Is your relationship in trouble? Having worked with thousands of couples during the last 46 years, I've seen over and over what creates relationship success or failure. Here are some choices that can make a huge difference:
1. You take responsibility for your feelings rather than expecting your partner to make you happy.
The major issue in relationships is whether you take responsibility for your feelings of worth, safety, lovability and happiness, or whether you make your partner responsible for these feelings.
If you believe that your partner is responsible for making you happy, safe and worthy, what do you do when he or she doesn't do what you want?
- Get angry, attack and blame, withdraw or find other ways to punish your partner?
- Try harder to please your partner, giving yourself up?
- Shut down and get depressed?
- Turn to various addictions to fill the emptiness?
- Have an affair?
Does any of this help your relationship?
The major way you can begin to heal your relationship is to learn how to love yourself — how to take loving care of your own feelings. Sharing love heals. Trying to get love destroys.
2. You show kindness, caring, and compassion toward your partner more often than you show judgment.
Do you treat yourself with kindness? Do you treat your partner with kindness? Do you have each other's back? Relationships heal and thrive with kindness, caring and compassion, but often fail when partners are not kind with themselves and each other.
Be honest with yourself: how often are you kind and caring, and how often are you judgmental toward yourself or your partner? If you're critical of your partner, chances are that you're also critical of yourself; self-judgment often leads to judgment of others. It's hard for love to thrive in this climate.
3. You try to learn instead of control.
At any given moment, we are always in one of two intents:
- The intent to learn about loving ourselves and others
- The intent to control, to get love and avoid pain
Consciously choosing the intent to learn about love is relationship-healing. Unconsciously choosing the intent to control is relationship-destroying.
Conflict gets lovingly resolved when both partners are intent on learning about themselves and each other. Conflicts often remain unresolved when one or both partners are intent on controlling.
4. You prioritize spending time with each other rather than always "getting things done."
Taking time to hang out together, to share your day, to cuddle, to make love, to play, to laugh together and cry together — these are all relationship healing choices. Staying focused on crossing off everything on your to-do list can be relationship-destroying. Couples thrive when there is time for connection, and they fall apart when getting things done consistently has a higher priority than connection.
5. You choose gratitude rather than complaining.
Having gratitude for the beautiful things about each other — the things that you first fell in love with — is relationship healing. Complaining, either about your partner or about things in general, is relationship destroying. Relationships thrive in the high frequency of gratitude, and wither in the low frequency of complaints.
Sometimes people try to connect through complaining about other people or situations, but this is connecting on the level of wounding rather than the level of love.
Loving relationships are all about connection, which occurs when you take responsibility for your own feelings, when you are kind and caring to yourself and your partner, when you focus on learning rather than controlling, when you take time to connect with each other, and when you share gratitude with each other.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D., is a best-selling author, relationship expert, and Inner Bonding® facilitator. She has counseled individuals and couples since 1968. She is the author/co-author of nine books, including the internationally best-selling Do I Have to Give Up Me to Be Loved by You?, Healing Your Aloneness, Inner Bonding, and Do I Have to Give Up Me to Be Loved by God? and her recently published book, Diet For Divine Connection. She is the co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® healing process, recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette, and featured on Oprah, as well as on the unique and popular website Inner Bonding.