You and your partner have the best intentions but somehow you still get stuck in a negative cycle. You want to improve your relationship but it's not going so well. Perhaps you can begin to shift the dynamic by simply of adding a few more tools to your relationship toolbox.
1. Make repairs when needed. If you get into frequent squabbles and nobody takes responsibility for hurting the other or apologizing, resentment will build up. Making relationship repair attempts along the way will send the message that you care about each other and are worth the effort. Additionally, you will reduce the build-up of resentment, which left unchecked is toxic.
2. Focus on the process, not the content. If you’re like many couples, you go round and round about the details of things that happened between you. Realize that it’s less about the behavior and more about the consequential feelings. Go deeper with your partner by peeling back the content layers to get to the process of the emotional impact your behavior has had.
3. Keep the relationship emotionally safe. Couples who feel securely attached inherently trust that the other is there for them. Don’t underestimate the power of being heard, validated, empathized with, prioritized, etc. Emotional safety is the foundation on which your relationship rests.
4. Experience the power of pro-social emotions like gratitude and appreciation. Psychologist and happiness expert, Christine Carter, PhD includes this in her “practical prescriptions” for happy couples. Fight your brain’s negativity bias with positivity. Research has also shown this can benefit each of your individual emotional health as well.
5. Start that oxytocin flowing. Research has shown that if you engage in a 20 second full body contact hug, oxytocin can be released in both partners. Oxytocin is the hormone of safety and trust. If you find yourself at odds with your partner, a 20 second oxytocin-producing body hug is a great way to calm the body and brain – and increases the relationship connection in the moment.
You can learn how to assess your emotional safety, make repairs and other tips and tools to strengthen your relationship foundation in The Premarital Counseling Workbook for Couples - and The Marriage Refresher Course Workbook for Couples.