We all know that making a relationship last and cultivating happiness requires work, and we are more than willing to do it. But we still need to know what to work on!
Couples who have loved each other for a long time have invested a lot of energy in nurturing the bond between them, and have developed relationship skills that are truly inspiring.
Habit #1: Be More Curious than Critical
Einstein said that you can’t solve a problem by putting yourself at the same level where you created it. This can be applied to the art of living as a couple.
Indeed, you don’t have to be an absolute fan of everything your darling does. On the other hand, nothing obliges you to criticize everything either. Incessant criticism, even if it is humorous or constructive, creates an atmosphere of devaluation that harms your feelings in the long run, and prevents you from understanding the other person in his or her own way.
So, instead of criticizing what you don’t understand, try to replace judgment with curiosity: place yourself on another level of perception, take an open-minded interest in what motivates your man to act or express himself as he does. You will probably not be convinced, but you will understand his point of view better, and what we understand is immediately less unbearable. In this approach, you are win-win, between the one who feels understood and respected in his uniqueness, and the one who better supports the little quirks of her man.
Small precision: the habits explained in this article, are obviously to be practiced together, but I address them only to you. This certainly does not mean that you should be the only one to make these efforts! It is simply because, whatever the problems in our relationship, we influence our partner better by example than by demands. Start practicing these habits, and you’ll naturally inspire the one you love.
Habit #2: Replace the Desire to Argue with Attention to the Other
Our brains have retained a deep programming that has allowed the species to survive for millennia: when faced with danger, it chooses between 3 reflexes, Fight, Flight, or Freeze.
When a hostile situation arises in the couple, it is interpreted by our brain as a danger. One of the 3 reflexes is then put in place: the fight, the avoidance of the conflict which simply postpones it, or the absence of reaction, the loss of our means at the prospect of a fight.
None of these 3 reflexes allows you to go beyond the subject of the conflict that opposes you. It is thus a question of having this mechanism in mind to manage to deprogram it when you feel it coming on. When you feel the conflict coming, choose the only rational response: non-violent communication, empathy. Try as much as possible to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. An argument does not make an enemy.
In cold weather, implement this rule of conduct, and set limits to control your behavior and your words during a conflict.
Habit #3: Ask Rather than Interpret
This helps to eliminate the frustration associated with suspicion or misinterpretation of the other person’s thoughts or intentions. These negative emotions are one of the major causes of estrangement in couples.
Most of the time we are wrong when we assume our partner’s thoughts: no, he doesn’t think we’re stupid, no, he doesn’t think we’re fat, no, he’s not thinking about another woman… If you ask questions instead of assuming, you’ll find that most of the times you assume negative thoughts about yourself to your man, he’s just thinking about his own personal concerns, which he doesn’t open up about because he wants to try to deal with them on his own first.
It’s also important to ask rather than assume your partner’s intentions and plans for your future: Does he want to get married? Have children? What are his long-term ambitions? What is his idea of a happy couple? We are wrong to assume that everyone has the same visions, and it is on this misunderstanding that so many disappointments and frustrations are based, capable of separating the most united couples.
Habit #4: Connect instead of Correct
People go where they feel welcome, but stay where they feel respected and valued. Your relationship shouldn’t be the place where, under the guise of growing each other, you spend your time evaluating your ways. Feedback is not always necessary or required. You each have your own ways of dealing with daily life, and these differences are maddening. Sure, you’re probably right about all the things you’d like to say to your man, but if you give in to all that critical feedback, you turn into a demanding mother, always taking back her child. There’s nothing Attractive about that.
When it’s not absolutely necessary, don’t correct your man: he didn’t make the bed your way: is that so bad? Michelle Obama herself says she’s learned not to make a fuss every time her husband leaves his socks lying around or tells the same story. Tell yourself that you’re not perfect either, but that your couple signed up for something other than criticism, responsibility and chores.