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I read somewhere that the dynamics of every romantic relationship are decided within the first 3 months.
It makes you wonder …
It is normal to fall for someone and become totally infatuated… especially during the first three months!
This means that the things which we would usually spot go unnoticed during this very important time… while our guard is down.
Then, after this first stage in which we are unable to see anything wrong with our partner (sometimes even if it is blatantly obvious!) we move into a stage where we are better able to keep a more balanced perspective. It is normally then when… we start seeing things that we originally missed!
It is then common to get into some form of denial and we often tell ourselves that perhaps we are not perceiving things with clarity, so we give our partner a second chance (or a third, or a fourth!…) to gain some time so that we can validate in our mind whether our perceptions are true. We postpone raising these delicate subjects in case we are imagining things and don’t want to be accused of making an unnecessary fuss, so we tend to dismiss our feelings, hunches and intuitions.
Depending on how much time, energy and dreams we have invested in the relationship so far and also depending on the level of comfort that we may have achieved, this stage may take more or less time. Thoughts such as I can’t live without him, It could be worse, I don’t want to live by myself now, I got used to him, I don’t want to start all over again with someone else, I am sure we will work it out… will come up and can become powerful factors that may lead us to compromise our otherwise high standards in order to accommodate the new comfort zone. And if we actually allow this stage to drag for a very long time before we actually share our thoughts with our partner (or even admit the crude reality to ourselves!), many of us will go as far as even getting married in the hope that he will change!
Unfortunately… we can never change anyone else. We are lucky indeed if we can change ourselves!
But let’s put ourselves in the worst-case scenario: we have ignored the nuances of our heart and the wise advice of friends or family who seem to be able to see what we cannot. Let’s assume that there is real love within the couple (and I say real love as oppose as co-dependency, a subject for a different article). How can we then improve our relationship and make a win of the time and energy already invested in it?
The answer is to learn to communicate very well.
The following tips are a recipe for a long and stable relationship (for simplicity of reading I am using him and him but she and she can also be read):
You can’t change your partner.
Do yourself a favour and accept this. All you will do otherwise is alienate him and create a gap between the two of you.
Make a list with all the behaviours and habits that you dislike and another list with all the ones that you love. Tell your partner that you really love him and that you would like to create and build a very stable and long term relationship; ask him if he would like to do this exercise with you.
Both of you will have your lists. Pick a time when you are relaxed and over a glass of wine or with your favourite snack create an atmosphere of playfulness and fun. Make a pact that if either of you gets defensive or upset, stop and leave it for another day. The idea is to share and work through these issues, not to put each other’s back up!
Pick one item each and make sure you agree to an outcome on what is acceptable for both of you. You can start by deciding what item is more important for each one of you. It would be an idea to start with an item that you can have success within a relatively short period of time and with a relatively small effort.
Finally, know that the secret is not to expect your partner to do it first. If you take responsibility for the items that you have agreed to change, your partner will follow your lead.
And remember, if the first few attempts fail, laugh and do it again next time. Remember, love must be stronger than being right!
Your partner cannot read your mind.
Well, in general, they can’t. At least at the beginning. If they do, you are lucky!
It is common (especially with women) to expect our partners to know why we are upset; we feel they should know what they have said or done to upset us and how we are feeling. We will refuse to bring up the subject and will simply withdraw and sulk.
It is also common that in this instance your partner will dismiss your tantrum as having a bad day and will ignore your feelings of hurt because, in fact, he doesn’t know what to do about it, so he will just let it be until you feel better!
But if you pick a moment when you are a bit calmer and tell your partner what he has done and how it makes you feel, you will avoid the dreaded communication gap, the beginning of the end…
Develop trust and friendship.
This is a natural stage in a healthy relationship and it will replace the first infatuation stage, making a more solid basis for the relationship.
Do activities together that BOTH enjoy or, at least, make a pact to do things together that the other one likes, taking turns to choose an activity each. For instance, if you both like going to the pictures, choose a film; he must go along whether he is crazy about the chosen film or not. Then, switch turns.
Your partner is usually your mirror.
When you find something that you don’t like in your partner, before you demand that he changes and express your dissatisfaction, have a look inside yourself and try to find what is it that you don’t like about yourself. You may find that you will find something similar inside yourself that the very characteristic your partner is mirroring for you. As you shift your perspective on the matter, your partner’s behaviour will also shift automatically.
And if he doesn’t change his behaviour, then you will notice that the same things that drove you crazy before may not affect you now at all.
Others can only upset us when there is a resonating behaviour within ourselves. That is called mirroring behaviour and it is the most fertile ground for personal growth that relationships can provide for us.
Pick up the right moment.
If there is something that you want to talk about, do not bark at him as soon as he comes through the door tired after a long and stressful working day. All you will do is picking a fight!
Instead, either tell him that there is something you would like to talk about with him when he has a moment or simply wait and use your discernment as to when is a good moment to talk about it.
Make small deals.
Small deals that will give both of you time off when you are least than happy with each other.
For instance, you can decide never go to sleep without talking to each other because it makes the night long and miserable and then you have to try to sort out the argument the following day in a rush before going to work, half-sleep… not the best time! Agree to disagree until there is a next good moment to follow with the discussion.
Or always kiss goodbye when one of you leaves the front door. God forbids, but one never knows what can happen in this crazy world and it is nice to know that our last memory of each other will always be a nice one.
The importance of these small deals is that not only help to cement the relationship, but they show commitment and regard for each other.
Being right or staying together?
When there is a disagreement we must decide what is more important: must I be right no matter what (even if I REALLY am right!) or can we find a point of agreement and disagreement?
We need to be able to see the argument from each other’s point of view. The intensity of it will fizzle out when we realise that there are always two sides to a story and that our partner has a point.
When we are prepared to acknowledge our partner’s point of view, even if it is clearly not as convincing as our own, we are creating strong values of respect and tolerance for each other.
Whose marriage is it, anyway?
Many people will share their opinions on what you should tolerate from your partner or what they consider to be fair or right, but there are only two people in this relationship and these two people are the only ones who know its full dynamics of giving and taking.
So what may seem fair to others may not be. And vice-versa. Remind them politely that you will ask for their advice when you need it. Aim to discuss your emotional and practical issues with your partner and don’t make a habit to talk about it to third parties without having heard his side of the story. It is likely that you will only get confused with the many different options when, in the end, the solution must work just for both of you.
And compassionate. The world doesn’t end today!
Some things cannot be solved on the spot. They require time and effort.
Acknowledge your partner for the small changes and, even if changes are not seen, for the efforts made. Positive reinforcement and patience will work wonders for both of you!
Choose the right words.
And the right tone. Make sure that you are neutral. Blaming (even if it is clearly his fault) and finger-pointing will only create walls between you.
Show him that you have a mature attitude and that you are prepared to work through the issue together. Show that you are prepared to take your part of the responsibility for it. After all, you don’t want to win the battle but lose the war!
By Dr Ana Garcia PhD
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Published in Wedding Essentials, Issue July 2007.
Article adapted from my Book: “The 5 Pillars of Success (An Empowerment Program for Motivation & Success)”
Copyright © Dr Ana Garcia PhD, DTM (2003 – 2019)
All rights reserved. No portion(s) of this book can be copied, used or reproduced for any manner without the expressed written consent of Dr Ana Garcia.