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Relationship Skills

Want To Be A Hit On Valentines Day?

Has Valentine's Day in the past been less than spectacular? Are you getting the cold shoulder, rather than the warm reception that you would like? Do you wonder what you could do to increase the chances that Valentine's Day will be a romantic celebration of your love, rather than a reminder of the distance between you? Consistency is the key.

If you want those special days to be wonderful then you need to put your relationship where it belongs, at the top of the priority list. If you ignore your relationship except for special occasions, you will most likely find those special efforts falling flat. It is the little things done on a consistent basis that bond two people together. When partners are feeling connected and close, the special days become times to treasure, rather than times to endure or avoid.

Remember, it is the little things done consistently that will help to add the sizzle to the day. Consistency can make the difference between the sizzle and the cold shoulder.

Start now preparing for next years Valentine's Day. The following are some suggestions that may help to make next years Valentine's the best one ever:

  • Hugs every day, morning and night.
  • Listen, listen, listen. Avoid defensiveness and blame.
  • Be respectful and kind.
  • Help around the house.
  • Do something everyday to demonstrate your love for your partner.
  • Continue courting.
  • Go on a date once a week.
  • Say “I love you”often.
  • Show your partner that you love them more often.
  • Learn what you can do to make your partner smile, laugh and feel loved. Then do it.
  • Make your relationship a top priority.
  • Smile.
  • Make spending time with your partner a priority.
  • Create happy memories to treasure.
  • Reminisce together about your fun times.

Avoid thinking the grass may be greener on the other side of the fence and start watering your own grass.

Three A's For A Happier Relationship

Expressing appreciation, admiration and affection consistently will increase your individual as well as relationship happiness. These habits will infuse your relationship with positive energy and help to fortify it against the frustrations and problems that any relationship encounters.

Aim for at least four 6 second hugs a day. Men, remember that hug does not equal groping. A six second hug is long enough for you both to relax into the hug and open yourselves up to a feeling of connection. Find ways to remind your partner of your love. Say, text or email, “I love you,” frequently. Little kindnesses can go a long way toward helping your partner feel cared for and cared about. Human beings die, at least on the inside, without loving touch. Find ways to reach out to your partner and express affection.

Everyday without fail, let your partner know that you admire and respect them. Point out their strengths in positive ways. Let them know that you are impressed by their talents and abilities. Make a habit of talking positively about your partner when s/he is not around. Avoid, like you would the plague, the temptation to gripe and complain about your partner to others. The more you focus on, talk about and point out your partner faults; the more reasons you will find to complain. Instead put your focus on what you like and admire about your partner. You will begin to create an upward, rather than a downward spiral in your relationship.

Practice saying thank you. Gratitude feels wonderful on the giving and receiving end. Showing your appreciation for what your partner does helps to keep you from falling into the relationship destroying habit of taking each other for granted. It is far too easy to fall into expecting and maybe even demanding the things that we used to appreciate. Choose each day to find ways to feel appreciation for something that your partner has done.

Stress Challenges Relationships

Stress narrows our focus of attention often to the exclusion of our partner. If one or both of you are stressed, anxious or completely preoccupied with worries about work or home, you are not able to give caring attention to each other. You may be physically present, but you are not mentally or emotionally present with your partner. Excess stress can make it difficult to focus on simple daily activities, let alone be passionately involved in lovemaking. Sometimes couples are unaware that it is the stress that is creating the feeling of distance between them, and they make things worse by reacting to feeling ignored or left out. They may end up blaming each other and pulling further apart.

Taking a step back can help us gain some perspective and recognize that it is difficult for anyone to feel close when stress levels are high. Recognizing that it is the stress, rather than our partner that is causing the distance in the relationship can help us be more understanding.

When you find yourself clashing with your partner or feeling particularly testy, stop and take an accounting of your stress level and your partner's stress level. What else is going on in your life that may be contributing to your unhappy feelings? Often relationships will struggle when one partner goes back to school or gets a new job or there are financial difficulties. Recognizing that the problem is the increased stress and not the two of you can help you weather the inevitable storms of life. You can learn to be supportive of each other, rather than reactive. When your partner takes something out on you because they are stressed, you will be less likely to take it personally, but will recognize it for what it is—the stress talking.

If your life is full of chronic stress, it may be worth examining your beliefs and attitudes. Do you believe that you deserve a happy relationship and that this is possible for you? Do you want to enjoy your relationship and your life? This may seem like a silly question, however, if you answered yes, then ask yourself, “What am I doing to make this happen?”

