Relationships are hard, they are not all smiles, flowers and gooey eyed dinner dates. In fact they may well be the hardest thing we ever do considering how long we spend working on them. But the rewards are almost immeasurable; the joy, sense of safety, companionship, sex and security are just a few of the reasons we have relationships and why we keep working on them. So how do you make them last? Is there a secret?..Well no, there is no one solution or secret but there are lots of things you can do to help support each other, understand each other and create a long satisfying partnership for life!
The Wrong Person
Before even considering tips and ways to keep a relationship going it is important to face the fact that some people are simply not meant to be together. Some people turn to relationship advice in the early stages of a partnership when perhaps it might be more sensible to agree that both parties want different things and are simply not compatible. That being said, sometimes those early bumps can be worked out and set the stage for a strong and long lasting love.
Mark Vahrmeyer from www.brightonandhovepsychotherapy.com has spent years working with relationships and counselling all manner of issues. In his work he often suggests couples swap roles for a proper view of any issues. This does not mean swapping jobs, clothing and the like. It simply suggests that when trying to work through common issues it is useful to sit down, sometimes with a third party, and analyse how the other person thinks and approaches an issue. A common example is where one partner becomes agitated, worried and stressed when something goes wrong like an overdue bill or household emergency. The other partner however, seems to shrink into a shell. These two ends of the spectrum are not compatible and by swapping roles both people can learn why the other reacts as they do. The agitation and stress comes from a need to be heard and to have the issue dealt with. The other person finds this overreaction unpleasant so shies away which only increases the need for the first person to react more in order to get a response. But sharing this together both people can change the pattern and avoid the response they both find so painful. They understand each other and work towards avoiding the standard responses. By coming forward and listening to the stressed partner the anxiety is immediately reduced which then makes it easier to come forward the next time something happens.
This is just one example, but swapping roles in a planned discussion can have huge benefits and is very important in preventing or fixing those patterns that can spiral over years into the breakdown of a relationship.
It may seem rather obvious but physical contact in a relationship is more complex and more important than most people imagine. Why? Because there is a hormone released during physical contact called Oxytocin and it is somewhat of a magical chemical. Research has shown that Oxytocin can increase empathy, bonding and more. When it is present couples argue less, care for each other more and appear to be more in tune. It is suggested that this is more likely to be released during skin to skin contact and is present during breast feeding with young children which means it may well play a strong role in parent child bonding. It also plays a big role in relationship strength. Holding hands, touching arms, hugging; these can all help produce oxytocin. Physical contact does not have to be sexual, sleeping together in the literal sense can just mean body contact and can do wonders for a relationship. The tip here is to make an effort to touch, even when the days are busy, work is stressful, the kids won’t sleep…take time to just hold hands or touch your partners arm. As a couple gets older it is important to keep this up as it helps keep the bond alive and well.
Differences of opinion are one of the main causes of relationship issues. Why? Because one or both parties can often try to impose their ideas on each other and that will never work. Differences are fine, they are not a reason to argue they should, in fact, be something to celebrate and a reason to learn something new. The ley is to listen and to accept that someone does not follow exactly the same ideas, ideals and or beliefs as you. Years ago a man would expect his wife to follow his lead in politics and everything else, just as parents would expect the same of their children. This was never a good idea and lead to silent misery for millions of relationships. Now a days, thankfully, everyone is able to express themselves and entitled to their own thoughts. To keep a relationship happy and healthy it is critical to accept and be positive about a partner’s thoughts and opinions. There is, of course, limits to this and in extreme cases a difference may simply be too much but there are relationships all over the world involving people from different religions, factions and political backgrounds.
Ultimately caring, taking time to listen, supporting and understand each other will go a long way to keeping things healthy. But that is all easier said than done. Swapping roles can help break cycles, touching helps build bonds and accepting people and their point of view are all things that can be done regularly and can have tangible benefits.