.
You can’t expect two people coming from different backgrounds to get along fabulously all the time; to never have disagreements that turn into something more serious. It is at these critical times that relationships need a save.
Perhaps you find yourself in a relationship such as this. If you do, I want to remind you that almost all relationships need saving every once in a while. That does not mean that the relationship is bad or that it’s doomed to fail. Before you call it quits, I’d like you to try the facilitative relationship savers below. They may sound silly and ineffective, but allow me to prove you wrong. They may, in fact, end up being the only relationship help you need. Remember, often the simplest things are the most effective.
Before I present you with these conducive approaches, keep in mind that in order to have a strong and healthy partnership you’ll need to have the following ingredients: 1) Trust 2) Loyalty 3) Honesty, 4) Respect, and 5) Compromise, to name but a few. The following suggestions will help you achieve these relationship must-haves.
So, without further ado, let’s begin!
1. Become Teammates
The first thing you need to remember is that you chose to make a life with this person. There are reasons you did so. No matter what’s going on right now to make you doubt that, look at your person and know that you’re both on the same team.
Focus on your similarities; the things you love and respect about each other; the things that brought you together in the first place. Take time to review the history channel of your life with each other. You may currently be at odds, but if you say to yourself, “Wait a minute, this person is on my team. We are in this together! Maybe we just need a referee,” you might find your perspective shifting from Enemy to Ally.
Any time my husband and I have a falling out, or we start to argue, our reset is always to say: we’re on the same team! Let’s look at what’s really going on. How can we make things better, not worse?
Ask yourself, “What were our original goals? Do they need to be modified?” In her article, 12 Powerful Habits of Happy Relationships, Tiffany Mason writes, “Work as a team toward goals (short & long term).” When you understand you’re teammates, you’re more apt to want to work together for the benefit of the unit, not the benefit of the “I”. You’ll feel a camaraderie and discover that teamwork strengthens the relationship; that teamwork can save it by unifying it instead of ripping it apart.
When I was in graduate school, often times the professors would break us up into groups to work on certain projects. It would always turn out to be a huge bond-building exercise. The team members felt connected and worked steadfastly on promoting their team efforts.
2. Find a Common Ground
When you’re in the middle of a heated dispute, it’s important to find something on which you both agree. I once treated a couple fighting over what to do with their 7-year-old son. Dad wanted to send “Billy” to summer camp and Mom was dead set against it. He thought it would be good for Billy to have the experience away from home. Mom was fearful that Billy would be too far away, and should anything happen, they wouldn’t be there to care for him. The situation was tearing Mom and Dad apart. They needed a save.
Finding common ground did just that. In this case, the common ground was that they both loved Billy and wanted the best for him. Each of them had different ways of expressing that love. Once they remembered that they both had their son’s best interest at heart, they started talking. They agreed to let Billy go on the condition that they could call the camp site and check in on him. And if at any time Billy felt like he wanted to come home, they’d go pick him up. In order to find the much-needed common ground, it was necessary for both Mom and Dad to take a step back and listen to each other’s thoughts and ideas. They had to respect each other’s perspective and come to an understanding.
In an article written by Collen Morris, a counsellor and family therapist, she talks about “accepting influence.” She states that in a conversation with your partner, that might mean saying “Good point”, or “I see”. She points out that, “Giving the respect of acknowledging your partner’s opinion is the beginning of negotiation…If that rarely happens in your relationship, it may be time to step back and listen to your partner’s thoughts on the subject at hand, instead of responding from a negative, closed position.”
3. Tell Your Partner What You Need
Nope, no one is a mindreader. Not you nor your partner. Yet often in relationships, you might hear someone say, “If he loved me, he’d know that I need some time away from cooking!” Or, “If she loved me, she’d let me spend some time with my buddies.”
One of the things that causes relationships to break down is a breakdown in communication. Each person is assuming that the other person should know what they want. In the film The Break-Up, starting Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn, there’s a scene that clearly encapsulates a total communication breakdown. Vince Vaughn’s character yells…
“Fine! I’ll help you do the dishes.”
“That’s not what I want,” says Aniston’s character.
“You said that you want me to help you do the dishes.”
“I want you to want to do the dishes.”
And on it went. Neither one expressed what they wanted in a clear and concise way. This led to fight after fight until their relationship became too far gone to save.
If you want to save your relationship, one of the best saves is to communicate exactly what you need. Warning: Do not use your own personal language code.
