This guest article from Psych Central was written by Kate Thieda, MS, LPCA, NCC
Whoa, a professional therapist is giving tips on how to stay out of her office?!? Yes, yes, I am.
Having said that, I always recommend that if you and/or your partner are having serious struggles with mental health, you consult a professional.
The tips that follow may not be enough to resolve your and your partner’s concerns, but they are a good place to start. They can also be used to supplement what you and your partner are working on in couples counseling as well.
- Talk to each other. Duh, right? Keeping secrets and not discussing what is going on with you is a great way for trouble to brew. One of my client’s ideas of having a weekly Questions/Comments/Concerns session with her partner addresses issues before they become sticking points.
- Make a commitment to your relationship. Are you and your partner just roommates? When was the last time you had a “date night” or did something else together just for fun? I am already hearing all the excuses…get over it, and be creative. Relationships are like plants: they require maintenance, nutrition, and water in order to grow. If money is an issue, find activities to enjoy together that are free. If childcare is a problem, think creatively about how to resolve that (Family? Friends? Trading childcare with others who have kids?). If time is the hitch, schedule it on the calendar and make it non-negotiable.
- Stretch your limits. Are you growing as an individual? Do you regularly challenge yourself to be a better person, whether that’s through professional pursuits, athletic challenges, or hobbies and passions? If you are sitting home, doing nothing, or constantly complaining about a job you hate, you are likely dragging your partner down, or at least making yourself fairly unattractive to them.
- Learn the art of compromise. No one gets their way all the time. Are you and your partner constantly coming up against the same problems because you want one thing and they want another? Shift from thinking about “me” to thinking about “we.” Dr. Jane Greer’s book What about Me?: Stop Selfishness from Ruining Your Relationship can help.
- Figure out how to fight constructively. If you are in a relationship, disagreements are inevitable. There’s actually some research that says we argue because we care about the other person. But there are differences in arguments that end well and those that don’t.
- Exercise. Releasing pent-up tension and flooding your body with feel-good hormones can only do positive things for your outlook on life. That also translates into improving your relationship as well.