When most people refer to being in a relationship I often hear “relationships take work” and sometimes this statement is true. Other times I believe relationships do not take as much effort as we believe. I know. I know, but hear me out. I believe when two people have healed from their past trauma, see their spouse as an extension of themselves and are willing to correct their “bad” behaviors that are brought to their attention, then how hard is this really?
I mean when you both are healthy, open minded people who want to see your relationship thrive and love being in that relationship together, what other way could your union go in other than in the direction of peace, joy and happiness?
I believe it is the individuals within the relationship that make it hard. The imbalance comes when one or BOTH parties are not healed, make everything about themselves and disregard their partner’s feelings about how something made them feel. This is often where the struggle comes from. The couples who make it on the other side, make a conscious decision that this is what they want their future to look like with their spouse included. They are not haphazard when it comes to creating their love life. They show their spouse that they are appreciated and it is the two of them against the world. They correct the behaviors their spouse asks them not to continue to do and strive to be a better person and spouse overall.
So, what does working on your relationship really mean? I have seven ways that, if implemented, will change the trajectory of your relationship all around. If you need to change the direction your relationship is headed down, then keep reading.
1. Address difficult conversations
The first thing you two must do is address the difficult conversations. You must address these difficult conversations because when you do not address them, you two are literally staying stuck in one place. When this occurs there is no forward movement. It is as if you two are stuck in time and frozen to repeat this over and over again. It is like a movie on repeat forever and ever. There is no growth and the level of frustration and annoyance is at an all-time high. Why do you need to address the hard conversations? It is because anytime you have resolutions to your problems, now, the problem does not seem astronomical any longer. Anytime you stop or never address the difficult conversations, your relationship will never move forward.
You know how you hear conversations or people in general, say that they are married to their best friend, the way that they get to this level is by not allowing the difficult conversations to get in their way. They are continuously moving forward because they are addressing the tough things as they surface. So, if you are wondering why you two are still having the same conversation 5 or 10 years down the road it is because that problem never got resolved. This is partially why you two are so distant from one another. As soon as you stop allowing your fears to get in the way of being judged or being made to feel guilty or ashamed and face it head on, you two will catapult your love life and remain happier for years to come. So, in order to stop being stuck, address the difficult conversations, come up with solutions and of course, implement them into your relationship.
2. Accept where you two are
The second way you can work on your relationship is to accept where you two are today. A lot of people do not accept where they are currently and then they wonder why comparing their relationship to others comes into play. They wonder why they are so unhappy. They wonder why their friend’s relationships look better. It may seem as if the grass is greener on the other side. This happens because you are not accepting where you two currently are among other things. Some of this, maybe not all of it but some of it definitely has to do with you two not addressing the difficult conversations nor asking yourself “how did our marriage get off track?”
I remember when I was dating my now husband, he mentioned that he and I could have gotten married a lot sooner but we did not because he felt that I was lacking in a particular area. Instead of becoming angry I listened. You see, when we see something that alarms us, you should slow down and pay closer attention. The point of the story is, after I asked myself “Wait a minute, he was talking about marriage and then all of a sudden he stopped talking to me about marriage. What happened?” Instead of me running away from that conversation because I did not want to know what he had to say, I wanted to know because I also wanted to know am I wasting my time or is it something that I can work on? Also, am I willing to work on that thing? Number two, was he asking too much of me. After I let that fear out of the window, I was able to deal with the current situation. Addressing the issue at hand helps you know where your spouse is. You need to figure out where they are in their mind about you and the state of your relationship.
3. Figure out the root cause
The third thing is to figure out the root cause. Figure out the root cause of the breakdown and why you two are in the predicament you guys are in. Now, this could be on something that you are dealing with personally or something you need to release yourself. It could be all you but it could be the both of you. Why are you in this predicament today? What can you do differently in order to shift the relationship from where it is to where you really want it to be? When you figure this out your relationship will be so much smoother. It might not be 100% smooth because there are still going to be some valleys and mountains to climb along the way, however, once you take away the fear and you address things as they are instead of what you believe they should be, you can work on moving your relationship forward. This is what working on your relationship really means.
4. Stop making excuses and start taking actions
The fourth thing is to stop making excuses and start taking actions in order to turn things around. Many of us make excuses as to why we are where we are at in our relationship. We also start to take some actions but when we do not see the results as fast as we believe we should see them then we stop. So, you stopped doing the thing, not realizing that as soon as you stopped doing the thing to make your relationship better, you now start from ground zero every time you start, stop, start, stop, start, stop. Instead of continuing to implement the behaviors you know that you need to do and that you have control over, you give up. Do not make excuses for what your spouse is not doing when you are not disciplining yourself to stay the course in order to plant the seeds and reap the benefits down the road. Y
ou see working on your relationship and yourself is a process. The current state of your relationship will not change overnight.
5. Be patient and kind
Number five is to be as patient and kind as possible. Most of us are not patient because we live in a microwave society. We no longer warm our food in the oven. The oven takes a lot longer than the microwave. When we use a microwave it makes the food heat up instantaneously. That is how we want our relationships to be built. The faster you build it is is as fast as it will crumble. When you build your relationship on a weak foundation it is going to sink and fall apart. So slow down. Be intentional. Be patient when you are trying to figure out why things are not going as smoothly as they should be. One way to do this is to get curious and ask questions. Asking questions is the only way to gain the insight and answers you seek. Anytime you hold things in, you are allowing the frustration, the annoyance, the effort, the guilt and the shame to build up over time.
Speak up. Only you know you have an issue with the things your spouse is not doing. This is what working on your relationship really means and what it actually looks like. It’s not what you see in fairy tales. It is not what you read in romance novels. This is the work: asking the questions, getting down to the root causes and figuring out why there was a shift in your relationship. This is what the work actually looks like.
6. Set and keep your boundaries
The sixth thing is to set and keep your boundaries. When we get into our relationships, we think that just because we are in a relationship with somebody that there are no longer boundaries. Well guess what? There are still boundaries that need to be set and enforced. Anytime you set a boundary and do not enforce it, your spouse will not believe you the next time. It is not that you are doing this to be mean but you are setting the stage for how you want to be treated in your relationship. I talk to a lot of clients that have this issue of not setting or enforcing their boundaries and they wonder why they feel taken advantage of or disrespected by their spouse. Setting boundaries is not a form of punishment. They are healthy ways for you to recharge and remain at peace as well as keeping you both in harmony.
7. Seek outside help
The seventh way to work on your relationship is to seek outside help when you need it. You know whatever is happening in your relationship you cannot or do not know how to handle what is happening nor have the tools to turn things around. There are coaches and counselors out there, myself included, who can help you go from where you are today to where you really want to be in your relationship. That can only happen if you seek outside help. All of your frustration and annoyance that has been built up; the breakdown in the communication, the breakdown in the intimacy or trust, all of that is occurring because you guys do not know what you are doing. You have not learned the tools and the strategies you need in order to pull you out of the situation, the frustration nor the conflicts you guys keep going through. This is why you two remain on the same hamster wheel over and over again. You lack the correct tools. You do not have the correct strategies, so you need to seek somebody out that can help you get from this crazy state the two of you are in to the state of bliss in your love life. It only occurs for a very small number of people. Those are the people that learn the lessons and become a part of the top one percent of couples that have extraordinary relationships.
My name is Marshaun Olaniyan. I am your relationship strategist and I help Christian women that are married or in long-term relationships to stop feeling disconnected and unloved and shift them to feeling heard, understood and appreciated. You are reading this article and have made it this far because you want results in your love life. Definitely book your FREE 30-minute coaching conversation here.
All the best,