Find ways to slow down, step back, and take a time out from the stress in your life.

False Beliefs Harm Relationships

Our beliefs about relationships have a huge impact on the success of our relationships. False beliefs can cause much frustration and disappointment. We need to assess our beliefs and decide if they are constructive or destructive. Sometimes beliefs that seem to be reasonable and even positive can be detrimental because they are false. False beliefs will cause problems in our relationships. If our beliefs are false or destructive we need to change them to more realistic beliefs. Some examples of some potential harmful beliefs and the corresponding realities are given below:

False Belief Reality
If I love him/her I should give up my interests or friends for him/her If you lose who you are s/he will lose interest
I should not have to ask what I want, if s/he loved me s/he would know You are setting yourself up for disappointment if you do not tell him/her what you want
The more I give the more s/he will love me If you make yourself a doormat, do not be surprised if you are treated like a doormat
S/he needs to change so that I can be happy You cannot change your partner, but you can choose to be happy
Pointing out his/her mistakes will help him/her want to change Criticism damages relationships and builds resentment in both of you
I know what is best, my way is the right way There are many acceptable options
If I am hurt, angry or disappointed I should punish my partner, this will make him/her change Punishment creates resentment
I need to correct my partner and tell him/her how to do things properly Constant correcting gives the message s/he is not good enough and causes resentment
Romance and sex decline over time, it is inevitable Romance and sex do not naturally die out, but failing to stoke the fire can leave things cold
Ignoring problems avoids conflict and means I do not have to deal with them Ignoring problems eventually create more conflict and poisons the relationship
I stuff my anger away so that I will not hurt him/her Stuffing anger rather than talking about what is bothering you, will cause you to explode inappropriately

Increase Happiness: Improve Your Relationship

There may be a bit of a chicken an egg dilemma here. Does improving your relationship improve your happiness or does improving your happiness improve your relationship? The answer is yes! Both are true. When you are happier your relationship tends to improve and improving your relationship makes it easier to feel happy. Healthy relationships are key to lasting happiness. Where to begin? The easiest place to begin is to SMILE. Right now, choose to smile, even if you do not feel like smiling. When you choose to smile, your brain starts to take that as a signal that you are happy. Make an effort to smile often, every day and you may notice that you start to feel happier.

Next, express your admiration and affection to your partner. Start trying to catch your partner doing something right. Let them know that you notice and appreciate it. Give your partner at least two genuine compliment a day. When you start to do this, you may notice that your partner starts to smile more too.

Finally, practice gratitude. Every morning when you wake up mentally rehearse as least five things for which you are grateful. Every night just before sleeping focus again on those things for which you are grateful. Remember that happiness does not come from having what we want; it comes from being grateful for what we have.

The happier you are, the more likely you are to have a happy, lasting relationship. The happier you are, the more likely you are to have great friends and family and to feel satisfied with your family and social life. Start now by choosing to smile. Start looking for reasons to be happy and you will begin to find them.

Respect Yourself: Improve Your Relationship

In counseling, we frequently hear concerns expressed about a lack of respect hurting relationships. Many people think that if their partner would just conform and do things the way they want them done, that they would then feel respected. Respect is an important foundation of any healthy relationship. But it begins with self-respect. Ask yourself, Am I easily offended? Do I justify my anger at my partner by thinking things like, if only s/he would change then I could be happy, feel respected, etc? The reality is that the better we feel about our self the less likely we are to be offended and angry at the behavior of others.

It is very empowering and freeing to NOT be dependent on the behavior of others to feel respected or loved. When our self-respect and self-esteem are high we are far less reactive to the behavior of others. When our self-respect and self-esteem are low and someone does something that we see as disrespectful we can feel a loss of control and respond with anger.

In the long run, it is our behavior, not our partner’s that determines how we feel about our self. The more we guard our integrity by making good choices, rather than choices of convenience or appearance, the better we will feel about our self. The better we feel about our self, the less likely we are to over react to our partner’s behavior. When we feel good about our self, we are more likely to be patient, understanding and generous with our partner.

Choices of appearance are those you make to make yourself look good or keep yourself out of trouble. Choices of convenience are based on what feels good in the moment, rather than on what you know is right or good. Whenever we make choices that go against our values, when we do what we believe to be wrong, we hurt our self-respect and self-esteem.

