By: Cristian Renzi
Relationships can be beautiful, blissful experiences. They can make you want to stay up until 3 AM talking on the phone and laughing until the sun comes up. Yet, they can also keep you up at night, worried about everything from “will it last?” to “do I even want it to last?”. Why are relationships so complicated?
When something is not going smoothly in my relationship, I find myself consumed by it. My stomach is turning, mind is racing, and all I want to do is figure things out with my girlfriend. This might be the same for many others. There are also people who feel much better removing themselves from a situation for a while, composing themselves and coming back to it. Either way, when our relationship is going through a rocky period it changes our normal patterns of personal behaviour, as well as the way we behave around our partner. It makes sense that it is going to affect us, as according to Hudson, Lucas, and Donnellan (2019), relationship quality correlates with personal well-being.
So, how exactly do we overcome relationship obstacles in healthy ways? While there are probably countless things we can do, here are just a few things that might help you get started.
Compromising is much trickier than it might sound. What makes it difficult is that we need to know what we want in order to do it. If we just do what our partner wants in order to stop the argument and our own needs are not met to some respect, the issue is bound to eventually resurface. Lin et al. (2014), posits that compromising is a useful method, but if done in the wrong way can lead to anxiety and depression. These researchers state that in order to compromise properly, the couple should have a “relationship focus” and frequently use the word “we” when referring to an aspect of the relationship. For example, instead of saying “Babe, I hate it when YOU just leave all the dishes in the sink,” a person in the relationship can say something more along the lines of “Babe, I notice our dishes piling up. Can WE do our best to put dishes in the dishwasher?” This may seem silly, but it sounds much more like a collaborative effort, rather than putting blame on a single person in the relationship. While dishes in the sink may seem like a trivial example, it can easily be extrapolated to larger issues in the relationship.
2. Taking Ownership
Sometimes when we do things in a relationship, it really is our fault. Maybe we knew we were doing something wrong, or maybe we were trying to help but messed up along the way. Either way, being able to dialogue about your problems is crucial. An apology can go a long way, and maybe that was all your partner was looking for. Bachman and Guerrero (2007) found that when someone sincerely apologized following a transgression in a relationship, the hurt individual was more likely to forgive, and be more open to communication.
3. Let the Other Person Know How You Feel About Them
It really is an amazing thing when you remember how that person really feels about you. . Remind your partner that you care for them, that you love them, and that you look forward to seeing them. By no means am I saying that this will end what you are going through in the snap of a finger, but it never hurts to tell the person that you are arguing with them out of love. For example, there was a time where my girlfriend was mad at me for not responding to one of her texts for awhile. When we first started talking about it, I was bothered because I was busy, and just didn’t have the time to respond, so it was irritating when she told me that she was bothered that I didn’t respond. When she later expressed to me that she was concerned because she knew I was driving home from work at that time and I hadn’t responded in a few hours, I realized that she was only trying to make sure I got home safe. When I realized my girlfriend was trying to express her hope for my safety, it was difficult to stay irritated. Bottom line: itt pays to make an effort to let them know through our words and actions.
4. Try New Things Together
This one is different from other items in the list, as it is something to sort of rekindle the spark, not so much for dealing with a presenting issue. Sometimes things in the relationship get stale. It happens to a lot of relationships, and sometimes can lead to their end. Trying a new thing with your partner can be just the shake up the relationship needs to make it feel fun and new again. Take a trip together, go try a new restaurant, try something different in the bedroom, or take a drive to a place in the city you have never been to. You don’t need to spend any money at all, or you can splurge if you want. It can be from the comfort of your own home, or on the other end of the world. Durko and Petrick (2016), have theorized that vacation satisfaction can enhance relationship commitment and even possibly lessen the chance of the relationship ending.
Sometimes it’s just not being able to settle on dinner or disagreeing about the movie you just saw. Sometimes it’s about political differences or sexual preferences that are enough to shake a relationship to its core. Oftentimes, the answers we are looking for are right in front of us, they just need some deciphering. Take your time. Try the tips. Happy relationshipping!
Bachman, G. F., & Guerrero, L. K. (2006). Forgiveness, apology, and communicative responses to hurtful events. Communication Reports, 19(1), 45-56.
Durko, A. M., & Petrick, J. F. (2016). Travel as relationship therapy: Examining the effect of vacation satisfaction applied to the investment model. Journal of Travel Research, 55(7), 904-918.
Hudson, N. W., Lucas, R. E., & Donnellan, M. B. (2019). The Highs and Lows of Love: Romantic Relationship Quality Moderates Whether Spending Time With One’s Partner Predicts Gains or Losses in Well-Being. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 0146167219867960.
Lin, W. F., Lin, Y. C., Huang, C. L., & Chen, L. H. (2016). We can make it better:“We” moderates the relationship between a compromising style in interpersonal conflict and well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 17(1), 41-57.