By Jamie C. Williamson, Ph
Spring symbolizes rebirth and reminds us of the opportunity to refresh and renew our lives and improve our relationships. These 3 R’s guide the relationship improvement process.
If couples don’t get too caught up in “making” themselves seem happy, they can use these longer spring days to relax and reflect on how to refresh their daily priorities, renew their relationships, and let their “happy” bloom naturally.
The 3 R’s of Relationship Improvement
Despite what you may think, people don’t really learn from experience. Instead, we learn from reflecting on our experience. And, the same goes for couples, too.
Think about it. Unless they reflect on their experiences, couples just rehash the same arguments and make the same mistakes over and over again.
To renew their relationship, couples have to truly think about how their life could flow more easily and be filled with the simple pleasures that constitute true happiness, not the manufactured kind. This type of reflection usually begins with one person, who later shares it with the other.
So, this spring try to capture some private time for yourself so that you can truly reflect on your relationship. Does your marriage seem routine? Does your spouse seem like your roommate and not your best friend and the love of your life? Do you fight about things that don’t really matter and avoid talking about the things that do? Have you let the kids’ activities monopolize all your discretionary time? Have you let your own interests take away from the time you could (and probably should) be spending with your partner? Have you let financial concerns keep you from finding creative ways to bring simple joys into your relationship?
In order to to let your “happy” bloom naturally again, you first have to identify the patterns you would like to improve. So whatever life stage or circumstance you are in, think honestly about what small changes would make a big difference, and keep in mind, that it might be YOUR approach that needs to change.
Once you have identified the existing patterns that interfere with the easy flow of happiness in your relationships, select the one non-threatening pattern that you believe — if changed — would bring a sense of renewal to the daily life of your relationship. Later, you can address the other issues you identified.
Make one change at a time, because the increased happiness you feel from the first change, makes subsequent changes easier to implement.
Begin to change the interfering pattern by refreshing the way you and your spouse/partner approach the issue involved. This will, of course, require you to disclose what you’ve been thinking about to your partner.
The trick is to initiate the conversation with what’s called a “soft start-up”. A “soft start-up” addresses the issue directly and head-on, but does NOT include criticism or blame. Begin with an “I” statement and say, for example, “Things are so hectic for us these days, I really miss having time to just hang out with you. Will you help me figure out some small changes we could make in our routines so that there is more time for us to just be together?”
This refreshed approach will not work if your partner feels blamed for your discontent. Be sure to use the soft start-up and take the time needed to create a safe conversational zone. Then, don’t be surprised if you learn that your partner has been feeling the same way.
When couples refresh their approach to managing the daily patterns in their lives, they are able to reprioritize the allocation of their time, energy, and finances; recapture time to invest in their relationship; and, create a sense of renewal and base-line happiness in their relationship. When this happens, couples don’t even think about how to make happiness, it just blooms naturally, like spring, every day.
So, share this post with your partner, grab some couple time, and brush up on the 3 R’s that let happy relationships bloom naturally.
And, Let me know if I can help.
You’ll find me at Amity Mediation Workshop, where we facilitate divorce, family, and civil mediations. We also are authorized to use the Gottman Relationship Checkup as we conduct transformative, psycho-educational Marriage Refresher Courses with our clients who want to stay together, but restore the joy in their marriage.