Warm, comfortable relationships can get even better with these three key shifts.

Many times, when your relationship seems happier, easier, and more content than ones your friends have, you think you've hit the jackpot. Maybe, it's no longer exciting, new, or intriguing, but it is comfortable and seemingly secure. That's a super starting place!

But wait! There's more! 

How about going beyond comfortable and secure to connected and growing together? And, I mean "growing together" in both ways: both of you growing, and getting closer to each other in the process. Sure, that process can be  a little ragged. One partner grows, the other doesn't. One catches up and passes the other. When your communication is open, honest, and frequent, those can be all good things!

One thing I know for sure is: it is always wise to keep focusing on improving your relationship. Good can always get better. Better can always get great.

Couples who don't focus on their relationships often end up taking each other for granted and resentments creep in. Slowly, that drives a wedge between partners--an unnecessary wedge.

In my book, KAIZEN FOR COUPLES: Smart Steps to Save, Sustain & Strengthen Your Relationship, I offer many ways to deepen and strengthen the communication and emotional intimacy in your relationship. The word "Kaizen" is a Japanese word for "good change." Kaizen is a process of making small, incremental, positive improvements in your relationship. I show you how to do that.

Here are three key shifts you can make to strengthen your relationship:

  1. Pay closer attention to your partner's responses to you and life--daily life, work life, home life, partner life. Learn the nuances of your partner, the little ways in which they respond and react to whatever is going on. When both of you do this, you become more attuned to each other. That allows you to be the first to recognize even a small change and talk about it. This helps your partner feel seen, heard, and known.BIG NOTE: Paying attention is not the same as hyper-vigilance, always been on guard for change and making assumptions and presumptions about what those tiny changes mean. Be attuned, but not on guard.If you find yourself on guard, you have some personal work to do. Get some help from an expert to work through your hyper-vigilance.  Hyper-vigilance often comes about organically from having some kind of difficult situation in your early life: alcohol or drug abuse by adults in your home growing up, or,  being physically, emotionally, or sexually abused in your formative years, for example. Heal those wounds so they won't infect your current relationship.
  2. Leave more wiggle room. It's not really about not sweating the small stuff because that small stuff can teach you a lot about each other. It's when the small stuff becomes the big stuff that arguments are made of that the sweating begins. You can notice a lot about your partner by just watching reactions, responses, and decision-making in him or her. You don't even have to comment on it. Just learn from it. And, if the small stuff does not step over your boundaries, honestly make you feel disrespected, or, demonstrate a lack of interest in who you are, then let it go. That's wiggle room, because everyone has a bad hour, day, or week. If the small stuff ever become big stuff, then you need to work it through together. Get help if you need it. That's the fastest way to get over an issue, because sweeping it under the carpet just makes something to trip over later!
  3. Be more open to change, embrace it, and talk it through. That strengthens your relationship.  It's always a red flag for me when a couple comes in and one says, "S/he is not the person I married."Would you really want to be married to that person who has not grown, learned, or improved since your wedding day? No, of course you wouldn't. Sure, there are changes. One young couple I worked with prior to their marriage came in for a session, and the wife said that she no longer found her husband's body attractive and it was ruining their love life. I understand that she preferred stocky to thin and athletic, but, he's the same guy with the same values, ambitions, quirks, and love that she married. She got past it. She loves him.

Yes, there will be changes. Grownups understand that. Just keep talking as they happen. Use the strategies in KAIZEN FOR COUPLES to enhance your communication and learn to turn conflict into conversation. And you'll strengthen your relationship. The most important ingredients to deepen and strengthen your relationship are time together, listening well, and talking life through. Try it!

© Rhoberta Shaler, PhD, The Relationship Help Doctor, works with committed couples who know they love each other and want their once-great relationships back, stronger, closer and more intimate. She helps them with the insights and skills they need to create healthy relationships that support them to walk together united, through whatever life brings.  Get valuable insights by subscribing to her newsletter, Coupleology: Tips for Relationships in your inbox.

Disclaimer: All advice, insights and suggestions made here are not to be construed as psychological or legal advice. Any actions you undertake as a result of reading any article, book, video, ebook or blog post from Rhoberta Shaler, PhD, are entirely your own. Having worked with individuals and couples for more than twenty-five years, she offers her insights and opinions for your consideration only.


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