The greater our sense of self-respect, the less we will crave and demand respect from others. The more we are in control of our self, our behavior and feelings; the less we will feel the need to control and manage others.

Compassion Improves Perspective

When you look at the picture below what do you see?Can you see two different possibilities?

Perspective

How many times when you are talking to your partner do you wish that they could see things from your perspective? Do you wonder why s/he cannot just get what you are trying to tell him/her? It may be interesting to pause and wonder if your partner ever feels that you simply do not get it. How many times does your partner wish that you could see things from their perspective?

The challenge in relationships is to get past self-interest to compassion for one another. Compassion suggests that we not only understand what our partner feels and wants, but that we care about how they feel and what they want. Too often selfishness in relationships leaves one or the other or both feeling unloved and unappreciated.

It is important to put your ego aside and give up having to be right in order to find compassion for your self and your partner.

Here are 7 steps to increasing your compassion for your partner:

    1. Think of your partner as once being a precious newborn and having infinite worth. Take some time to really ponder on this idea, until you can feel a warm feeling toward your partner, even if it is only a warm feeling toward them as a lovable infant.

    2. Think of your self as one being a precious newborn and accept that you have infinite worth.

    3. Focus on positive and happy memories from your past together. Look at pictures of fun times.

    4. Each day think of something about your partner that you can be grateful for. Express gratitude to your partner.

    5. Remember that your partner is beautiful (handsome) when s/he is happy and fulfilled. Think of your partner as happy and content.

    6. Increase your acceptance for yourself and for your partner. Accept responsibility for being compassionate toward your partner.

    7. Make your partners feelings and wants as important to you as your own.

Developing compassion for your partner will help you to recognize and feel the love that your partner offers to you.

10 Commandments For A Loving Relationship

Your marriage has the potential to be fulfilling, energizing and loving. Perhaps happily ever after is a fantasy, but strong, loving relationships are not. You can by making positive choices create a relationship worth envying. Here are 10 commandments (tips) for creating a loving relationship:

 

1. Have fun together. Do things regularly that are fun for both of you. Laugh together often.

2. Listen twice as much as you talk. Get curious and really listen to your partner. Learn about what they like and what is important to them. Feeling understood brings partners closer together.

3. Give appreciation. Say thank you often. Notice the things that your partner does that you like and point them out. This helps you to remember why you love your partner and helps your partner know why you love them.

4. Communicate. Share your thoughts, feelings, fears and dreams with your partner. Be honest and open. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

5. Sacrifice. Making little and big sacrifices for each other greatly increases loving feelings.

6. Be Supportive. Celebrate with your partner. When your partner shares dreams and ideas with you, be excited with them.

7. Smile. Every morning and night look at each other and smile. Smile often at each other. Find reasons to smile with your partner.

8. Take turns. When you find yourselves butting heads about where to eat, what movie to watch, or where to go on vacation. Stop and decide to take turns. Just remember that when it is not your turn, to smile and enjoy yourself. Your turn is coming.

9. Say important things. Say I love you often. Say I am sorry when you have hurt your partner, whether you meant to or not. Other important things to say are: would you please, thank you, what do you think, and I forgive you.

10. Meet your own needs and help meet each other’s needs. The ultimate responsibility for meeting our needs belongs to us. No one can make us feel loved if we are convinced that we are unlovable. At the same time, if you help your partner feel loved, important, secure, and experience excitement or variety, they will feel close and bonded to you.

Following these commandments and encouraging your partner to follow them as well, will increase the loving feelings in your relationship.

Make Time To Be A Couple

If you are in a relationship, it is important to make time together a priority. There should be times where you shut off the cell phones, television and other distractions and focus on each other. Make couple time a priority.

In a well-rounded relationship couple time comes in many different forms:

Working together

Sharing household chores can make them seem less burdensome. Doing the dishes together, shopping together, or cleaning a room, if done with a cheerful attitude can be fun. There can even be time for patting your honey on the backside or giving him a hug and letting him know that there is nothing sexier that a man helping.

Playing together

Find something or several somethings that are fun for both of you and make a habit of regularly taking time to have fun together.

Planning together

Whether it is planning for the day, week or your future, doing it together can help strengthen your relationship. Knowing what you want, need and expect from each other can help prevent miscommunication and frustration.

Socializing together

It is possible to socialize together. Remember that little things like touching hands, touching feet under the table, or making eye contact can help you feel connected even in a crowd.

