by Jeanne Strauss
All couples occasionally find themselves in a negative cycle of conflict, complaint, withdrawal and discontent. Most of us want our spouse or partner to change or improve in some way, to see more things our way and do more of what we want them to do. When this happens, we need to shift our perspective and focus on these four core skills to re-awaken more of the warm, loving feelings:
Get to the HEART of the matter.
Couples in trouble are locked into misperceiving each other and have stopped hearing the heart of what is being said. A good therapist can help each partner articulate his or her deepest thoughts in a positive, heartfelt way. On your own, share and listen from your heart and you will find your communication open up to create intimacy instead of more conflict.
Focus on the positive.
The focus of your attention directly affects the quality of your relationships. There are positive and negative aspects to every relationship. If you focus on the negative, you’ll be unhappy with the relationship. When you shift your focus to problems in the relationship, you lose hope. Some studies have shown that the ratio of positive to negative statements in thriving relationships is about 5:1. You need a bank of positive feelings and communication to be able to discuss problems and issues without losing your connection.
Choose an attitude of unconditional love.
Unconditional love is an agreement not to change another person; instead, it is a commitment to fully support who your partner wants to be. If you wait for your spouse or partner to change before you fully re-engage in the relationship, he or she will also wait for you to change before engaging fully. When you embrace the relationship you have right now—both the good and the not so good—you have a starting point to build the relationship that you want.
Mindfulness allows you to take a breath and speak consciously, to wait before reacting. It’s your thoughts about “what happened” that sets off your patterned response, not the action of the other person. Do not put your relationship in jeopardy by speaking from a conditioned or “triggered” place. Instead, take a step back. Yes, this is easier said than done, but practice does make it possible, and the effort will reward you immensely.
Developing these four core skills can change your relationship overnight. Even one moment of mindful and heart-full communication can start a positive upward spiral that takes a relationship from good to great, or that gives a troubled relationship hope. Even without cooperation from your spouse or partner, your individual efforts with these core skills will put a positive spark back in your relationship.
Jeanne Strauss is a therapist in San Antonio working with individuals and couples. She has been a licensed clinical social worker for 25 years, specializing in anxiety, stress, personal development, couples counseling, communication and resolving negative relationship patterns. She can be reached at 210-787-6384 or www.jeannestrauss.com.