Monday, February 24, 2014
9 Rational Tips For A Happy Relationship
Who doesn't crave a more satisfying and pleasure-filled relationship? It's easier than you think! These 9 tips have proven valuable in creating and sustaining fun and joyful connections.
1. Recall Initial Desire - Remember that first moment you saw your partner and felt how much you wanted him or her? Sure, babies and bills can often weaker sexual hunger. But it is also possible, and I'd say essential, in long-term relationships to actively and consciously return to that initial perception of your partner as hot. Sometimes all it takes is a focused memory, though others sometimes have that desire rekindled when they see their spouse lusted by someone else. Esther Perel's book, "Mating In Captivity" offers much guidance in this area.
2. Keep Your Agreements - The most damage done to relationships is when trust is diminished or destroyed. It is better to not commit or promise something that you have no intention or ability to follow through with action. At the end of the day, your integrity and your word are all you have. If you blow that, you might could very well be spending many nights alone.
3. Discuss "Monogamy" - There is a good reason I don't believe in the word "cheating." Not only does it set up an oppositional victim/perpetrator dynamic in couples, but in most relationships there was never any discussion about monogamy to begin with. And what, exactly, is "monogamy"? Touching another person? Penetration? Condoms? Sexting? Skyping? Flirting? Fantasizing? For every 100 people we could get 100 different boundaries around "monogamy." If you don't discuss these perimeters with your primary partner, you are bound to experience a painful conversation after something has gone horribly wrong.
4. No Serious Topics While Wasted - I can't tell you how many times couples have had birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays ruined by something stupid someone said while drunk. If you are going to indulge in spirits, or any substances, then make an agreement ahead of time not to discuss certain emotional or sensitive topics. There is a reason why it's against the law to drive while drunk or high — your judgment is impaired. Same goes for communicating with a primary partner while stoned.
5. Don't Snoop - Snooping only leads to pain, suffering, anger, frustration, and mistrust on both sides. It has never resulted in two people experiencing deeper connection, intimacy, or trust. Still, if you need more convincing, here's why snooping never works out in the snooper’s favor:
- The snooper doesn’t find anything, and continues to live with a lingering fear that their partner is keeping something from them.
- The snooper does find something confusing and is not sure what it means. Then they must figure out whether to consult their findings with an outside friend or family member, who is now involved in the deception.
- The snooper does find something “incriminating” and has to decide what to do about it, which ultimately leaves them with three options:
1. Say nothing and harbor fear and resentment.
2. Again drag that innocent bystander into the violation.
3. Say something and have their partner experience a sense of violation, betrayal, and inability to trust the snooper ever again.
So what do you do when you want to know something? Ask your partner. If you don't trust your partner's word, then you are going to have much bigger problems ahead.
6. Respect Different Values - You and your spouse are two different people who came from two different families, and most likely grew up in two different schools, in two different communities, possibly in two different parts of the world, with very different ideas of "good" or "bad." Instead of trying to "change" the other, demonstrate respect for the differences. That doesn't mean you have to agree with standards, practices, and rituals that are authentically different for you. It does mean that your relationship will survive much longer when you are willing to say, "I respect your right to think differently from me."
7. Give Presents of Presence - How often in public places do you see two people together, but having conversations with anyone else in the world except the person sitting across from them? What seems clear in the 21st Century is that the interest and skill to engage in a face-to-face conversation without a mechanical object buzzing, humming, ringing, or singing is fading. It has become increasingly rare to find and maintain presence in a world that normalizes and validates distraction. As presence becomes more of a scarcity in society, it is even more cherished in primary relationships. By giving your partner undivided time and clear focus, you are giving him or her a gift unlike any other. Remaining present in your relationship increases intimacy, understanding, connection, and goes a long way to strengthen the compassion pillar.
8. Communicate Effectively - Most people have no idea how to effectively communicate what they are thinking and feeling to another person. The dearth of decent communication skills has done more to sustain therapist's vacation homes than anything else! It doesn't have to be that hard to say what you mean. My book, Rational Relating offers lots of simple tips and strategies to use your words wisely. You can save a lot of money on the counselor's couch or divorce court by:
- Eliminating the word "should" from your vocabulary.
- Not starting questions with the word, "WHY?"
- Not starting statements with the word, "You..."
- Refraining from all-or-nothing qualifiers such as "nothing", "never," "always," "every."
- No serious discussions by text/chat
Just implementing these changes can do a lot to promote trust and intimacy between you and your partner. Change your communication, and you change your connection.
9. End The Day With "Thank-Yous" - If you don't wish to harbor resentments from day to day, week to week, and year to year, then you will want to take an emotional scrub-brush to your brain, and release grievances toward the end of the day. Clearly, there will be times this will be harder than others. But if you and your partner conclude the night with a few authentic "thank-yous", I guarantee you will sleep better, and experience more gratitude and appreciation for your spouse. This does not "solve" every problem, but it sure helps give you the clarity you'll need to resolve the problem.
These nine tips might feel like a lot of work. But trust me, the more time and effort you spend in your relationship, the less money you'll spend on therapists and lawyers.
Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in New York who has helped hundreds of couples and individuals create joyful, peaceful, and pleasurable relationships. He is the author of the books, “Rational Relating” and “Absolutely Should-less.” His trainings have helped thousands to learn practical skills for living an empowered and fulfilling life. To speak with Damon about counseling, speaking engagements, or media appearances - please contact him at Damon@DamonLJacobs.com, call 347-227-7707, or visit www.DamonLJacobs.com