Learning Together

Learning something new together can be another way to connect. Whether it is adventurous like learning to scuba dive, or simply intellectually stimulating, it can give you an opportunity to grow together.

Worshiping Together

If you are of the same faith, this can be attending church together. It can also be as simple as spending time quietly enjoying nature. This can recharge your batteries and help you see things in perspective.

Lovemaking

The ultimate togetherness is lovemaking. There may be times when life is so hectic and busy that you need to schedule time for lovemaking.

Strengthen your relationship by making time for each other.

Outgrow Problems

Carl Jung said, “Our most important problems cannot be solved; they must be outgrown.” In the sense that maturity makes problem solving much more successful, I agree that in order to solve many of our problems we have to grow up first.

couple

When it comes to many of our important issues increased maturity would go a long way in either resolving issues or learning to live in harmony in spite of differences. We first have to be able to accept responsibility for our own thoughts, words and actions and become aware of how we are contributing to the problem. We then need to be able to listen to our partner and be willing to put ourselves in his/her shoes. We need to be able to hang on to ourselves in the midst of strong emotions, control our temper and sooth our own hurt feelings. All of this requires growing up rather than simply growing older.

Maturity says, lets figure this out together so that it works for both of us. Immaturity says, my way is the right way and you had better agree or else. Maturity says, we disagree and that is okay, I can respect your opinions and hope you can respect mine. Immaturity says, I’m right and you are wrong and you should see things the way I do.

Maturity asks how can we fix the problem? Immaturity asks who is to blame? Maturity says, I appreciate hearing how you are feeling and hearing what would work better for you, thanks for the feedback. Immaturity, says how dare you criticize me when you are just as bad.

When you consider the immature and mature approach to problem solving, it is obvious that the mature approach is much more likely to lead to solutions or resolution. Interestingly, the resolution of our most important problems begins as an inside job. As we grow and mature within ourselves we will find our problems easier to deal with. We will have outgrown our problems.

Give The Gift Of Love

At the beginning of a relationship, giving the gift of love is easy. You feel attracted to each other and are trying to impress each other and find many ways to show that you care. Then the inevitable happens, boredom sets in or conflict arises, and you realize that you don’t feel quite so loving any more. Perhaps you think you’re not in love any more or maybe never were. At those times when you feel less than loving, choosing to behave in a loving way makes it more likely that you will start to feel loving toward your partner. One key to mature, lasting relationships is the understanding that loving feelings follow loving thoughts and actions.

gift of love

Many people ruin today by wasting their time wishing for a better past. There is wisdom in the idea that you must give up the dream of having a better past in order to have a better now. Constantly looking backward with regret will make your life miserable. You can “should” yourself or your partner to death, but that will never change the past.

The question is not what went wrong; the question is where do we go from here. Getting stuck arguing about what has already happened keeps you focused on problems. Letting go of blame, either for yourself or for your partner, can allow you to focus instead on finding a way to make things work for both of you. As your relationship matures, choosing to give the gift of love, especially at those times when you do not feel particularly loving, will help to keep the embers of your love glowing.

Are You Being Generous?

A client asked why it was that she could love her children even though they frustrated her at times, but she was having trouble feeling that she loved her husband? Most people love their children unconditionally. They loved them in spite of bad behavior, they loved them because they are their children. Is it possible to love a partner unconditionally—to accept and love them warts and all?

generouslove.jpg

Generally we don’t expect that our children pay us back for the love and sacrifice that we offer them. We give and give to our children because we love them; perhaps we love them because we give and give. The key to loving “in spite of” may be to choose to behave lovingly even when we do not feel particularly loving.

Be generous in your relationship. Spend more time watching and thinking about what you are giving to your partner than worrying about what your partner is or is not giving back to you. Stop keeping score and give love freely. You may be surprised at how good it feels to give without strings attached.

Withholding love will cause you to feel less loving toward your partner. Being generous will increase those loving feelings.

Lasting Relationship Skills

A lasting relationship is not a matter of luck or even a matter of choosing the "right one." Even the most promising relationships will struggle if the following relationship skills are ignored. Communication Skills

Skilled communication involves first listening to understand and second speaking to be understood. That means listening with both ears. Try to see things from your partners perspective. Communication skills also involve understanding that your partner cannot read your mind, nor can you read his/hers. Share your thoughts and feelings with your partner. Be clear, open, honest, tactful, and respectful.

