A Simple Path To A Better Relationship

Philip Holder PhD.
copyright 2014 – 2016

relationship 20160204bExperiences

I frequently tell people there are no bad experiences. There are unpleasant experiences, but as long as we learn and grow through our experiences, they are all good experiences! I like to think that I follow my own philosophy, at least most of the time. Like most people I’ve made my share of relationship blunders (maybe even more than my share, who knows?), but I’ve learned much from my experiences and have keyed in on some primary principles that I think are of great value in enhancing the quality of a relationship. Do I always follow them myself…? Well, I try my best to. This article is designed primarily with couples in mind, but the majority of the principles will work well for all types of relationships. These principles have helped students and patients at our office and certainly helped me personally.

First and Foremost

For any of the suggestions in this article to work, you must truly value, love and respect your significant other enough to put aside your ego and place your partner and your relationship first. For true success and happiness you need to be absolutely first to each other… First over career, kids, extended family and above friends. You and your partner need to be best friends and lovers who accept each other warts and all.

List of important things to re-think and a time for new approaches:

Do You Want To Be Right Or Happy?

Decide… Would you rather be happy or right? Many times you can’t have both. If “right” is your answer then there’s probably no point in you reading any further. Let go of the compulsion to prove you are right. If you have to prove your point or prove you are right, then by virtue of doing that, you are attempting to prove your partner wrong. If you are trying to prove that you are smarter, then by virtue of that, you are attempting to prove your partner is dumber. Why would you ever want to cast the person you love in that light?

Choose Your Battles Wisely

Not every hill is worth climbing yet we often feel compelled to make mountains out of mole hills just to prove that we are right. “Don’t sweat the small stuff”.

Be Light And Happy… It Might Be Contagious

When you walk into a room full of grumpy people you can feel the negative energy. Other people’s negativity can affect us deeply and cause our mood to shift. Likewise, a happy crowd can lift your spirits. Be a facilitator of happiness, even when you don’t feel like it. After all, “We become who we practice to be”.

Take Time For Playfulness, Romance And Making Love.

Learn to compartmentalize. Leave your work, worries and responsibility aside and enjoy each other. Be totally in the moment. I’m sure most couples did just that when their relationship was young. You should never stop doing that. If you have kids, make sure you have “Date Night” (no kids allowed) every week. Someday the kids are going to grow up and leave and you and your partner will be sitting there, starring at each other, wondering who is the stranger across from you. For those who have pets and young children, I advocate no pets or kids in the marital bed. Just like they say, never put your office in your bedroom (you never totally leave work when you do that), that’s the same in principle as making the marital bed solely your place for lovemaking, bonding, romance, and intimacy.

Know That The Grass Is Greenest Where You Are Now

When a relationship is having problems, some people look outside of the relationship for what they feel is missing in the relationship. This may not even be a physical affair. It may be an emotional affair. Either way, it causes the person to have less incentive to fix the problem when his or her needs are being met outside of the relationship. Even wishing that you were with someone else (physically OR emotionally), can sap positive emotional energy that could be used to improve the relationship.

Unilaterally Make Changes That Nurture The Relationship Without Making Deals Or Expectation Of Partner

Don’t negotiate terms under which you will make changes to the behaviors that are your part in a problem (I’ll do this if you change that). Own your part and fix it unilaterally. Somebody has to be the hero.

Listen Before You Reply

Much too often, during disagreements, people begin to formulate what they are going to say back in rebuttal before their partner is even finished speaking. Listen with an open mind until your partner is finished. If you do not, likely you won’t have the full picture from his or her perspective and as well, the problem may escalate because you partner will likely feel unheard and feel that his or her opinion has no value in your eyes.

Fight Fair

Debate the issue without personalizing it. (e.g.: I feel I’m not important to you when “X” happens. Vs. You always make me feel crappy). Make the discussion about the situation. Don’t place the blame on your partner. The Japanese have a saying. “Fix the problem, not the blame”.

Don’t Defend. Your Partner Is Not The Enemy

When a person becomes defensive, the fight is on. It’s human nature. Take the position that the other person is entitled to have a different opinion. Believe that you are a team looking to find a solution, not adversaries.

