Do you have good relationship habits?
As a marriage/couples counselor I see a wide range of relationship problems–from the minor issues we all struggle with to major marital/relationship issues that are pulling a couple apart. While some couples are so incompatible it’s unlikely their marriage or relationship will survive, many of the couples I work with are simply the victims of unhealthy relationship habits.
An unhealthy relationship habit is anything that can cause you and your partner to grow apart. While there are many things that can lead to an unhealthy relationship habit (e.g. the impact of stress, repeating problematic relationship patterns from your past), it’s important to develop a conscious plan to overcome these habits.
Here are a couple of suggestions to get you moving in the right direction.
Relationship Help: Steps to Developing Healthy Relationship Habits
1) Schedule “protected” time with your spouse/partner. During that time make it off-limits to discuss any topic that is taxing your marriage or relationship. Avoid the tendency to cancel these meetings when life’s pressures mount. Your relationship is probably one of your life’s top priorities—be sure to treat it that way.
2) Create a list of topics you need to avoid during this time. Review each other’s list and come to an agreement about which issues to steer clear of—remember, this protected time is designed to feed and nurture your relationship, not tax your relationship by having problem-focused discussions.
3) Have “what’s-working-for-me” conversations—in other words, focus on what works in your relationship. Let the question, “What do I love and admire about my spouse or partner?” guide you. Reminisce about the fun times and make a plan to reintroduce some of these enjoyable activities into your life.
4) Cultivate a mindset of gratitude. Research has shown that intentionally focusing on the aspects of your life that you are grateful for can increase positive emotions. Regularly articulate the things about your spouse/partner and your relationship that you are grateful for. This will help foster positive feelings and deepen intimacy.
5) Discover and participate in activities that are mutually satisfying. One couple I worked with decided to take a cooking class together. While the husband was originally skeptical, he ended up enjoying the class more than his wife and they reported having a great time together.
Relationship Rule: Novel activities can infuse life into your relationship.
And now here is the biggest challenge: Make the above a regular part of your relationship routine!
Whether it’s weekly, biweekly or monthly, participating regularly in discussions and activities that feed intimacy will go a long way in developing healthy relationship habits and strengthening the emotional bond that is the foundation of your marriage/relationship.
Wishing you and your relationship all the best,
Rich Nicastro, Ph.D.