As a transformational coach and holistic psychotherapist, about forty percent of my clients are couples, married and unmarried. I love working with couples. It fascinates me to see who someone chooses as a life partner and to explore the dynamics that they create together. It’s an honor and privilege to be allowed into the private matters and sacred territory of the most intimate part of someone’s life.
I have been working with couples for about ten years. Of course, the couples who come to me are in some kind of distress or they wouldn’t need my services. Lately however, I have seen an increase in couples in distress and what seems to be an epidemic of marriages of people in their 50’s hitting the rocks and breaking up. And in most of the cases, it is the woman who wants out and the man who is devastated.
I think there are many reasons this is happening. Woman are tired of putting their needs last and taking care of everyone else. They often have the economic freedom to be on their own and they crave a deeper emotional connection than they are getting. Many times there is also a basic incompatibility that their younger self just did not see which becomes intolerable as one matures and realizes time is finite.
Oftentimes they still love their partner, but don’t love the relationship. It’s complicated, heart-wrenching and life-altering to make this decision, but sometimes there’s no other healthy choice. I get it. I’ve been there and have been through divorce myself.
What I have come to realize is that perhaps some of these relationships could have been saved if they only knew some key relationship skills to use along the way.
Here’s 5 Keys to a Happy Relationship:
- Show and Express Appreciation
Most of us are starving to feel loved and appreciated. It is easy to take your partner for granted—until they are gone…
It is so easy to focus on what the other person is not doing or what they are doing wrong. But what about what they are doing right? Look for that instead and express your gratitude and appreciation. It’s not that hard to say, “Thank you. I really appreciate that.” Try it. Your partner just may blossom and grow more into what you desire. This one practice could save your relationship and create more daily joy, happiness and heartfelt connection.
- Listen and Communicate
I can’t tell you how many people have told me they only speak to their partner 5-10 minutes per day. Life is busy and other things get in the way. No wonder so many people feel alone and lonely in a relationship. I’m working with a couple now who are separating after 13 years of marriage. They are saying they have never really been “real or authentic” with each other and don’t know exactly who the other one is. The wife’s feelings have died and she no longer wants to be there. The husband is confused and devastated.
Clear the noise in your life. Get off social media, the internet, and the cell phone. Talk to your partner. Tell them your dreams and desires. Ask them theirs. Listen. Get to know each other and truly create a life together. A partner is a gift not a roommate. Make them your priority.
- Validate Your Partner’s Feelings
One of the main frustrations I see in the couples who come to me for coaching, is a lack of feeling validated and understood. Validation means you can see how another person feels the way they do. It does not mean you have to agree with their views, their opinions or their feelings. It simply means you can understand how they feel. Tell them that. You will see them relax and let go of their defenses. Giving this gift to your partner will change your relationship profoundly. Trust me. I’ve seen it happen hundreds of times. The argument melts and disappears, the walls go down and connection is restored.
- Empathize with Your Partner’s Feelings
Empathy is a bit different than validation. It is really “getting” how someone feels. It can be helpful to say to your partner, “It sounds like you feel——sad, angry with me, scared, hurt, frustrated, disappointed, etc. When you actually say this to someone they feel like you are there with them. You stop thinking of your defensive response and truly put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
I have seen a huge lack of empathy in the couples I have worked with. Many of us don’t get much empathy as kids and, as a result, we grow up not knowing how to give it to another person. It’s not necessarily our fault when we don’t know this skill. However, it is critically important to learn to give this in a loving relationship.
- Spend Quality Time With Your Partner
Yes, we are all busy. However, we have to nurture something in order for it to grow and thrive. A neglected plant will shrivel and die. A neglected person has lots of destructive options—an affair, an addiction, a financial betrayal, lies, etc. There are endless options these days. I’m not saying someone’s bad choices or behaviors are someone else’s fault, but things can get very messy.
People and relationships thrive when we attend to them and make them our priority. I’ve seen a firm commitment to a date night help tremendously. I often ask my clients to each create a list of 10 fun things they would like to do together and alternate doing things from each other’s list. Get creative. Stretch outside the box. Do fun stuff, strengthen your bond and watch the love flourish and grow.
I hope this helps. Love and intimate connection are beautiful things and a gift to be grateful for. Try these things and let me know what happens.