Loving Skills

It takes skill to learn to show love to your partner in a way that feels loving to him/her. Don't do a Homer Simpson--Homer gives Marge a bowling ball, because he would love to get a bowling ball. Mature love also means behaving lovingly even when you don't feel particularly loving.

Problem Solving Skills

All relationships encounter problems sooner or later. Problems that are ignored or swept under the rug come back to haunt your relationship. Successful problem solving skills will greatly benefit your relationship

Intimacy Skills

couple

Learning how to be intimate in a way that meets both of your conditions for arousal and satisfaction takes practice and skill. Selflessness and an openness to learn can help in developing intimacy skills.

Compromise Skills

Compromise is not a dirty word. Learning to compromise is an important relationship skill. This means finding creative ways for both of your needs to be met, even when you cannot agree on how to solve a problem.

Fair Fighting Skills

Fighting fair is essential in lasting relationships. Dirty fighting leaves emotional scars that may never heal. Since all couples fight, whether you call it disagreement or discussion, it is still important to learn how to do it fairly.

Cooperation Skills

Finding ways to manage a household that involve a fair and equitable sharing of workload is vital. As is finding ways to share parenting responsibilities.

These relationship skills are all interconnected. For example, fighting and lack of cooperation will affect your level of intimacy and a lack of intimacy will increase the friction in your relationship. Improving these relationship skills will improve your chances of creating a lasting relationship.

Gratitude Experiment

Happy couples tend to express gratitude for each other and gratitude for being together. How are you doing in this department? Do you feel lucky to be together? Focusing on the things that you are grateful for about your partner and about your relationship adds positive energy to your relationship. Make a conscious effort to spend more time talking about the good things in your relationship. Try to eliminate complaining about your problems. Complaining does not solve problems. Smile at each other, look each other in the eye and share with each other the reasons that you feel blessed to be together.

Happy Couple

As an experiment try the following: Each morning when you first wake up, mentally list and picture in your mind at least five things that you are grateful about your partner and your relationship. Each night before you sleep, do the same. Invite that feeling of gratitude each morning and night for at least 30 days. Pay attention and notice how you feel when you are visualizing and making your gratitude list. Notice how you feel during the day. Notice how you interact with your partner.

The beauty of an experiment is that you cannot fail. The purpose of an experiment is to gather information. What do you learn from completing this experiment? Is this something worth continuing?

Susan Derry, B.Ed., M.S.Psy., R.P.C.

Professional Counselor & Life Coach

Co-author of Marriage Prep: Beginnings a downloadable marriage preparation course

Co-author of Intimate Sex: Manual for Lovemaking, a sex manual for couples

Offers a free Nurturing Marriage Ezine

Honing Relationship Skills

Skills To Make Good Relationships Better Watching someone, who has perfected a skill, perform is deeply satisfying—the flow, the ease, the beauty. Whether it is dance or singing or playing sports, getting really good at something is fulfilling. This is also true of relationship skills.

When we practice and hone our relationship skills to a level where they flow easily, our relationship can become a beautiful thing. But just like learning other skills, it takes some practice and time before things work smoothly. The first time we try out a new skill things may seem awkward and uncomfortable. For example learning to play the piano takes hours of practice before the hesitant note playing turns into flowing music. Be patient with yourself as you work on developing the following skills:

1. Self-responsibility – you and only you are responsible for your thoughts, words and actions. Learn to accept complete responsibility for yourself. 2. Ability to appreciate differences – learn to accept that your partner is different not wrong. 3. Listen to understand – practice being open minded and open hearted. 4. Hang on to self – learn to sooth your own hurts and disappointments to reduce over reactions. Practice taking a deep breath, counting to ten and finding other ways to calm yourself. 5. Empathy – learn to see things from your partner’s perspective, try imagining what it would feel like to be in their shoes. 6. Supporting – learn ways to support your partner that feel good to them—be there for your partner. 7. Maturity – choose to relate to each other as adults; avoid behaving as either a parent or a child when relating to your partner. 8. Negotiation – think win win, be willing to give up having to be right; choose happiness over winning. If you have to win that means you have to make your partner the loser. 9. Holding your tongue – don’t say the things you will wish you could take back later. Sometimes the old adage if you have nothing nice to say, keep quiet works wonders. 10. Fighting fair – learn to disagree without being disagreeable. Being respectful to each other at all times, good or bad is essential. 11. Stay in the present – practice dealing with what is rather than being stuck in resenting the past or worrying about the future.

Working to improve these relationship skills will help your relationship become a joy to watch as well as a joy to be in.