There comes a time when we all wish to have a better, happier relationship with our partners. But do we know how we came to the need to mend our relationships?
I am certain you remember the day you met this person who ticked all the boxes on your “the one” list. As well as the warm, fuzzy feelings of the first loving embrace. What about those euphoric thoughts on the amazing connection you have? This is the sensational feeling of a fresh new love looming over you that leads you to believe things will always be this way. In fact, you say to yourself: THIS IS TRUE LOVE. It is never ending, and we will live happily ever after.
Meanwhile, life happens, and your once perfect relationship is now in need of an overhaul.
So what actually happened? How do you go from blissful love to anguish?
Relationships need maintenance. We tend to believe that a good relationship should just come naturally. And if we find “the right person” the relationship will grow stronger, and evolve on its own. But it isn’t so. A good relationship is learned and nurtured. It is created by two equally interested and involved partners.
For greater relationship satisfaction, strive to make the other person feel valued and understood.
Here are a few things you can do to enhance your relationship.
Determine your method of comfort
And encourage your partner to do the same. According to Milan and Kay Yerkovich in the book How We Love, how one experiences comfort and relief as a child is an important aspect of healthy adult relationships.
The three vital ingredients of comfort are:
- Touch: if you received physical comfort as a child, a soothing touch from your partner could be enough to make you feel loved in a moment of distress.
- Listening: if you were raised by parents who were good listeners, and who comforted you with their words, chances are you feel your best when your partner validates your feelings.
- Relief: if your parent was able to successfully comfort you, it brought relief which gave you the ability to better understand yourself and form a secure attachment.
Learning how you were comforted as a child will reveal a lot about the way you communicate and behave in your relationship. Moreover, it will help you identify with one, or more, of the following five love styles.
Establish your love style
Did you know that how we were comforted as children can determine our love styles as adults?
Relationship experts Milan and Kay Yerkovich have identified five love styles:
1. The Avoider
People who relate to the avoider love style often have a hard time recognizing, sharing and dealing with their feelings. The avoiders don’t like to feel vulnerable, and find it difficult to comfort an emotionally upset partner. They fear being perceived as weak, so avoiders can seem cold and distant. Also, they tend to blame their partner for their problems to avoid taking responsibility for their mistakes.
Tip for the avoider: Practice vulnerability. And avoid blaming your partner for your problems. Blame-shifting leads to recurrent fights with no resolution.
Tip for the avoider’s partner: Know that the avoiders find comfort in detaching themselves from their feelings. So help your partner open up by being understanding and considerate towards them.
2. The Pleaser
The pleasers do their best to please others in order to protect themselves emotionally. These are the people who go to great lengths to avoid conflict, and to keep those around them happy. And they do so because their happiness, or distress, depends on others’.
Tip for the pleaser: Acknowledge your anxiety and codependent tendencies. In addition, keep in mind, your worthiness doesn’t depend on anyone’s approval. Finally, get out of your comfort zone to find yourself.
Tip for the pleaser’s partner: Encourage pleasers to become more independent and to face their fears. Remember that pleasers seek approval, so try not to criticise them. Instead, offer your unconditional support.
3. The Vacillator
Vacillators are defined as emotionally volatile people. One minute they love you, the next they dislike you. They are prone to having high expectations of a relationship. And when their (often unrealistic) expectations aren’t met they feel resentful and hurt.
Tip for the vacillator: Try not to make assumptions about other people’s behavior, thoughts and feelings. Attempting to predict another person’s intentions is just a guessing game.
Tip for the vacillator’s partner: Kindly get your point across using “I” statements when dealing with an upset vacillator. Set limits for the vacillator, and make respect and unbreakable rule in the relationship.
4. The Controller
The controller love style stems from unresolved trauma, often from childhood. Controllers are individuals who grew up in chaotic environments, lacking positive parent-child interactions. They likely received little to no admiration from their parents as children. As adults, they look to compensate for their low self-esteem by exerting control over their partners.
Tip for the controller: Allow yourself to feel the pain of your trauma, and admit it. Work on uncovering and undoing the patterns of your behavior. Once you let go of excessive control you’ll be a much better partner, and a happier person.
Tip for the controller’s partner: Understand the history of the controllers’ life, and separate the person from the behavior. If possible, encourage them to seek professional help.
5. The Victim
Like the controller, the victim love style stems from an unstable childhood filled with conflict. However, the victim love style relates closer to the pleaser. Both pleasers and victims steer clear of conflict, and have a hard time standing up for themselves. But victims will go to greater lengths to stay within their comfort zones.
Tip for the victim: Bring your unresolved trauma to light and address it. Understand that healing is possible, and become aware of how worthy you are.
Tip for the victim’s partner: Don’t take advantage of the victims’ weakness. Be kind, considerate and supportive toward your partner.
Sort out financial differences
Interestingly, we tend to select partners that are our spending opposites. A study from the University of Michigan actually confirmed our tendencies. But partnering up with our “money opposite” leads to more fights over money, and lower marital satisfaction.
Therefore, have an honest conversation with your partner about how money is spent in your relationship. Try to come to an agreement on how to spend money that aligns with your common goals. However, do allow your partner to feed occasional indulgences.
Encourage personal growth
Several studies have shown that supportive relationships influence personal growth. And personal growth is a key component of a healthy relationship. Given the link between the two, we should encourage our partners to better themselves.
The best way to promote personal growth in a relationship is to endorse your partner’s goals. Explore those goals side by side, and show interest in each other’s ideas.
Learn to let go
Letting go is not an easy thing to do, but if you stay focused on the benefits of mastery, you will succeed at it.
We all enter relationships with emotional baggage, and we often project our past experiences on our present partners. Or if you’re currently in a long term relationship, you might be holding grudges from previous fights.
It is important to see your relationship as a blank slate, and resist the temptation to bring up the past. People change and evolve over time. Who wants to be reminded of a mistake they made 10 years ago?
Once you learn to let go of previous patterns, you’ll be better equipped to overlook the nagging little stuff that arise in every relationship. As a result, you’ll enjoy a happier, more rewarding relationship.