How can I improve my relationships

 In Counselling, relationship counselling

How can I improve my relationships?

(1) Successful Adult Relationships

A good’ adult relationship’ means different things to different people, and there are many different kinds of relationships. The couple relationship may be the most important one in our society : it is often the main relationship in people’s lives. It is the basis of a family (and this is the place where most of us learn about adult love, about negotiation, about how to change and how to compromise), and it is often an economic unit.

(2) What do we mean by ‘adult relationship’?
Some relationships between adults are mainly sexual, but all good relationships are based on people respecting each other and being able to communicate clearly. An ‘adult relationship’ is about two people who have equal rights, equal opportunities and equal responsibilities

(3) How can we define a fulfilling, intimate relationship?
Most people have very personal definitions of what a fulfilling, intimate relationship means for them. Some of the things most of us expect in a relationship are:

  • Love
  • Intimacy and sexual expression
  • Communication
  • Commitment
  • Equality and respect
  • Compatibility
  • Companionship

(4) Myths And Misunderstandings About Relationships

Many myths and misconceptions exist about relationships. These are based on romantic ideals formed by what we read, hear or see portrayed in the media. Here are some examples:
“People who love each other automatically communicate well” – FALSE

Good communication does not come naturally. Communication can be improved by learning and practising some simple skills. This includes skills in assertiveness, listening and clarifying to make sure messages are not misunderstood. Open communication between couples is essential.
“Maintaining romantic love is the key to a long and happy relationship”- FALSE

Studies show that there is a change in the type of love in a partnership from a romantic, passionate love early in relationships to complicated love later in a relationship called companionate love.
“If my partner loves me, he/she should instinctively know what I want and need to be happy” – FALSE

This is called the “mind-reading myth” – expecting your partner to know instinctively what you want and need. In reality, people must communicate their wants, needs and expectations to others in order to get those needs met.

(5) What does a good relationship need?

It will vary from one person to another, but most people would probably agree that respect, companionship, mutual emotional support, sexual expression, economic security and, often, childrearing, are all important parts of an adult relationship.
Ask your partner to write down the five qualities/needs that are most important for them in a relationship. Have a look at the list and see which of the needs you can do something about, and which you need to negotiate with your partner.
Do the same yourself. Then talk about each other’s relationship needs. It is essential for each partner to try to understand and respect the other person’s needs.

(6) What are the important life needs of my partner?

We don’t all want the same things out of life. You and your partner could each make a list of what is most important in life. Talk to each other about what is on your list. Remember, most people will want different things.

(7) Do we make time to talk about how our relationship is going?

Ask yourselves these questions, then check your answers with your partner:

  • How well do you think your partner understands you – how you think, how you feel, what’s important to you? Do you tell him/her?
  • How well can the two of you discuss a difficult issue?
  • How often do you argue? If you have many arguments that you don’t resolve, there may be communication problems. Lots of arguments over trivial issues may be a sign of a power struggle. If you never have any arguments, is it because you are avoiding important issues out of a fear of arguments?
  • What interests do you have in common? What do you do together for fun and relaxation? How often do you do something enjoyable as a couple?
  • How do you feel about your sexual relationship? Does sex usually leave you both feeling satisfied and good? Are you having any sexual problems?

(8) How can I encourage my partner to communicate more openly?

Each of you must first accept responsibility for your own feelings. You must start by being honest. This is at the heart of good communication.
Remember, the only thing you have total control over is your own thoughts, your own attitudes, your own actions.

  • Set aside time for both of you to talk
  • Talking about what is happening and how it affects you is the first step
  • Try to tell your partner exactly what you are feeling and thinking, even if it might upset him/her
  • Don’t forget: change can be painful and scary. Let your partner know that you understand this
  • Listen to your partner. Put aside your own thoughts for the time being
  • Try to understand his/her intentions, needs and wants
  • State what you want
  • Negotiate
  • What sorts of issues usually need to be discussed in intimate relationships?
  • Who is going to do what around the house?
  • How is your income going to be shared?
  • How much time are you going to spend together and how much time are you going to spend doing things separately?
  • What do you expect from each other when it comes to loyalty, trust, sexual faithfulness?
  • What you both like or dislike about your sexual relationship?
  • If there is a problem with jobs, whose career will take priority? How will this be compensated for over time?
  • What is the role of family and friends in your lives?

(9) Why should I be the one to make the effort?~

For a relationship to be good, both partners must want to make it work and show goodwill. Don’t wait for your partner to act. You may be pleasantly surprised by how much difference taking the first small step can make!

(10) How can I change my relationship?

Ask yourself how you would like your relationship to be different. If you know, then commit yourself to making the changes you need to make. One small change can sometimes make a difference to a lot of big things. Relationships need to be looked after:

  • Spend time alone together
  • Develop common interests
  • Really listen, and try to understand what your partner is saying
  • Tell your partner when you are unhappy about something
  • Try to find solutions that are OK for both of you.