For example, you’re sitting on the couch and are feeling a little cold. Instead of saying, “Honey, while you’re up, would you close the window for me?” You say, “I’m feeling a little chilly,” as you wrap your arms around yourself. Don’t make your partner guess, then punish them when they don’t guess correctly. It’s unfair and cruel.
You might have insight into your partner’s psyche, but you don’t know everything they need under every circumstance and vice versa. It’s important to Ask and Tell. Take all the guess work out of your relationship.
4. Give Your Undivided Attention
Recently, my husband, who installs home elevators, called to check in with me. He started telling me about the rails he was installing, the top of car wiring he still needed to do, the problematic door locks, and battery lowering something or other. He was going on and on in great detail. My eyes started glazing over. What the heck was he talking about? I found myself checking emails, Twitter, and Facebook.
Then it hit me: I was not listening, only pretending to do so. I felt terrible. I knew better. I closed up all the windows and without any distractions, started to really listen. I realized that it was rude to be saying, “Mmm. That’s interesting! Rails? Cool!” when I had no clue what he’d said.
A relationship cannot be saved if you have no interest in your partner or what they do. Showing genuine interest in what your partner does can make or break the relationship. If your partner knows you’re interested in them, that you’re not on the phone, the computer or reading a magazine, but are truly invested in them, then you’re on your way to creating a stellar coupledom.
Your undivided attention can breathe life into a dying relationship. Why? Because it makes the person feel heard and special, as if they really matter. And isn’t that what we all want?
5. Play Games Together
No, not mind games. When was the last time you sat down and played Scrabble? Truth or Dare? Deal or No Deal. Playing together can be a way to bring fun back into a withering relationship.
When all you do is work and take care of business, letting your hair down and having some time together playing a game (that you can make trés romantique), might just be the save you need to bring your problematic relationship to life.
Playing games can, 1) Add a fun, competitive edge to your relationship. 2) Make you laugh. And 3) Get you in a good mood.
Being in a rut is one of the things that can make a couple feel as if their life together is circling the drain. No relationship is dead until one or both people give up. Before you do, get creative. You will be surprised how doing something as simple as playing a game can relax you and diminish any stress that’s currently infecting your connection with each other.
6. Send a Quote
Before you think I’ve lost my marbles, hear me out. Imagine that you’re really upset at your partner. Your anger has been bubbling for a while. He comes home every night and sits in front of the TV. It’s his way of winding down, but you feel excluded and unloved. You start to think, “hmm… this marriage sucks. It’s dead in the water.” You go upstairs to fold laundry and hear your phone vibrate. When you pick it up, you read: “You are the sexiest woman alive. So glad I married you.” How mad will you be then? I’d venture to guess, not so much. This is an invaluable save.
Don’t be underwhelmed by its simplicity. I guarantee you that if you send love quotes to your partner on a regular basis, you will be pleasantly surprised. Just this morning, after my husband left for work, I decided to send my own love quote. I wanted to test out the theory for myself. I texted, “My life wouldn’t be the same without you.” No more than three minutes passed before I received the following text in return, “Nor would mine, hon! You are the light that shines in my heart.” Awww…that made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. I guarantee it will do the same for you.
Sending loves quotes works! This is probably one of the most effectual saves. It’s easy, can evoke immediate feelings of love, and dissipate any residual anger you might have over some stupid, petty thing. I highly encourage you try it.
Right about now, you might be thinking to yourself, these “saves” are too simplistic. Being teammates, finding common ground, talking to your partner, paying attention, playing games, sending quotes? No way could any of these save my messed up relationship.
I beg to differ. All you have to do is implement these saves into your relationship. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Try one, two, three, or all of them. But give it the good, old college try.
Broken relationships can be fixed. But there has to be a genuine desire to do so.
You have to be willing to fight for the relationship, not to fight with each other to get out of it.
All relationships face challenges at one point or another. Don’t let that scare you. It is just an indication that you have to pay closer attention to what’s going on. Consider it a nudge. You may have fallen asleep at the wheel. Just refocus and get back on track before the relationship crashes.
“All relationships go through hell, real relationships get through it.” — TheloveBits
Using the six saves above can inject some much needed and beautiful energy into your troubled liaison. Sometimes all you need is to hit the reset button and start anew.
So what are you waiting for? Hit RESET!
More About Saving a Relationship
- How to Regain Broken Trust in a Relationship
- 10 Simple Ways To Keep A Fulfilling Relationship
- What to Do If You Find Yourself in an Unhappy Marriage
Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com