This piece has been sent to me by Ian Tottman based in Leavesden. Ian recently gave a short talk on this subject through his work with Herts Mediation.
People often think that the trajectory of their romantic lives is downhill. Frustrations and disappointments develop in long-term relationships as early as a few years—sometimes even a few months—after the honeymoon ends and “normal life” begins. People think that the downward trajectory is “standard” and “everyone’s experience.” but long-term romantic relationship do not need to be doomed enterprises. Relationships do change over time, but that change does not necessarily imply that a relationship turns from positive to negative and some relationships deepen and improve with age.
The following are Seven ingredients Richard B. Joelson finds can help to establish—and sustain—a positive and successful romantic partnership:
1. Handling anger and avoiding arguments.
A major problem with anger and the resulting arguments is that neither partner does much, if anything, to avoid them. Instead of “taking the bait” and being sucked in , perhaps by the need to be “right,” instead of having an argument it could have been avoided if one of them had seen to it that the conversation had remained conversational or been postponed until calm was restored. This is not always easy, but certainly possible.
2. Listening to each other.
This is extremely important. Couples in conflict are often so busy preparing their accusations of the other person, or their defense of themselves, that they simply do not listen or hear what is being said. Often responses are just statements often entirely unrelated to what was just said to them. As a result many couples repeatedly recycle the same arguments and rarely, if ever, feel as though any conversation (or “attack and defend” exchange) accomplishes anything. Couples can often need help to “actively listen” to each other so that the dynamic between them changes to one that is productive.
3. Saying “I’m sorry."
Research has shown how difficult people find it to say sorry, both in and out of romantic partnerships. People say, “I know it’s the right thing to do, and I feel sorry: I just can’t say it!” Such responses suggest the likelihood that the individual might feel “weak” or “defeated” if they publicly acknowledge sorrow or regret.
4. Expressing gratitude.
When partners feel and express gratitude or appreciation for each other, they both feel cherished and valued and the relationship is enhanced. These expressions do not have to be confined to major gestures or actions. “Thank you, honey, for feeding the dog," or, "I really appreciate your picking up my prescription,” can be just as meaningful as a thank-you for a monumental gift or kindness.
Yes, changing. By this he refers to what might be considered the “little things” that become big when they persist over time. These are the kinds of changes that, with some effort, might be easy to accomplish and deliver far greater dividends than the investment required to achieve them. If a wife tells her husband, she really appreciates getting a greeting card on her birthday and anniversary why would the husband refuse to please her and give one? If a husband informs his wife that he does not want to be interrupted by phone calls while at the gym, unless there is an emergency, why does she persist in calling about nonessential matters. When people feel ignored or, worse, devalued by their partners, resentments develop and these can become toxic.
A wife once complained to her husband that upon leaving a party he helped every other woman guest on with her coat except her. When she questioned his reply was, “Well, that’s because you’re my wife!” Her response: “That’s the point!” She felt taken for granted! Incidents like this may be insignificant if they are infrequent, but if they typify an attitude or are common in the relationship, they have the potential to cause diminished regard and affection for the offending partner.
7. Hurting with words.
The damage potential of comments made in the heat of battle is extremely high. Words can cause wounds that may not easily heal when calm is restored. They are often referenced when a subsequent argument occurs, i.e., “I’ll never forget the time you told me, ‘Drop dead.’”The above are some of what might be considered “ingredients” of a successful romantic relationship and, perhaps, any relationship. Every one of these ingredients is best used by both partners.