Would you be willing to spend 1 month intentionally working to improve your relationship?
Hit a rough patch or plateau in your most intimate relationship? If so, don't freak out, just take 30 days to intentionally work to make things better - and use the following as a guide.
1. Know and meet each other’s relationship needs
Everyone has needs. And everyone looks to their partner to meet some of their needs. It could be a need to feel safe, a need to feel sexy, a need for fun and entertainment, a need for support, or anything else. Love comes in lots of forms, and it’s critical that you know your needs and all the ways in which you feel encouraged, loved, and disappointed in your relationship. Moreover, you need to know your partner's needs - what are the big and small things about your relationship that really turn their crank? And, you have to share your needs with your partner in a way that invites them to partner with you in meeting them. So, this month, make a pact - know each other’s needs and work to meet them.
2. Take responsibility for your emotions
Everyone feels. Our emotions bring energy to our lives. At times, our emotions are predictable, while at other times surprising and overwhelming. And when our emotions catch us off guard, we tend to blame our emotions on those around us - namely our partners. When this happens, we tend to think (or yell) stupid stuff like "why did they make me angry?" Or sad. Or mad, or hurt, or crazy. Like there's a literal "button" connected to our emotional heart. It's probably more accurate to picture that something happened in our relationship to make us feel scared, hurt, lonely, or disappointed - though this often comes out as anger, acquiescence, or shutting-down, and all this feeling and blaming causes untold strife in relationships. And thus, if you want to make big changes in your relationship, begin by taking responsibility for how your feel and how your express your feeling. It really is up to you.
3. Take responsibility for your own happiness
Please don't rely on your circumstances or your partner to make you happy. Please don't put all that pressure on those you love. No, take your happiness by the throat and wrestle it into submission (or, nurture it into growth - you choose the metaphor). And stop blaming those around you for making you unhappy. Right now, somewhere in the world, someone is living in much worse circumstances, and still finding ways to be grateful, happy, and content. My family has always enjoyed backpacking, which is a little like temporary homelessness - you walk around carrying are your stuff on your back, you sleep on the ground, have limited food, bathe in the river and pee in the woods. And yet, even in the rain and despite the blisters, we all seem to find ways to laugh and be joyful. It's all about perspective, not about circumstance.
4. Know your part of your "stuck" pattern
As discussed in previous posts, we live out our relationships in predictable patterns of interactions. If you could film your relationship from above, like the show Big Brother, you would begin to notice these patterns or relating. When you do x, they do y, then you respond with z, and then they do more of a, and then you do the next thing that you do. And because of these patterns, most relationships have 2-3 repetitive fights or discouragements, while also feeling constricted to 1 or 2 ways to improve the relationship (Stuck in a Rut?). So, for the next month, try and determine your part in the "stuck pattern." In your relationship, when you're feeling angry, taken advantage of, or pissed off, what do you do in response that makes things worse? What do you do that typically improves things?
5. Evaluate your progress
Remember, you're trying to revolutionize your relationship in 30 days, and therefore it's critical that you evaluate your progress. Don’t skip this step. Begin by describing 2-3 changes you'd love to see in your relationship - like fight less or feel more connected. Then, together, decide which of the 4 concepts above would best help you meet your goal. Next discuss specific ways to apply the concepts in your relationship, and finally meet weekly to give each other feedback on your progress toward change.
I'd love to hear how your relationship revolution is going. Feel free to post comments or questions here.