Welcome back! I've been working with families and couples for many years now. Sure, it can be a challenge at times, but it's always a privilege to be working with people, when they are looking into the face of some testing event or circumstance that's brought them through my door.
I've been fortunate enough to have had some great training opportunities, with some of the leaders in the field, from all parts of the globe. But I've learned equally useful stuff from so many of my clients. You might then be wondering why they might be coming to see me in the first place, if they are actually teaching me useful stuff. Well here's the thing: often there are many parts of their relationship that might be going well - and it's only one part of it right now, that they are struggling with. Or talking with them in the early stages of therapy, they might disclose that back in the earlier days of their relationship, they had been doing some positive things that they had discovered this by accident, kept doing it, and it then turned out to be a really good relationship habbit. Those are the things that I find really useful to hear about - and the surprising thing is, they are often so blindingly simple.
Readers who have been here before will know that I hate tips - the internet is awash with tips. And I have the belief that relationships and how to fix them can't be reduced down to simple bite-sized tips. But sometimes some basic pointers can have a useful role in prodding us to refocus on what's important - and thereby avoid a crisis. So here are are a few simple pointers (call them tips if you must!) from a few different sources. The bottom line is - regardless of where they have come from, they work. And there's nothing especially complicated or too challenging about giving them a go - they certainly aren't going to make things worse.
1) Notice what works - and mention this out loud to your partner. It might be something you are doing together, or it might be something that just he or she is doing. It might be intentional - it might not. But you notice that somehow it makes things a bit better. Tell your partner - thank them for it. Chances are they will then keep doing more of it, which is what you want.
2) Re-prioritise. In the midst of busy lives - it's easy to get distracted by all the other busy-ness. Careers/kids/mortgages/studies/renovations and all of that goes with it. Yet the couple relationship is often the foundation to all that rushing stuff. Those things probably wouldn't be there now, if the relationship hadn't been there first. So re-prioritise what is important. Even your kids will be better off if you focus first on your couple relationship.
3) If you are going through a tough spot, or relationship issues are developing, change yourself first. Although you might have some big couple issues to address, what you personally bring/don't bring to the table will also be important. It's very rare that just one of the partners needs to change. There will be something you are doing that is not helping your relationship.
4) Learn how to manage conflict. Notice I didn't say resolve it - (if you can, well and good). As I've mentioned a mountain of times before, conflict is an inevitable part of close human relationships. (I have more concerns for relationships where the participants claim they have NO conflict - but that's a whole other blog post). People in successful relationships have usually worked out ways of managing the conflict so that it doesn't get out of hand. Ways of doing this can be very unusual, or unique to the couple, and might be strategies they have just stumbled upon. They might include things like knowing what they disagree on, and staying away from those areas. Or if an issue must be discussed, putting a time-limit on the discussion. And, perhaps most importantly - recognising that "your views are just your views - neither is right or wrong, just different". Learning how to just MANAGE conflict should be Relationship 101 stuff - if we can master that from the early stages of a relationship, so much of the rest of the relationship then falls into place around it.
There are heaps of other pointers, but staying focused on even just a couple of these ones can make things a whole lot better. Remember too, if you need help with relationship stuff, feel free to contact me here.
Remember too, to check out what's going on over at my Facebook page....
"Some occasional thoughts about families, relationships, and other things that distract us...."