Your relationship with your significant other, when it’s good, can be the highlight of your life and light up every cell in your body.
On the other hand, a difficult, stressful relationship can be hazardous to your health. Hostility in intimate relationships increases your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, sudden death, and suppresses your immune system.
Here are 5 things you can do to immediately begin to improve the quality of your relationship:
1) Tend To Your Own Garden
How much time do you spend thinking about or complaining about what he or she is doing wrong? Catch yourself, and stop. Consciously turn your focus, at that moment, to what would be the best thing you could do, right now, to look after yourself and your own life.
Could you call a friend? (note: this would be to say hello, not to complain!) Are your finances in dire need of attention? Could you do something around the house that you’ve been putting off that’s weighing on you? How about going for a walk, or a trip to the gym, to burn off your frustration and those extra pounds?
There’s always something more productive that you can do rather than stewing or complaining. Clearly, if you’re upset and there’s a major conflict in your relationship, it needs to be addressed at some point (women, in particular, who hold in resentments and unexpressed anger are at greater risk for early death). However, if you spend a significant amount of your life energy being angry with or complaining about your partner, resolve to take the attention off of them and onto what needs to be attended to in your own life.
2) Learn to be Happy, No Matter What They Do
If your happiness depends on what another person does or doesn’t do, you’re sure to be miserable at some point, if not most of the time. When you’re enjoying a perfectly good day and someone marches in and starts dumping their anger or frustration or bad mood on you, become aware of this phenomenon and catch yourself before you get “infected” by their emotional state. Don’t let them drag you down!
Decide to be happy, no matter what. Find, or create, things about your life that you enjoy, and focus on them when things get tough.
3) Listen to Your Body
Hostility and resentment hurt you more than they do the other person, especially if you keep feeling resentful even when the person’s not with you! Learn to recognize signs of tension and poor health in your body: stomach pains, neck or back pain, headaches.
At the first sign, assess the situation and do something that helps you immediately feel better (note: lashing out at your significant other does not count!).
4) Own Your Own Buttons
If your partner knows just what to do or say to set you off, don’t blame them for your reaction. You can’t control what someone else does, but you can control what you do.
Learn to recognize your own “hot buttons”, and notice yourself as you start to react. Stop, go to another room, do something silly, give them a big kiss (like you mean it), whatever it takes to interrupt your reaction. It’s not always easy, and you’ll fail sometimes, but once you get good at this you will be amazed by how much less drama and conflict you experience with your significant other.
5) Focus on What’s Good
Make a point of focusing on what you like about the other person, and what’s good (and what could be better) in your own life. Even if ninety percent of what the other person does drives you batty, remind yourself – and them – frequently about what you do appreciate.
I’ve observed this phenomenon time and again in my coaching clients: when you focus on the good things about another person, and simultaneously begin attending to the neglected areas of your own life, the other person will often begin to miraculously improve on their own. Talk about a win-win!
P.S. If you’re too angry or resentful to want to do it for “them”, do this for yourself and your health!
(An important caveat: if you are in an abusive relationship, be it physical or verbal or emotional abuse, these tips do not apply. Please seek help from a professional, immediately, if you are in this situation)