• Rebecca Robinson

Love Lessons: How To Revamp Your Relationship

What makes a great relationship? What does a happy couple look like? Two smiling, laughing people, hand-in-hand, straight out of a magazine advert? Or someone else's edited, loved-up Instagram posts?

Or might your version of what a happy couple looks like be rooted in something a little more real, a little more authentic and a lot less glossy and airbrushed? No less special for being #unfiltered, just perfectly imperfect, raw and true.

If we can let go of what we think 'perfect' needs to looks like, and drop the message that our eternally plugged-in society feeds us of the importance of our life 'looking' a certain way rather than embracing what actually is and simply 'being', we may just find that our relationship is not perfect after all. Nothing ever is, can be, and nor should it be. But instead, we may just find that our relationship is the perfect one for us, and is exactly what we need to help us grow as an individual and as a couple.

On the other hand, the relationship you are in may not be right for you at all, and knowing your own heart, mind, values, boundaries and what you want your future to look like can help you in assessing if this relationship is one you want to stay in.

But simply knowing that not having some speed-bumps along the path is actually extremely rare, especially in long-term relationships, can make you feel a little better.

So, if you feel loved, respected and, crucially, safe with your partner, but just wish you could iron out some wrinkles in your romance, then read on ...

Common Woes & How To Revamp Your Relationship

'But we're so different!'

What do you do if you feel that you're both too different, that you're more like chalk and cheese than conventionally-accepted combos such as peanut butter and jelly?!

Well, the key lesson here is this:

You don't have to be the same.

You don't have to think alike. You just have to think together. Think as a couple. And, just like every great team, every team-player has their own unique blend of signature strengths, and when we are aware of what these strengths are, and we respect them, we can combine our strengths and create an electrifying, unstoppable team!

'We have nothing to say to each other anymore!'

Do you sometimes feel poles apart with no common ground and nothing to say, often signified on the silver screen by a couple who eat together but sit at opposite ends of the dinner table with only an icy Arctic blast between them?!

Well, pull those chairs closer together and think about what is important to both of you and what your shared values are. If adventure is important to you, think of ways that you can live out this shared value as a couple. Maybe list adventures you could go on together and explore these suggestions, ticking off shared experiences as you go!

Having fun together is key - telling jokes, sharing experiences, even dancing in the kitchen! - and will increase the positive energy between you and intensify intimacy.

'We're just not each other's type!'

Do you feel that maybe you're just not each other's 'type'? Maybe it's time to actually consider what personality type you both are. Take a free Myers-Briggs personality test online and see what 'type' you are. Knowledge is power. Understanding that certain things your partner does - or doesn't do - is simply down to their personality, rather than something they do to deliberately annoy or upset you, could make a BIG difference to your perception of your partner and the state of your relationship.

For example, if you're an extroverted social butterfly who loves loud parties, but your partner is an introvert, a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) who is noise-sensitive and feels drained by too much socialising, then you may have an 'issue' right there. But issues can be dealt with through knowledge, understanding and, most importantly of all, through good communication and fair and balanced compromises. With compromise, however, it is important to remember that one person must never compromise so much that they as a person become compromised. Think Win-Win, not Win-Lose or Lose-Lose.

'We just don't communicate anymore!'

Communication is vital. And, luckily, simpler than it can sometimes feel.

Be interested in each other. Ask questions; stay curious. This will build up intimacy. Try answering the psychologist team Arthur and Elaine Aron's '36 Questions to Develop Intimacy' at www.36questionsinlove.com.

Try to make more positive statements to each other than negative ones. Give genuine compliments. Often the lovely things that our partner does for us regularly, like making us a morning cup of tea, giving us a spontaneous hug when we most need one or bringing home dinner, get lost and forgotten in the daily grind.

Ask each other, too, what you need from each other to feel loved and valued. As long as it aligns with your values and boundaries, try to give each other what you both need, not what you think your partner needs or what you would need.

Nurture your relationship as if it's a tiny, growing plant by watering it with kindness, trust, loyalty, forgiveness, apologising when you have made a mistake, noticing your partner's good qualities, honesty and great listening, without butting in or drifting off into your own thoughts.

'Arguments are the worst!'

Communication, though, is not always pleasant, as is the case with disagreements. Yes, we'd rather not have them. But they can be healthy, helping us learn and grow and become a stronger couple, if we approach disagreements maturely, and with curiosity and kindness.

Very often, when we argue, it is not necessarily what we are arguing about that is the problem, it is the way in which we are arguing. So, communicating in the correct way is really important.

We should endeavour, wherever possible, to step back a little in our emotional-thinking and think more strategically, with an open-mind that is interested in what the other person has to say, how they feel and why, and is ready to 'problem-solve'. Think: What is the problem here? Why is this a problem? What is the unmet need, or fear, behind our emotions? How do we each address our needs and hear the emotion behind our words? What are the possible solutions here?

The key is to really hear what the other person is saying. We can even repeat their words back to them to clarify and validate that we hear what they are saying. Often, to be heard and understood is what people really want when they are arguing, and simply validating their thoughts and emotions can take some of the heat out of the debate. And if our partner is annoyed with us, try not to become defensive, which only blocks active listening; try to acknowledge their feelings instead and this will help to build intimacy too.

'Do you love me enough?!'

Usually, it helps to know that the root of most arguments is this question: do you love me enough?

The simplistic thought process being: If you loved me, then you would do x, or you wouldn't do x.

Something as simple as leaving laundry dumped on the floor or dishes unwashed in the sink could trigger someone to think: if you loved me, then you would pick up your laundry or wash the dishes, thus triggering them to think emotionally and believe that their partner mustn't love them, because if they did, then they would have cleaned up after themselves.

Often, too, our triggers can stem back to childhood and our internal 'programming', so being aware of things that trigger us, and our partner, can be very useful. It's important not to drag the past - and things that aren't even to do with your partner - into the present moment.

'They'll never change!'

In relationships, sometimes we may wish the other person would change some aspect of themselves.

It's true that love can motivate us to make positive, healthy changes in our lives, not only benefiting ourselves and our personal growth, but also helping us grow together as a couple. For example, one partner may not enjoy exercise at all, whereas the other partner loves working out, so they might consider taking up jogging together, which will be a shared interest and has the added bonus of boosting your health too. Shared interests are always good, though not essential! It's far better to have shared values, shared couple goals, and to show an interest in each other's hobbies even if they may not actually interest you. An alignment of our hearts and minds and souls is, I feel, what truly counts.

The central thing here, though, is to love and accept our partner as they are, without trying to push them to change who they are or to redefine their values, interests and what is important to them. And very often, simply changing the way that we see our partner by looking at them through a different lens makes an almost magical difference. When we do this, things that before were invisible - perhaps even because we have seen them so often that we have begun to take them for granted - are suddenly seen, with new eyes, as if for the first time...

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