Is there any hard and fast rule to make a relationship work? Absolutely not. But can we all agree that we can use a shift of focus onto building and maintaining healthy, strong relationships? Probably. And as with any change, it starts with you. Maintaining a long-term relationship is hard work but there’s no way around that. There are people doing the best they can at making their partnership right for them. But, still obsessed with finding out how to best put the odds of happily-ever-after on your side. Here are five non-negotiables for a successful relationship. Because after all, the relationship you have with your significant other is probably one of the most important choices you’ll ever make.
Do you listen for the gist, or to rebut? One shift that will radically change your relationship with your partner is how you listen to them and how you are heard. Listening for the gist requires only a fraction of our attention and time, while listening to point of view requires full attention, time and empathy. So, the next time you find yourself listening for the gist, or to rebut, challenge yourself to move the needle further towards listening for their point of view. You’ll be surprised at how effective just the knowledge of this scale can be in improving your listening as well as learning to ask your partner for the same.
Compromise? No, Negotiate
Compromising holds a negative connotation that implies letting go whereas negotiating feels powerful and strong. You always have a place at the table, and you and your partner should resolve to negotiate rather than compromise. Negotiating means that you’re both equal participants, that are actively working to create your very own unique model of life. This mental shift will empower you to design your reality with your partner, rather than compromise for them.
There Are No Winners
It’s you and your partner vs the problem- not you vs your partner. Simple right? And common sense, too! But sometimes the best advice is just that- simple and conventionally wise, and yet we don’t realize it’s spelt out just like that. This is what some people spend years in therapy trying to learn. This is what some people never learn. That’s because when we’re in a difficult situation, our brain passes the torch to the instincts that we share with reptiles- ones that are hard-wired for the fight or flight response. We often approach things aggressively or withdraw completely, when in reality this is when our partnership matters the most. When a situation arises, remember that you are not versus your partner, you’re both tasked with conquering the issue (and that’s always a lot easier with a bit of solidarity!)
Make It About You
How many times have you participated in a conversation that’s escalated to an argument and then to a full-fledged fight in a matter of minutes? Too many, right?! Here’s a strategy to communicate in a way that’s less likely to evoke defensiveness in your partner, and instead trigger the parts of his or her brain that are built for empathy and understanding: Use “I Statements.” Instead of saying “You are (insert hurtful accusation/ name-calling/ blame-based statement),” try taking a moment to better articulate your statement so that you’re more likely to actually influence change in your partner’s behaviour. Using an “I” statement will express your emotions in a genuine way and allow your partner to respond constructively. I.e. Instead of “you don’t care, you’re inconsiderate. You never call or text me” try saying “when you don’t call or text me, I feel disconnected and lonely” The latter will be a welcome change.
Get On The Same Page
It’s no secret that sharing common values will set a couple up for long-term success. But you know what else will? Deep, open conversations about everything from how to raise the kids to retirements plans and even what separation might look like- long before any of those hypothetical situations ever occur. It’s important to consider the long-term, to hear each other out without judgment and to critically think about all situations that your partnership might encounter.
That’s a wrap! We wholeheartedly hope that some of the ideas and strategies in this article help you develop and maintain the kind of relationship that would have made younger-you jealous. It’s important that we as a culture begin to speak more candidly about what it takes to be successful in our relationships, and this is a start.