Yes! You Can Fine Tune Your Relationship Starting Tonight – 8 Practical Tips
Most of us are careful to maintain our cars and trucks – changing the oil, rotating the tires, washing them and having tune ups at the mileage prescribed by the manufacturer. We also do tune ups regarding our health, scheduling annual physicals, semi-annual dental checkups and cleanings, and regular vision exams. And then there’s the regular maintenance on the house – yearly air-conditioning maintenance, yard maintenance, pest control, etc. In all these areas and more, we understand the need for maintenance, but in our couple relationship we somehow believe that it will take care of itself. Nothing could be further from the truth. We need to be just as diligent in maintaining our marriages and long-term relationships as we are in maintaining our boat, motorcycle or other material possession.
So, what are some things that we can do to “fine-tune” our marriage or long-term relationships? There is no “one thing” that will accomplish a satisfying and fulfilling relationship. There is no formula that will guarantee if you do “X”, then you will get “Y”. It has a lot to do with your attitude and your heart. Ask yourself, “Do I have to work on my relationship?” or “Do I get to work on my relationship?” Your mate can tell if you are operating from the heart or from a sense of duty. It is a matter of the heart! So think about these eight practical tips and tools that you get to use as you fine tune your relationship.
- Know Yourself. The first step in working on your relationship is to work on you! Do you know what your hot buttons and triggers are? In conflict, do you demand to settle the issue or do you avoid the issue? Are you still carrying baggage and damage from a previous relationship(s)? Have you healed from past hurts and disappointments? What are your goals and dreams? What is your purpose? We are all works in progress. The key word is “progress”. If you are each growing and progressing as individuals, your relationship will become dynamic, exciting and fulfilling!
- Know Your Mate. Become their best friend and an expert on what they like, what they want and what they need. Ask them about their dreams and aspirations. Don’t assume that you know them fully just because you’ve been married a few (or many) years.
- Listen to and Validate Your Mate. Does it seem like your partner goes on and on about something? The chances are that they don’t feel heard and validated. Validation does not necessarily mean that you agree with your mate. It means that you value you them. You value their thoughts, opinions and feelings. To listen to them is in and of itself validating. Listen to learn. Listen to affirm. Listen to show your love. Listen!
- Establish a Daily Couple Connection. Every day spend at least 15 minutes in one-on-one conversation with your partner. You might share your highs and lows for the day. Make the conversation about you and your relationship and not about chores or kids. Talk about dreams and goals, feelings and what is interesting to you as a person. It would be a great time to express appreciation, which is the next tip.
- Express Appreciation. In the busyness of earning a living and raising a family, couples can begin to take each other for granted. It might seem that we should do what needs to be done without expectation of thanks, and that might be all right for a short time, but each of us needs to be appreciated and noticed. If we are not, we can begin to feel taken advantage of, not valued, even not loved. Tell your mate “thank you” for what they do and how it makes you feel that they do it. For example, “Thanks for folding the laundry. When I saw that it had been done, I felt thought about and part of a team.”
- Say What you Want or Need. Too often, we fall into the trap of complaining or blaming as a way to get what we want or need. These are both counter-productive and often produce defensiveness in our partner which can lead to arguments, anger and pulling apart. It’s far healthier to say what you want or need. For instance, you come home from work and there are dirty dishes, not only in the sink, but also stacked on the counters. You need to start dinner but you can’t because of the clutter. The natural tendency would be to complain and blame your mate who is sitting on the couch watching TV. “Why can’t you put these dishes in the dishwasher? You knew that I would need to start dinner when I got home and that they are in the way! You’re lazy and self- centered!” To say what you need without complaining or blaming would be something like: “I am often tired when I come home from work to start dinner. When the dishes are not put out of the way, I feel overwhelmed. Please help me by putting any dirty dishes in the dishwasher and wiping down the counters so that I can begin meal prep. And hey, you will get dinner sooner that way, too!” To be clear about what you want and need is your responsibility. Don’t expect your partner to know or to notice what you might think is obvious…like dirty dishes on the counter.
- Be Affectionate. Even if you’re not naturally physically expressive, your relationship will benefit from physical touch and affection. Holding hands, cuddling on the couch and touching each other while in conversation are just a few of the ways that you can express affection. Try 10-second hugs or kisses for fun. The rule is that either partner can call for a 10 second hug or kiss and the other partner has to oblige. After a month, you will notice a difference in your connection with your mate.
- Date Your Mate. Getting away from the kids and responsibilities and have fun. You thought your mate was fun at one time. They are still that person and, with a little coaxing and the right environment, they can still be fun!
Many couples have found that attending a marriage seminar or marriage retreat has been extremely helpful in fine-tuning their relationship. Online relationship coaching is a good alternative as well since it can be done from the privacy of your own home. Whatever it takes, maintain and fine-tune your relationship and you will have something more satisfying and longer lasting than the “toys” in the driveway!