Avoid couple’s therapy by doing these 8 things

Avoid couple’s therapy by doing these 8 things

Life takes a toll on relationships, but there is plenty you can do to help yours thrive.

GETTY/Stuff

Life takes a toll on relationships, but there is plenty you can do to help yours thrive.

*Karen Nimmo is a Wellington-based clinical psychologist.

OPINION: You’ve had a fight with your partner? So far, so normal.

No couple floats through life without niggles and struggles – and it’s often a whole lot worse than that.

Relationships test us, sometimes through tragedy or big, unexpected events. But, often, just through the ebbs, flows and stresses of life which can wear down even solid partnerships.

Research suggests struggling couples wait six years before they sign up for counselling. By then bad habits – even toxic behaviours – have crept in and it can be too late to turn things around.

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* How to bring your relationship back from the brink
* The Divorce Diaries: Should I stay or should I go?

There’s no “recipe” for a great relationship. But if you cover off the basics, you give yourself the best chance of building a contented life together. And staying out of therapy.

Wellington-based clinical psychologist Karen Nimmo has solid advice on how to avoid couple’s therapy.

Supplied

Wellington-based clinical psychologist Karen Nimmo has solid advice on how to avoid couple’s therapy.

Here’s how the happiest couples do it.

Listen – it’s more powerful than talking

Healthy two-way communication is important but if you have to choose between talking and listening, go with listening – every time. Your ability to really HEAR what your partner is saying – to see the world from their perspective – makes all the difference. Being able to understand your partner’s view is invaluable because it helps guide your behaviour and know which parts of the way you act within the relationship need a tweak.

Say what’s up – even if it’s hard

Many relationships have been hobbled by one partner’s inability to express what’s going on for them. To be fair, some people really are the “strong, silent” types – it’s hard, if not excruciating, for them to express their thoughts and emotions. But you need to try. Your partner shouldn’t have to guess at your issues. If you’re struggling, they deserve to know about it, so they can (1) understand your behaviour and (2) help and support you.

Compromise – but don’t roll over

If you always need to be right or get your own way then, sorry, you’re not good partner material. It’s really tiring to be with someone who always has to have the last word. And it’s unhealthy to be with someone who needs to dominate.

Great relationships are built on compromise. That doesn’t mean striking deals or rolling over to all your partner’s desires (or demands) or giving up your own identity. It means accepting the person you’re with, not hustling to change them or wishing they were different. It means coming to an understanding about both your needs and knowing what matters most to each of you.

Act thoughtfully – because the opposite sucks

This one sounds obvious – because it is. Good partners are considerate: they do kind, thoughtful things for each other, even if it’s not their “love language” to do so. When making your own choices, you should consider your partner’s feelings. Going to be out late? Call them. Want to go away for a weekend on your own? Discuss it with them. Want to take up a high-risk hobby? Or come off your meds? Or move your mother in upstairs? TALK ABOUT IT. Staying true to yourself is good; being selfish is not.

Intimacy can look like a lot of different things.

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Intimacy can look like a lot of different things.

Share intimacy – it comes in many forms

Sex, cuddles, touch, banter, a shared joke – being close in whatever ways work for you both. And, when you’ve drifted apart, noticing it and finding ways to come back together.

Spend time together – willingly

Willingness is the key word here. Spending 1000 silent hours at the opposite ends of the couch with your eyes fixed on television doesn’t count. Nor does the time you spend together because you have nothing better to do.

As the saying goes, when you get some free time, who you gonna call? That doesn’t mean spending every waking minute with your partner. It just means you like being with them – and create ways to make it happen.

Laughing together with your partner connects you in a way that is beneficial to your relationship.

Oleksii Hrecheniuk/123rf

Laughing together with your partner connects you in a way that is beneficial to your relationship.

Share a laugh – it binds you

Can you make each other laugh? Research points to laughter as the surprising secret to many great relationships. Humour (of the positive, non-sarcastic kind) can positively influence relationship satisfaction. You don’t have to run stand-up comedy routines or have exactly the same sense of humour, but to banter, to share an in-joke, or a belly laugh, to know the other person “gets it”, is binding in a relationship. It can hold even struggling couples together. And, at the very least, it can make a grey day seem brighter.

Plan the future – together

When couples first get together they often gauge a partner’s intentions by the way they talk about the future: should we do something for Christmas? Let’s plan a trip together? Making plans together demonstrates your investment. Of course, keeping those plans shows you meant it.

The happiest (established) couples keep planning. They have individual goals and interests but they craft their futures together. And – surprise, surprise – it includes what both of them want.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/wellbeing/129577365/avoid-couples-therapy-by-doing-these-8-things