It takes more than love to keep a relationship strong. Among other things, it takes effort, care, and attention.
But you already knew that, right?
What you might not know is that most of the time, we subconsciously sabotage our relationships by adopting problematic behavior patterns, that we think are harmless.
It’s like putting a knife against your partner’s neck and assuming it’s no big deal.
Breaking those patterns by doing some easy and simple tweaks is essential if you want your relationship to remain a source of comfort, fun, and joy.
Here are four easy behavior tweaks to keep it going strong.
Stop Trying to “Win”
Conflict is a natural element of any relationship. When you blend your life with someone else’s, disagreements will arise from time to time.
What matters is the way you approach those arguments. Your attitude can either bring you and your partner closer, or put emotional distance between you.
A damaging thing couples do during their fights is that they turn into combatants; they view their arguments in terms of “right” and “wrong”, “winner” and “loser”. A simple argument is transformed into a power play.
If you want your relationship to stand the test of time, you need to stop trying to win. In an argument, there are no winners and losers, only two people trying to understand each other, improve their communication and optimize their relationship.
Clinical psychologist Randi Gunther says it best:
“Great relationships truly depend on both partners being willing to own their own accountability in conflicts and to seek resolution together.”
You won’t always see eye to eye with your partner. Try to listen more. Own your accountability, and admit your mistakes — everyone has a fair share of them! The point of being in a relationship is to be willing to work with your partner in order to fix the situation that caused the argument, not against them.
Stop Expecting Your Partner to Read Your Mind
Take a minute and be honest with me.
How many times, even though you didn’t specifically share your thoughts with your partner, have thought something along the lines of:
- “He should have known I wanted him to buy me *that thing*.”
- “She already knows what I think.”
- “There’s no way he didn’t know what I thought about that matter.”
- “She did *that thing* even though she knew I wouldn’t like it.”
But how would your partner know how you feel or what you think about a specific matter if you haven’t discussed it with them?
In your head, you might think that your partner knew exactly what you wanted but never gave it to you, or that they intentionally did something hurtful to you, when, in reality, they weren’t aware of your needs/thoughts in the first place.
You see, your partner can’t read your mind. Repeat after me: your partner can’t read your mind.
Assuming the opposite traps you in an unhealthy thinking pattern: when your partner won’t behave the way you expect them to, you’ll assume they don’t care about you enough or that they’re not right for you; hence, tension will build up between you — and they won’t even understand why.
The best thing you can do for your relationship is to communicate your needs, thoughts, and feelings to your partner — even if you’re afraid they won’t like them.
Stop Being a Victim of the Anchoring Effect
How often do you make assumptions about your partner?
For example, let’s say you’re out on a date and they’re rude to the waiter when he brings you the wrong order. Do you automatically think that they are rude and disrespectful? Or do you think there’s a chance they had a very exhausting day and have no patience left?
Or, let’s say you go out for a drink and they overdo it and get drunk. Do you get anxious thinking that they’ll be getting drunk every time you go out for drinks or do you give them the benefit of the doubt?
It all comes down to whether you’re a victim of the anchoring effect: a “cognitive bias that describes the tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information a person is offered (the “anchor”) when making decisions”.
This can be applied to relationships as well: we often use one of our partner’s flaws, past behaviors, and even a piece of information they have given us about themselves to make further general assumptions about their character, their intentions, or their thoughts.
In the long-term, the anchoring effect hinders your ability to communicate effectively, negatively influences your judgment, and makes you biased toward your partner, creating a false perspective of their behavior and intentions.
Just give them the benefit of the doubt, watch their subsequent actions, and communicate any doubts/negative assumptions that pop into your head. Usually, our assumptions/fears don’t match reality.
Stop Thinking in Terms of Absolutism
If you’re thinking in terms of “musts”, and “shoulds” when it comes to your relationship, it means you’ve fallen into the trap of adopting an “absolutism” mentality.
As Chris Prange-Morgan explains in her article in PsychologyToday:
“The term “absolutism” refers to phrases, words, and ideas that signify totality — either in scale or likelihood. There are two forms of absolutism: “dichotomous thinking,” which refers to an “all-or-nothing,” “black-or-white” mindset, and “categorical imperatives” or rigid (often highly moralistic) expectations placed on oneself or others.”
Love isn’t black and white. A thinking pattern of “musts” and “shoulds” creates unrealistic standards and expectations for what your relationship should look like, invites conflict, and leads to unnecessary feelings of stress and anxiety.
Let things in your relationship flow naturally; don’t force things; give your partner the space to show you who they are and what they can offer you, without pressuring them to act exactly the way you expect them to.
They might exceed your expectations.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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