Relationships were meant to be the joyful journey of two loving people striving towards fulfillment and enlightenment. If only it were that simple. At times, relationships have this curious way of leaving us more confused, frustrated and dissatisfied than does being single. We love our partner but we don't understand them yet we want to work things out. Escalating emotions lead us to overreact and over analyze. It's complicated, at best. (Read: How to Stack the Deck in Your Favour When Dating Online)
As a psychologist, I've been confessed every relationship dilemma imaginable. Some require deep analysis and serious effort, while others benefit from a quick fix. From cheating scandals to bitter betrayals to being married for 30 years but sleeping in different beds, I've been taught one monumental lesson by my career: there is a solution to every single conceivable problem.
No matter how seemingly perfect, all relationships suffer from some cause for concern. Chances are, your love relationship is speckled with some of the more manageable issues which are both temporary and reparable if the right actions are taken. Reflect on these seven how-to's and apply my solutions to reach emotional prosperity in your partnership:
How to settle arguments. Contrary to what you've heard, arguments can be quite a productive force in relationships. That's because it's not so much about the initial argument as it is about the final agreement. This means that how you resolve your disagreements and the conclusions you reach far outweigh the dispute itself. Never leave feuds unfinished or let things "go away on their own." An argument which occurs once is bound to becoming a recurring source of conflict. Compromise to resolve disagreements once and for all by eliminating the catalyst of your hostility.
How to encourage better communication. Most couples complain of communication issues. Not listening is a roadblock which impedes mutual progress. Yet it's a common issue because both partners hold dearly onto their egos and would rather not have their opinions questioned. The key to communication is to invite your partner to talk first. Ask your partner a key question, which is likely to lead him or her to releasing his or her thoughts and emotions. Once you have listened openly without speaking, tell your partner that you're ready to share your point of view. Speak to your partner as if you were speaking to your best friend: uninhibited, unintimidated and unafraid.
How to resolve recurring issues. The first step in resolving recurring issues is to dig to the root of the problem. This means, for example, that your partner's emotional issues are not random, but might stem from some childhood experience or a deep-seated need to be mothered. Once you've discovered the origins of the issue, you must address and manage this underlying cause before you can put a stop to a persisting problem. Breaking patterns of negative action largely involves a process of healing, as we often act out when we are hurting subconsciously.
How to cut out external influences. In my practice, I have seen that external influences are oftentimes the hidden reason for conflict. We unknowingly invite all sorts of energies into our relationship: family, friends and even enemies all play a role in the fluctuating dynamic between us and our partner. Even worse, we can sometimes misperceive the intentions of others and think that they wish us well when they might not. Be wary of the influences you allow to seep into your relationship. As a rule of thumb, keep most secrets strictly between you and your significant other. Your love relationship is an incredibly intimate bond and its details are best left between only its two members.
How to regain trust. Trust is more easily broken than built. And once trust is lost, it can become particularly tricky to recover. Regaining trust in someone else requires that you first establish trust in yourself. Once you understand that you will never fail yourself, put your partner to the test. Give your partner a mental point for each trustworthy deed: being on time, doing as they promised, being honest, etc. In time, your trust will be built up once more to a healthy degree.
How to make progress. Progress is a two-person sport. Both partners have to be in accordance and want to move in the same direction. Progress also necessitates a conscious desire to change. And the most powerful way to facilitate change in another person is to change yourself. If your partner simply won't budge, consider modifying your own behavior. Assess the situation and understand what needs to be tweaked to improve your relationship. For instance, if you find yourself doing all the work, take a step back and see how your partner responds to the sudden decrease in effort from your part. Their subsequent actions will show you where they stand.
How to keep love alive. Maintaining that "spark" throughout the years is difficult to do. For many, love fizzles out and habit creeps in. But that fleeting feeling of newfound love can be reenacted through a medley of new and old activities. Push your partner and yourself out of your comfort zones. To start, go back to the beginning and do something you loved to do in the first few months of your relationship. Leave the cell phones at home and communicate throughout the activity. Then, try something completely new, something you've always wanted to try but perhaps haven't had time. There are no excuses to doing whatever it takes to keep love alive. (Read: Work woes: sex difficulties in busy people)
How to make your partner happy. There is no simple answer when it comes to making another person happy because there is no guarantee that, even if your partner is given what they want, they will be satisfied. But the only infallible act to keep someone content is to show them unconditional love. Our partner will do things which will downright upset us, but unconditional love should step in as the little voice that reassures, "It's okay, we can work through this." Small reminders of love -- such as a short sweet message or a hot meal after a long day -- work wonders in helping your significant other understand that they are cherished.
All relationships will experience bumps in the road, but most problems can be resolved through a combination of compromise and simple, pure love. The more effort both partners put into crafting their connection, the more loving rewards they will reap.