Get ready to make your relationship strong through honesty, communication and compassion!
There’s a strange and pervasive theory which I hate. It suggests that couples who fight are stronger than couples who don’t. I’ve mostly seen this from partners who are about to get divorced. It’s wrong and it sucks. Intimate relationships are best when partners have space to disagree, but do so in a way which allows each person to express their concerns and work towards a resolution. Building a resilient relationship is a great idea, so I’ve put together some tips to help solidify things and strengthen your bond.
- Keep things calm.
When you disagree with your partner over an important issue, it’s easy to let things escalate. People say rude things, feelings get hurt, and it takes a real toll on your mental health. So before you sit down to have a difficult conversation, make sure you’re both well-rested, and neither of you is hungry, drunk, cold, or anything else which will put you in a bad mood. Remind each other how important the other person is and how much you love each other. You might have relationship issues at the moment, so remember that if you work through them, you should get a happy relationship in the end.
- Be a person, not just a partner.
Romantic relationships are great! They shouldn’t be the only thing which defines you. Remember that you’re a parent, employee, friend, amateur zoo keeper… whatever you prefer! Keep up with hobbies and interests outside of your relationship and build a support system. You and your partner have an important relationship, but it shouldn’t be the only connection you have. In difficult times, it’s good to have things you can do and people you can see who have nothing to do with your significant other. It’s great for your emotional health, which makes you a better partner, and a happier person and gives you greater life satisfaction. Speak with your partner and find a way to balance your time so everyone feels loved, but not stifled.
- Remember you’re a team.
When you start to disagree with your partner, it’s easy to see them as the enemy. They’re not! Or, at least, they shouldn’t be. Try to work with your partner to solve the problem. Try to see your partner’s point, even if you don’t necessarily agree with it. In happy and healthy relationships, you both want what’s best for the other person, so focus on working together to find a solution. This will make you both feel more supported and help you build a resilient relationship. You’re in a partnership, so you should feel supported. In simple terms: it’s you and your partner vs the problem, not you vs your partner.
- Use disagreements for good.
Yikes, this is a tricky one. I know of a few emotionally abusive couples who seem to think that their screaming matches are helpful because, well, at least they’re talking about things. Top tip: if you spend all of your time fighting with your significant other, you should be single. However, couples who never disagree on anything are also suspicious. It makes me think that they feel that they can’t ever voice alternative opinions because they’re scared of how their partner will react. So here’s the balance: sometimes, you will have a different view or want something which doesn’t appeal to your partner. Use problem-solving skills and effective communication to resolve the problems, and understand that you’re learning more about your partner in the process. It’s good to talk, even if it’s not always easy.
- Listen to each other.
There are lots of ways to improve your communication skills, including knowing when to just be quiet and hear what your partner is saying. It’s a pretty good thing to do just generally, in life, as a person. Start by clarifying anything you don’t understand, or any big and complicated issues your partner articulates. Be empathetic and understanding of any discomfort your partner is feeling. Make sure you’re paying full attention! The best ways to do this is to put down your phone, turn the TV off and have this conversation in a place where you won’t be interrupted. Finally, ask open-ended questions, like “How did you arrive at this conclusion” and “If the situation was reversed, what would you do?”.
- Be supportive.
We all need help sometimes, even if we don’t like to admit it. Your partnership should involve the two of you working together and supporting each other. Perhaps you provide financial stability and your partner handles most of the childcare, or you split both things evenly and then get some quality time when everything is done. You also need to offer (and receive) emotional support during conflicts. You and your partner might have a very happy relationship, but sometimes you’ll have family problems, arguments with mates or trouble at work, and so having someone to discuss these things with can be really helpful. I support my partner by picking up extra chores when they’re tired, and they do the same for me. Think about your partner’s love language and sources of stress when you think of things to do which would help in difficult situations. It can be hard to open up, so take time to practice vulnerability with a close friend or therapist if necessary.
- Cope together.
I can’t think of any situations within a romantic relationship where something will be stressful for just one person. If my partner is unwell, or having a tough time at work, or feeling unhappy, then I’ll be worried about them. There are all sorts of challenges in modern life! What makes things better, though, is talking. I can’t cure their cold or make their boss more pleasant, but I can grab a lemsip or listen to them kvetch. Occasionally, I might be able to problem-solve, but most of the time, it’s just nice to have someone to talk to. Other times, you might not know that you’re not pulling your share of weight, and discussing things is a good way to remedy this.
Resilient relationships are great. They’re healthy and happy and make the people in and around them feel secure. You’ll get a deeper emotional connection from a resilient relationship. Things might not always go perfectly, and you’ll disagree sometimes, but at the end of the day, the important thing is to have love and respect. Ultimately, you want what’s best for each other.