Stop Your Relationship From Drifting
Many people think that finding someone compatible to get into a relationship with is the hard part of falling in love, but what they don’t realize is that it takes a different sort of effort to stay in love. There are plenty of barriers that make it challenging to maintain a healthy and happy relationship; stress, communication problems, and jealousy are only just a few. Here are four ways to combat their effects before they make your relationship drifts too far to bring it back:
1. Plan quality time
The thought of having to plan to share quality time together might not seem much fun, but when life gets busy - which it always has a tendency of doing - you relationship shouldn’t have to run the risk of decline simply because you took the power of a date day/night for granted. When you slot in activities after a day’s work or look ahead to enjoyable weekend pursuits, the two of you get to share looking forward into the future, together. There’s a chemistry that develops, an excitement for what’s to come, because you never quite know what great things can happen when you make a point of creating such valuable opportunities.
Planning quality time sets your relationship up for success. Making fun plans was exactly what the two of you did before you got committed in the first place; do you really think your relationship can withstand an absence of such continued attention? Yes, there are dishes to be done – yes, the lawn needs to be mowed … but if you don’t reaffirm the bond you’ve created with each other, no chore or errand will be worth the risk of separation. Here are some easy ways to get started:
- get outdoors
- try a sport or hobby that’s new to both of you
- do a couples-oriented activity
- cook together
- go out with another couple (make sure they’re fun!)
- plan a trip
2. Learn to communicate difficult feelings
A chapter from the acclaimed book, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus,” is about learning to communicate difficult feelings, and how it is one of the cornerstones of keeping a relationship from drifting away. But all too often, it is a skill that falls sadly to the wayside. Why is it so hard for couples to express emotion without it being at their partner’s expense? “When we are upset, disappointed, frustrated, or angry, it is difficult to communicate lovingly”, says author John Gray, PhD. “When negative emotions come up, we tend momentarily to lose our appreciation, and respect. At such times, even with the best intentions, talking turns into fighting.”
Since you’ve got an entire lifetime to practice healthy emotional expression - not to mention unlearn unsuccessful communication strategies that you’ve picked up along the way - there’s no better time to start than now. A great area to start with is being selective about when you ‘discuss’ provoking topics. Let’s take money, for example. It’s a ‘hot button’ relationship issue that can easily turn into an argument, and flared emotions make it easy to lose sight of any amicable solution. When tensions rise and conversations turns ugly, politely request an intermission by saying something like, “I’m having a hard time being rational and I don’t want to offend you because I’m upset. I’d like to cool off before we continue our discussion.”
3. Avoid using sex as a weapon
All too often, a bickering couples poor ‘ol innocent sex life has to get dragged through the mud when they fight. An innocent victim of power struggles, jealous fits, or whatever other relationship issue that truly deserves the blame, sex becomes the weapon that couples use to get back at each other over hurt feelings and resentment. Granted, when you’re ticked off at your boyfriend or girlfriend, the last thing you probably want to do is give them the satisfaction of sexual pleasure, but the fact is there’s no sense in creating permanent barriers in the bedroom over petty problems in your day to day life.
The truth of the matter is that sex shouldn’t ever be treated like a chore, or as a duty, but when you don’t learn to communicate difficult feelings (see #1) effectively, grudges fester and important conversations get left unsaid, and your sexual connection slowly gets chipped away at because you’re withdrawn or upset. When problems arise, talk it out, negotiate a solution, and then go make up. How? You guessed it - work out the last bit of tension after your fight is over in a more mutually beneficial sort of way. ;)
4. Don’t avoid problems because you’re scared of being single
According to author and Psychology Today contributor, Karen Salmansohn, “People stay in bad relationships longer than they should because the fear of the pain of dating seems scarier than the pain of a bad relationship. People prefer to cling to the familiar - even when it's painful - rather than attempt to stretch themselves with the hope of expanding their happiness.”
Sometimes the fear of the unknown prevents people from exploring issues that could threaten the relationship that they’re in. Although it’s scary to consider having to start over with someone new, the common denominator in all your relationships is you, and an unwillingness to face problems head-on is a pattern that can make any couple drift apart.
So go ahead and put a magnifying glass on yourself, your partner, and your relationship - and take a good look. If you see something you don’t like, consider yourself fortunate for uncovering it so early. When there are issues that need to be addressed with your partner, do so in a positive and constructive manner; if they’re willing to face reality with the same dedication you are, you’ll have little trouble finding strategies to deal with them.
No relationship is immune to problems arising out of stress, communication breakdowns, or personality conflicts. What sets a happy couple apart from one that is drifting apart is knowing how to identify issues and cope with obstacles as a team.