Understand Other People

Better communication through a better understanding of behavior

Is Your Committed Relationship in a Rut?

Six tips to recharge and renew

A recent research project out of the U.K. by Open University found that married couples with children had less relationship satisfaction than married couples without children. Before we go assuming children are the problem, the survey also found that—overall—women who had children, as individuals, were happier than those who had never had them. The survey does, however, remind us of the need to focus our attention back on our spouse or significant other. With children we can often feel worn out, or distracted, or spend our time running around between their events and classes. What can you do if you feel the spark has gone and you need a recharge in your relationship?

The six tips to renew and recharge:

  • Focus on what’s right. It can be so easy to find fault with the other person, or with the relationship, especially when we are stressed or stretched, and we don’t feel rested or upbeat. All we see are the “warts” and not the positives. Make it a point each day to create a list of five things your spouse or significant other does right, or five things that are good about your relationship. Keep this in a journal, so you can collect these things to refer to when you start to feel frustrated or annoyed with your mate.
  • Give a compliment—externally and internally. We beat up on ourselves too often. Instead of being our own best friend, the way we talk to ourselves is often defeating and demeaning—and we often voice these same negative thoughts to our mate. Find ways to compliment yourself, with your internal self-talk, and compliment your mate. Even if it is a small thing, find something about which you can say, “I like this about you.”
  • Practice the Golden Rule, with a twist. It’s always important to treat others the way we would want to be treated, to remember to be kind and considerate, but with a romantic partner it’s even more important to treat them the way they want to be treated. If you know your partner loves moonlight walks, plan one. If you know your partner loves white chocolate, bring some home on the way from work. If you know your partner needs a pick-me-up, find something nice to say. You may not require these things, or even like them, but if you know what’s important to your partner, do it for them.
  • Plan together time. Life is busy. There are often more demands than there are hours in the day, particularly if you have children. Romance and time together won’t “just happen” with a busy life. It has to be planned. You have to look at calendars, decide when and where you will be together or go together, and then organize it. No money for a sitter? Exchange babysitting with a friend who also needs a break, ask family members or find a place with babysitting on site. You will have to plan the time, where to go and how to manage it, but it’s important to put this emphasis on finding that time together.
  • Say “thank you.” We can too often take our mates for granted. We assume they will make the dinner, take out the garbage, feed the dog, and run the kids to sports practice. It’s just part of what has to happen to make a family work. Unfortunately, after a time these things become expected and overlooked. Stop, look the other person in the eye and say a sincere, “Thank you for doing that” every single day. Yes, it may feel unnecessary but your mate will appreciate that you noticed and that you acknowledged them.
  • Be kind and compassionate whenever possible. Life is tough for many people. There are bills to pay, mouths to feed, errands to run, and a job—or two or three—to do. Whenever possible, choose kindness over criticism. Choose compassion over blame. Choose positive over negative. You may have to practice this, as we often take out our negativity on those we love the most, but the more you practice it, the more natural it will become.

Couples with children, or couples without children, can get into a rut and focus so much on the “how” and the “what” that they lose sight of the “who” and the “why.” Remember who this person is and why you married them, or stayed in a committed relationship with them. If you want to renew and recharge, you have the power to do it today. Try out one of the six keys and see if it unlocks a newness in your relationship.

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Beverly D. Flaxington teaches at Suffolk University.

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