Helpful Tips for Successful Intimate Partnerships
BE REALISTIC: Did you know that 69% off all couples* have perpetual conflict issues? This means that no, the grass isn’t greener on the other side – most likely you would find yourself in some sort of ongoing conflict with another partner too. Successful intimate partnerships recognize that perpetual conflicts are managed rather than resolved. Couples must learn to dialogue well with each other regarding their different subjective realities.
IT ALL STARTS WITH A WILLINGNESS TO UNDERSTAND YOUR PARTNER: Yep, you guys can totally differ on issues and ways of being, but if you resist trying to derive an understanding of your partner’s sensitivities around the issues that you find yourselves in gridlock around, feelings of resentment and contempt will rise. Criticism and defensiveness will then soon follow suit. For example: if you knew that your partner held deep-seated childhood wounds around a certain word or behaviour, wouldn’t that cause you to be more mindful of not speaking/doing it (rather than jumping to a conclusion that they are ridiculously over-sensitive, or worse: “crazy”)? Try to consider where some of your own wounds come from, and share these with your partner in an effort to foster understanding and connection, and invite your partner to do the same (hint: vulnerability is the birthplace of love and connection – watch this video: https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability)
SUCCESSFUL RELATIONSHIPS NEED SECURE DEPENDENCE AS WELL AS AUTONOMY: Although these two components may sound like dichotomies, they are really two sides of the same coin; they complement each other beautifully. The more securely connected we can be, the more separate and different we can be. Think of autonomy in the context as an embodiment of interdependency, rather than being distanced and completely self-sufficient.
WE ALL HAVE DIFFERENT “LOVE LANGUAGES”(Chapman, 1995): It is rare for couples to share the same love language and it is often the cause of many misunderstandings. What the heck is a love language, you ask?? A love language is the manner in which you value declarations of love. Love languages can be:
- Quality Time
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
Think for example if you partner values Acts of Service as their valued love language and you show your love to them through Gift-Giving. Your partner may feel invalidated by you not doing meaningful things for them, and you may wind up feeling resentful that your gifts are not being received with the intention in which you give them. Sharing with your partner your love language can save you a whole lot of misinterpretations that lead to relational dis-connection.
INCREASE COMMUNICATION TIME: Did you know that the average couple today only spends an average of 35 minutes in communication with one another per week*? (and no: texting doesn’t count). Research shows that successful intimate partnerships require 5+ hours of direct communication per week. Simple ways to increase quality communication with your partner can be to share meals with the TV switched off and declaring meal time a device-free zone. We often get so entrenched in our patterns of being, that we can struggle to see how little changes can make a world of difference.
Within the worst relational conflict lies the greatest opportunity for growth and intimacy.
John & Julie Gottman