Relationships and marriage take more work than we ever imagined. They challenge us to look at our own foibles, fears, and personal struggles deep within. I have seen people push through intense pain and disappointment in their marriage and come out on the other end to find their relationship on a better level, one which they never imagined possible. However, no growth is gained without discomfort and struggle.
I have also seen people who ultimately choose to formally exit their marriage because even after looking deep within and giving the marriage a fighting chance, they must accept the sobering fact that their chance to grow as a couple is close to impossible due to their partner's dysfunctional limitations. Yet, the silver lining for many of these folks is that they ultimately enter a new relationship or marriage where they are able to do the hard work with a new partner who is willing to work as hard as they are.
So, whether you have been married 20 years, or divorced with a strong faith in the next chapter in your life, take a look at these five steps that will help bring your relationship to a much more harmonious place.
1. Listen better. I mean really listen. I call this "listening with attention." Look at your body language when you listen to your boss at work, a small child, or when you're on a first date. We are engaged, making eye contact, not distracted. We are showing the person on the other end, "what you are saying is important to me." This is how you should be listening to your partner when he or she speaks to you. Show him or her that you care.
2. Understand who he or she is. Your partner isn't you and never will be. Just as it is imperative for you to understand you, it would certainly help if you took the time to understand your partner, who they are and how they think and feel in the world. The more you understand them, the easier it will be for you to feel connected. Don't underestimate the power of understanding and the positive trickle effect it creates within a relationship.
3. Learn to let things go. Nope. Your partner is not perfect and neither are you. We all will make mistakes throughout any relationship and it's key to learn how to pick your battles. Be judicious and bring up matters only when it's worth the battle for both your sake.
4. Be more present at home. With social media, the Internet, TV, and mobile gadgets, we now live in an age where folks are more disconnected than ever. When the day ends, we allow our phones, TV, and computers to keep us from simply enjoying the company of our loved one. You know your part when it comes to this matter so be accountable and take the time to connect with your spouse without distractions.
5. Make focusing on your part a top priority. Why? Because the only person you have the power to change and be accountable for is you. The more you obsess on your partner's actions, the less you are able to react to a situation in a smart, mature way. When couples get locked into the "he did this" and "she did that" dance, they might as well go jump into a pool of mud and start flinging dirt at each other. In other words, the "blame" dance will only make the conflict snowball.
In conclusion, I urge you all to start implementing these 5 steps right away. You have nothing to lose and only a happier relationship to gain.
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