Be Okay With Apologizing For Your Part In A Disagreement

Acknowledging your part in a disagreement can start the process of solving the problem and also lets your partner know that you do not hold them completely at fault. After all… It takes 2 to tango.

Refrain From Doing Things That Are Destructive Or That You Wouldn’t Want Done To You.

If the little voice in your head says, “Should I be doing or saying this”, LISTEN for a moment. If the shoe was on the other foot, how would you feel? Never rationalize how “That’s Different” when you do it. The person we lie to most is ourselves and “That’s Different” is a whopper.

“You Don’t Have To Believe Everything You Think”

No matter how right you think you are, always entertain the possibility that you could be wrong. If both parties hold tight to the position that there’s absolutely no way he or she could be wrong, there will be no resolution.

Verbalize Your Complements And Good Thoughts To Your Partner

If you look for the flaws in someone you will find them. If you look for the good in someone, likewise you will find it. Instead of looking to catch others doing something you don’t like, look to catch them doing something good, then recognize that good. If you think your significant other is smart… Tell Them! If you think your partner is sexy… Tell Them! If you think your partner is talented… Tell Them! If you think your partner is funny… Tell Them! If you think your partner already knows you love them… Tell Them Anyway! Even if they truly know, it’s always great to hear. Make it a regular daily thing (multiple times each day).

Never Take For Granted The Things Your Partner Contributes To The Relationship
Have “An Attitude Of Gratitude”.

Tell your partner that you appreciate the things he or she does. The more specific you are, the better. By nature, people find it easy to complain about what they don’t like, but difficult to acknowledge the good others do. Think about it… I bet most of you reading this have complained to the manager of a restaurant when the food or service was bad. Are you as diligent at seeking out the manager when the food or service is great? Let your partner know that you appreciate him or her. Verbalize it. Don’t just think it, unless your partner is a mind reader.

Be Cooperative

Especially in small things that will have no dramatic affect on the overall outcome of your life. Frequently do those things your partner’s way, without attempting to negotiate something else (even if you think you have a better idea). As the old saying goes, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat”.

Be Forward Thinking

Let go of the past (especially during disagreements). Fight the urge to bring something up from the past to clobber your partner over the head with, in an attempt to win. That behavior doesn’t elevate you. It just lowers both you and your partner. It doesn’t solve the current problem. It just re-introduces an old problem. Now instead of one problem, you’re addressing two.

Learn How To Identify Your Own Passive Aggressive Behaviors

Example of Passive-Aggressive Behavior: You know your partner likes to have coffee before eating breakfast so you say… screw that I’m making breakfast first. “Breakfast is on the table dear… Oh, the coffee… So sorry I forgot.
Punishing your partner isn’t going to improve things. Take the high ground.

Always Uplift And Elevate Your Partner

When the two of you are alone, when you’re both with others, and when you’re without your partner but with others, elevate the person you have chosen to share your life with. You picked him or her. As well, don’t air your dirty laundry to others (e.g.: You tell your mother how crappy your partner is. The two of you patch things up with each other but mom’s not getting over it so quickly.

Every Day Ask Yourself How Can I Make My Partner’s Life Better Today?

If that’s your mission each day, you can take pride in yourself for the love you share and for having the integrity to do the right thing. As his or her life becomes better because of you, they will appreciate you even more for your efforts.

Unilaterally Do For Your Partner What You Wish He Or She Would Do For You (Being Thankful, Supportive, Appreciative Etc.), Even If Your Partner Is Not Choosing To Do The Same In Return

Remember, your behavior speaks volumes about your character. What you do shows what kind of person YOU are. No one can make you mad, make you say hurtful things, or cause you to behave in any fashion. The choice is entirely yours. How you handle situations is all about you so… As you write your life story (which you are doing each and every day), ask yourself if the finished product is something you will be proud of.

I Have No Idea Who The Author Of The Following Story Is, But It’s Something Worth Thinking About!

Nails In The Fence

There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His Father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence. Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there. ” A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one. Friends are very rare jewels, indeed. They make you smile and encourage you to succeed. They lend an ear, they share words of praise and they always want to open their hearts to us.

The Beginning  🙂