Making our intimate or romantic relationships work well is worth the effort and time for us and others.
Interacting with others is a central part of wellbeing. Relationships, including intimate or romantic relationships, are about companionship, commonality, sharing and closeness. What we get from positive relationships is the opportunity to give and receive support and caring, and this nurtures us.
Below you will find three common blocks (barriers and misconceptions) that can prevent us from assessing our relationships constructively.
I can't forgive
Forgiveness can feel like a really difficult thing to do when we are feeling hurt. We can feel unable to forgive, that it is too soon, or that the hurt caused to us by our partner doesn’t warrant forgiveness. In some cases this may be true, but in most instances, forgiving our partner for hurt caused is as much for ourselves as it is for them. It also helps the relationship we have created to strengthen, grow and develop.
Try this exercise as a practice: Think of someone you hold some anger or bitterness towards. You don’t have to talk to them directly, but imagine or write down, what it would be like to forgive them. Imagine how you might feel and how this might benefit your emotional wellbeing.
Video: How to forgive
Nelson Mandela said that forgiveness was one of the most powerful weapons he had in the fight against apartheid.
“Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon.” Nelson Mandela
“Resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill your enemies”. Nelson Mandela
I can't say what I want
In relationships it can feel daunting to say what you want and don’t want. And while this is true, talking about our values, desires and needs, is a significant part of how we connect and become close to others. Therefore to feel connected and safe in a relationship, we need to have an understanding of one another’s boundaries. This includes physical, financial, emotional and time boundaries. We often assume that our partners should know what we are or aren’t comfortable with, but in fact, none of us are mind readers, so communicating what we want is so important! Watch the video below for some musings on communicating with your partner.
I don't understand where they're coming from
It is one of the most common issues faced in long term relationships. Sometimes the differences that brought people together at the start of their relationship, begins to be a barrier to connecting well. For example, you may have initially been attracted to your partner because of their vibrant, social and extroverted nature. But now, you want to spend more time at home than parties, while your partner doesn’t.
Try focusing on your shared values as a way to find common ground and a vision for the future that you can work towards (e.g. things you can enjoy doing together). Focus on what brings you together and how you complement each other, rather than how these differences may work against you as a couple.
Below are three things you can do to boost success.
Sometimes when we are in a long term relationship, we can forget to have compassion and see things from our partner’s point of view. The basic courtesies of saying good morning, asking your partner how their day was, and thanking them for things they have done, are always important. These gestures of care and kindness are powerful in maintaining a strong emotional connection in relationships.
Article: What Has Politeness To Do With Love?
Finding ways to connect with your partner is important to deepening and maintaining a relationship's longevity. That means finding out what makes your partner feel acknowledged, valued and happy. Does your partner feel loved through verbal acknowledgements? Do they prefer physical affection? Or gifts and surprises? Discovering and having this level of understanding about each other can strengthen the quality of your connection. To start with, you might be interested in taking a look at the 5 love languages (in this instance we are overlooking the gendered references as the principles still hold up). If circumstances mean that we can't connect to each other physically, being creative with how we bring these love languages alive in a virtual context can also be really helpful. For further musings on connecting in relationships, watch the video below:
Video: Esther Perel Love Lexicon
Don't forget to listen
Really try to listen to your partner. Be aware of your filters and biases, and if you are not sure what your partner means, ask them! We may think we know our partners really well and that they won’t surprise us with information we haven’t heard before. In fact, as human beings we are complex and evolving creatures, and this means we often change our mind and what we think about a situation. So don’t be hesitant to check in with your partner and make sure you understood them correctly.
Need more info?
For some of us it can be difficult to know who to talk to about issues in our relationships and what will be done with this information if you do. If you are accessing counselling it is important to be reminded that this information is confidential and information will never be passed onto other people, therefore this information will never reach your partner(s), the university, your workplace, your family etc.
- The Line - your questions answered. Articles, quizzes, clips & interviews
- The Four Horseman - destructive behaviours in a relationship (Gottman)
- Relationship repairs (Gottman)
- ACT with love
- Restore and repair your relationship - RASA
- Healthy relationships - Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention & Legal Service Vic (youtube)