(11) What are things that are good for relationships?

  • Learn new skills by trying new ways of relating
  • Be supportive; do not make judgements when your partner makes mistakes, or does things differently from how you would do them
  • Do things your own way
  • Ask for help when you cannot cope with a situation
  • Share the load – agree on who will do what in the household
  • Offer to do what you like the most
  • Allow yourself the right to put your feet up and relax
  • Make time specifically for yourself – soak in a bath, read, listen to music, talk on the phone to friends
  • Express your feelings honestly
  • Show appreciation when your partner does something for you
  • Listen attentively
  • Take responsibility for your actions.

(12) How can I improve the relationship I am in?

In long-term relationships, we often assume we know all there is to know about our partners. But people change. It is very easy to lose that connection, and not know where our partner is at now, who they are now.

  • Look at what is happening in the relationship
  • Stay curious (but respectful) about each other
  • Listen, and communicate your needs: don’t wait for your partner to try to guess what is going on with you.

Remember that a good listener:

  • Keeps comfortable eye contact
  • Leans towards the other person and makes appropriate gestures to indicate interest and concern
  • Has an ‘open’ position -a fairly relaxed posture, with arms and legs uncrossed
  • Faces the other – does not sit or stand sideways
  • Sits or stands on the same level to avoid looking up to or down on the speaker
  • Avoids distracting gestures, such as fidgeting with a pen, glancing at papers, tapping feet or fingers
  • Realises that physical barriers, such as noise or interruptions are likely to make effective communication difficult
  • Is genuine when attention and interest are shown.

(13) What are some of the warning signs of relationship problems?

Noticing early warning signs of relationship breakdown can help a couple resolve conflicts. Some early warning signs are:

  • Abandonment of joint activities – just living parallel lives
  • Recurring arguments which are never resolved
  • Feelings of dissatisfaction and unhappiness
  • Preoccupation with interests and activities outside the relationship, leading to one partner feeling neglected
  • Complaints of loss of feeling – one or both partner/s speak of no longer being in love
  • An affair – becoming emotionally and/or sexually involved with a person outside the relationship
  • Increased fatigue and reduced ability to meet responsibilities at work
  • Arguments over parenting

(14) When is a good time to get professional help?

Advice or extra skills can often assist. If your relationship has some of the early warning signs, it is time to seek advice. Counsellors can help you sort out what the problems are and help you find ways to try to mend your relationship. Mediators can work with you to define practical issues and identify present and future needs.
The sooner that you act on issues, the easier they will be to resolve.
It is good for couples to learn new ways of relating, communicating and resolving conflicts.

 (15) What if the signs of conflict in my relationship are more serious?

Some relationships involve behaviour that is very damaging to the other partner and in some cases may be criminal. Domestic/family violence is a problem in many households. If you suffer any form of family violence, seek help immediately.

(16) Power and Control in Relationships

Any good relationship should be based on equality and respect between partners.
When one partner uses tactics to control the other partner, it can be very damaging. This control or power imbalance can take many forms, including threats, ‘stalking’ behaviour, and physical abuse.
This usually results in one partner being scared of another, leaving them unable to feel safe in the relationship.

(17) What sort of things can be called family violence?

  • Physical Assault – kicking, slapping, choking or using weapons against the victim. All threats of physical violence should be taken seriously.
  • Sexual Assault – Any non-consenting (not fully agreed to by both partners) sexual act or behaviour, Any unwanted or disrespectful sexual touch, rape (with or without threats of other violence), forced compliance in sexual acts, indecent assaults, and forced viewing of pornography.
  • Using coercion and threats.
  • Telling your partner you will do something to hurt them, the children, pets or property if your partner does not do what you want, or does something you do not want them to do. Hurting the other’s feelings by saying mean things and name-calling.
  • Using Intimidation – making your partner afraid by using looks, actions, gestures.
  • Using male or female privilege to coerce or intimidate your partner.
  • Using children, such as by making your partner feel guilty about the children. Threatening to take the children away, to report your partner to Child Protection authorities. Using visitation to harass your partner, using the children to relay messages.
  • Using isolation – controlling what your partner does, who your partner sees and talks to, what she or he reads and where they go. (This includes emotional smothering).
  • Psychological/Emotional/Verbal Abuse – using words and other strategies to insult, threaten, degrade, abuse or denigrate your partner. This can include threats to your partner’s children.
  • Social Abuse – social isolation imposed upon a partner, such as stopping your partner from seeing their family and friends. This may include enforced geographic isolation.
  • Economic Abuse – controlling and withholding access to family resources such as money and property.

If you are in trouble, seek help as soon as possible. You do not have to put up with family violence.

Any good relationship should be based on equality and respect between partners.

When one partner uses tactics to control the other partner, it can be very damaging. This control or power imbalance can take many forms, including threats, ‘stalking’ behaviour, and physical abuse.

This usually results in one partner being scared of another, leaving them unable to feel safe in the relationship.


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