Dr. Romance Writes: Why do relationship counselors, speakers and authors say repeatedly that your relationship depends on how well you communicate with each other? Because marriage is a partnership and to create teamwork, you need to keep each other informed, and keep yourself aware of your partner's ideas, wants and reactions. We all know a lot these days about the techniques of communication, but I find that many of my clients don't understand the necessary attitudes to create domestic happiness.
Nothing improves communication and intimacy better than enhancing the sweetness in your marriage. We live in a cynical, hard-edged culture, so it's easy to become embarrassed or shy about being sweet to each other, but when you see the difference a little sweetness makes in your emotional life, you'll understand why it's worth it, and that no matter what the bickering couples in the sitcoms are modeling, being kind and tender toward each other creates a much better relationship. If you put more energy into expressing your love and appreciation for each other than you put into arguing and resisting each other, you'll be creating your own happiness. Research shows that a happy, loving partnership will enhance your self-esteem, improve your mental and physical health, and even give you longer life! When your life together is loving and pleasurable, you'll have more energy for success in everything else you do. When you can count on each other to be protective, supportive, kind, and caring, and to do your respective parts in the partnership, you have a firm foundation for handling whatever life brings you. The calm assurance you get from knowing you are loved and cared about makes it easier to think clearly and make good decisions. It's a great blessing to be and have a loving and reliable partner with whom to make plans and carry them out.
Count your blessings out loud. Remember to say "thank you" to your partner, even for little things. If you're thinking about it, you'll be able to find things to express gratitude for several times a day. If you have a spiritual or religious background, give thanks together for everything. My husband and I say "And we thank Thee, for receiving; that which we need to know, that which we need, and that whom we need to know, and the courage to act upon it and the energy to follow through," whenever we want to give thanks.
- Be courteous: Nothing ramps up the sweetness more than old-fashioned courtesy. Being familiar with each other is not a reason to drop your "please and thank-you's." Politeness is lubrication for your daily interactions, it makes everything go more smoothly.
- Look, smile and touch: There's an actual electrical connection that passes between us when we touch. To demonstrate this in seminars, I use a 'magic wand' that contains a battery, and is wired so that you have to put one hand on each end of it to light it up. I ask a couple to hold hands, and then have each of them hold one end of the wand with the other hand, so it lights. Then, I ask them to let go of each other's hand, and the light goes out, even though they're still holding the wand. This even works with a big circle of people, when two are holding the wand. When everyone holds hands, the wand lights—if anyone in the circle drops another's hand the wand goes out, because the electrical circuit of the connected bodies is disconnected. Also, neurology research shows that your brain "lights up" when you look at someone you love. In my office, I know that when I get a couple to look at each other and hold hands, their arguments become much less angry. You can use that electrical connection to provide "juice" in your marriage. Look at each other and smile frequently when you're together; give each other little pats, massages, gentle touches, and hold hands frequently when you're walking or driving, you'll keep the energy (and the sweetness) flowing between you. Your physical body will remember all those little looks, caresses and smiles.
- Give compliments: It costs nothing to say "You look good" or "I like your shirt" or "You did a great job" and it gives back countless rewards. Give each other as many complements as you can manage, every day. Between complements and gratitude, you can really pump each other up and both of you will feel great, and look like you do.
- Celebrate: Make a fuss, big or small, over every little accomplishment or milestone you achieve. Remember, Appreciation + Celebration = Motivation. If you want to motivate each other to stay together, work toward a good marriage, be a success, or be more loving; celebrate and appreciate every tiny step in a good direction. You'll be surprised how quickly you achieve your goals when you celebrate every step along the way.
- Party: Create a party atmosphere for bigger celebrations. Toast a celebration with champagne or sparkling cider, a gathering of friends, or a thankful prayer. Create a celebration environment: use balloons, music, flowers, candles, or set your table with the best china.
- Visible reminders: Surround yourself with visible evidence of your successes. Plant a commemorative rosebush or get a new houseplant to mark a job well done, or display photos and souvenirs of fun events, vacations and sports or hobby trophies. It's a constant reminder of your ability to have fun with each other. Or get together for an impromptu lunchtime picnic and a balloon.
Relating with Love
Relationships have their unavoidable stresses and strains. To keep things in balance, put a bit of energy into increasing the sweetness between you. Thoughtfulness, 'thank yous' and gestures of politeness and affection are the WD-40 of your partnership. Keep things running smoothly by remembering to add a spritz of sweetness frequently. You'll be amazed at how good you feel, and how much more responsive your partner is.
Guidelines for Relating With Love (Six things to remember)
- It's not about who's right or wrong it's about solving the problem together. If you try to win the argument, you'll lose something more important B loving feelings.
- With listening, caring and the willingness to change, anything in your relationship can be fixed. There=s no need to be afraid B just turn up the love.
- It's a partnership, silly! Stop struggling, and learn to work together. Focus on teamwork and sharing.
- Behavior that enhances relationships with people at work, and with your friends, will probably work if you use it with your spouse. Seek to be more rational and less angry or emotional.
- What goes around comes around, in love as well as life. If you want more of love, try giving more. It will work every time.
- Act like the grownup you are, not a little kid. Think before you speak and focus on solutions, not problems. Give up whining, complaining and suffering, and step up to taking responsibility and loving more.
Adapted from: Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Squabbling About the Three Things That Can Destroy Your Marriage (Adams Media) ISBN# 978-1-59869-325-6 and The Commuter Marriage (Adams Media) ISBN# 978-1598693256. © Tina B.Tessina, 2007