1. Nurture real friendship
According to research, our ability connect with others (our attachment style) is often defined by our childhood experiences. A recent study(Prior and Glasser) suggests that 65% of people have a secure attachment style, while the remaining 35% have an insecure attachment style. Insecure attachment can lead to a wide range of challenging emotional responses, including obsession, jealousy and other emotional ups and downs. Fortunately, this insecure attachment style can be changed through developing a deeper sense of friendship.
Take time to do more things you both enjoy doing rather than focusing on resolving feelings of anxiety and insecurity. Spend at least 10 minutes each day asking about your partners life – their stresses, new friends, interests etc. Learn to recognise, listen and relate to your partners life outside the boundaries of your own relationship.
2. Stop trying to ‘fix’ them.
It’s natural that when see a problem we then try and work out a way to fix it. However, a constant focus on ‘relationship problems’ can lead to a sense of the relationship always being in crisis. This becomes emotionally exhausting and unsustainable. This doesn’t mean you should bury your head in the sand, but instead try to focus on the old adage ‘heal thyself.’ Don’t expect your partner to fill up emotional holes in your life, or don’t try and fill theirs. Rather than trying to fix each other, focus on supporting and assisting them in their own journey towards self-healing.
3. Create a safe and trusting space for communication
Don’t name call, judge or interrupt each other when communicating. If you feel you have the right to be angry, then perhaps it is better to leave the room until you have calmed down. Prepared speeches and reactive dialog will only lead to circular arguments and both parties not listening. Actively focus on the words being said rather than what your next response will be. Open your heart to compassion rather than judgement. Judgement is like a a closed door in someone’s face. Compassion, however, opens up possibilities for real communication.
4. Don’t Project – Ask questions
Challenge your own assumptions and interpretations of what your partner’s behaviour means. For example “He isn’t calling as much, that must mean he is loosing interest.” Perhaps this might be true, but perhaps this may be a projection of your own fears and insecurities. Its always best to err on the side of caution when making judgements and much better to ask: ‘I notice you haven’t been calling as much recently. This is perfectly fine, but just wondering if everything is OK?” It is important to listen to things both said and unsaid in their response and then work out your own judgement. But make sure to also ask yourself the question “What might I be reacting to from my own past in this situation?”
5. Let go of the “ideal”
We are constantly bombarded with images and stories of what love should look like – most of it completely unrealistic. As much as we can intellectually recognise that our own relationship is not a Hollywood romance – we can still sometimes subconsciously strive towards the ideal that a relationship ‘completes us.’ This can lead us to a feeling of never being satisfied in our relationships – a feeling of something missing. It can also lead us into a pattern of co-dependency where we compromise our own sense of self. Embracing a genuinely loving relationship requires us to become whole on our own terms. Partnership then becomes enhancing rather than completing. It has the strength of two holes working together rather than two broken parts failing to fit together.