When I work with coaching clients, I’ve found that often our first couple of sessions end up being about clearing up relationship drama in their lives. Often, we’re so wrapped up in what our partner is doing, or not doing, that we can’t even start to focus on what we want or need to do in our own lives.
When asked to make one wish, most people automatically ask for “more money!” We all want to be happy, and most have us have bought the idea that money equals happiness. Ironically, research consistently shows that more money (beyond the basic comforts) actually makes people less happy in the long run.
So, if more money can’t guarantee happiness, what will?
Study after study tells us: Healthy, happy relationships.
Your relationship with your significant other, when it’s good, can be the highlight of your life. A difficult, stressful relationship, on the other hand, can actually be hazardous to your health. Hostility in intimate relationships is associated with heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, sudden death, and can suppress your immune system.
Here are 5 things you can do to immediately begin to improve the quality of your relationship:
1) Tend Your Own Garden
How much time do you spend thinking about, or complaining about, what he or she is doing wrong? Catch yourself when you do this, 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. If they’re late coming home, stop stewing and seize the moment to do something you need to do, or enjoy a great book or movie. Smile and say hi when they get home. If they don’t want to attend an event with you, smile and go out and have fun on your own, or invite a friend to go with you. Refuse to let it get you down! These are just a couple of examples. The key is not to let anything they do phase you or wreck your own peace and enjoyment of life.
2) Learn to be Happy, No Matter What They Do
If your happiness depends on what another person does, or doesn’t do, that’s a sure recipe for misery.
(None of the information in this article applies, though, to those who are being verbally, emotionally or physically abused; if that’s your situation, get professional help immediately)
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. So many people begin to identify with our misery, the “I’ve been done wrong” drama. If you’re in that kind of rut, own the fact that you, and you alone, are in charge of how you feel about your life. If you need to change something, change it. Make a commitment to yourself to be happy, no matter what. (People often resist this at first, they identify so much with being the “righteous” partner who is constantly offended, it takes a lot of work on my part to pull them out of the role that they simultaneously curse and love at the same time – after all, there’s a certain satisfaction in being “right” all the time)
3) Listen to Your Body
Be aware that 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, whatever it takes to interrupt your reaction. This really works. I’m not suggesting you leave the room and slam the door – instead, take a deep breath and say something like “I’m going to go into the other room for a few minutes, I’m starting to feel upset and I really don’t want to say anything that might hurt us.” Sometimes being silent, and refusing to respond to barbs and button-pushing, can really help, as long as it’s not the classic “silent treatment”, which is really just a show of anger.
5) Focus on What’s Good
Make a point of focusing on what you like about the other person, and what would be good to improve in your own life. When you focus on the good things, in the other person and your own life, the other person will often begin to miraculously improve on their own. This is the most incredible phenomenon of all. Many people think the other person will never change, unless they insist that they do and repeatedly tell them where they’re failing. Ironically, they often won’t change until you decide to leave them alone, accept them as they are, and focus on your own life and happiness. I’ve seen this happen in the lives of coaching clients all the time, it truly works.
Of course, if you’re consistently struggling in your relationship, getting some professional help and advice (either for you or the two of you) is a wise idea. Regardless, keeping these points in mind will hopefully help things to go more smoothly.