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The 30 Day Relationship Challenge

When in a relationship, it’s only natural that you experience some bumps in the road. Maybe you’ve hit the end of your “honeymoon phase.” Maybe between work, friends, and family, you can’t remember the last time you said those simple three words. Or, maybe, you’re just in a simple romance rut.

Whatever the case, we’re here to challenge you and your partner to love boldly with our 30-day relationship calendar. Before you get discouraged, these aren’t generic, unrealistic “take a vacation now” tips. Rather, we’ve found 30 simple activities backed by science to improve your romance. Most of the challenges are easy enough to accomplish in the small amount of time you have together and are guaranteed to bring back the fireworks.

2020-06-08 08_43_02-7 Things Resilient Couples Do Differently _ HuffPost Life

7 Things Resilient Couples Do Differently

When a relationship hits a rough patch, it can be easy to think pessimistically. Thinking optimistically isn’t about rainbows and unicorns, rather, it’s about being realistic. Optimistic thinkers are able to identify solutions that haven’t yet been tried. In addition, optimistic thinkers zero in on what they can control, influence or leverage.
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My husband and I recently celebrated our 10-year anniversary, and it has caused me to reflect on the twelve years that we have known each other. As a teacher of resilience, defined as the ability to bounce back and grow and thrive during challenge, change and stress, I wanted to examine the traits that helped couples remain resilient. I looked at those relationships that worked, didn’t work, and the research to compile these seven hallmarks of resilience in relationships:

1. CARE rather than confront during tough conversations.
Resilient couples know how to communicate assertively — that is, in a clear, confident and controlled manner. While that’s easier said than done, particularly with tough conversations, here’s a model to help:

C — Communicate the facts.
A — Address your concerns in an objective way
R — Reach out and ask the other person for his/her perspective
E — Evaluate outcomes

Most importantly, do your homework before you even have the conversation. Ask yourself whether you have an accurate understanding of the problem. I’m always embarrassed when I have a conversation with someone only to realize I never really fully understood the issue. (1)

2. Find your “I want” power.
Relationships can take a little (and some days, a lot of) self-discipline. Stanford health psychologist, Dr. Kelly McGonigal, coined the phrase “I want” power, and it’s an important component of self-control. (2) “I want” power is the ability to find your motivation when it really matters — that important long-term goal that you want to focus your time and energy on. What are you working toward as a couple? Whatever it is, you need to be able to tap into this “I want” power when your willpower reserves are running low.

3. Connect during daily transition points.
I don’t know about you, but my mornings tend to be busy getting ready for the day, and then when I get home from work, I’m exhausted and focused on starting dinner and other tasks. Resilient couples acknowledge each other at distinct transition points during the day: waking up, leaving for the day, coming back together at the end of the day and going to sleep. The acknowledgement can be as simple as a kiss, hug, smile or touch.

4. Help each other relive good news.
Human beings are hard-wired to notice and remember negative news and events. That’s why you stand at the ready when your partner says, “Hey, I have a problem!” But what do you do when your partner says, “I’ve got great news?” How you respond to the good news is as important for the health of your relationship as how you respond to bad news according to psychologist, Dr. Shelly Gable. Killing the conversation by offering a short acknowledgement (“Hey, that’s great”) or hijacking the conversation by making it about you (“I’m training for that marathon, too!”) are quick ways to weaken a relationship.

5. Reframe your thinking during tough times.
When a relationship hits a rough patch, it can be easy to think pessimistically. Thinking optimistically isn’t about rainbows and unicorns, rather, it’s about being realistic. Optimistic thinkers are able to identify solutions that haven’t yet been tried (instead of trying the same thing over and over again that isn’t working). In addition, optimistic thinkers zero in on what they can control, influence or leverage. One question I always ask myself during tough times is, “Will I still be dealing with this problem in the next month or year?” Odds are, the answer is no, and that gives me a little perspective.

6. Have hope.
When my ex-fiancé and I broke up years ago, three months before our wedding date, I was devastated. It was one of the times in my life where I felt truly lost and without hope. Whether you’re dealing with a sick child, contemplating a divorce or break-up, or wondering how you’re going to pay the bills, resilient couples have hope.

The three elements of hope include having goals (identifying pathways); feeling empowered to shape your daily life (remember to zero in on where you have control, influence and leverage); and identifying multiple avenues toward making your goals happen. Hope has been shown to be a strong predictor of satisfaction, even being called a symptom of happiness. (3)

7. Practice empathy.
The ability to understand another person’s experiences and emotions is a powerful relationship tool. In addition to promoting forgiveness, empathy is also a hallmark of resilience. Empathetic people tend to be less selfish, having a genuine interest in the well-being of others. (4)

One of my favorite quotes is, “One of the hardest parts of life is deciding whether to walk away or try harder.” There are many reasons to both stay in, and leave, a relationship. Choosing to stay requires resilience, and hopefully one of these seven strategies makes a difference in your relationship.

References:
(1) I developed the CARE acronym with my colleague, Lorrie Peniston. It is based on a model of assertive communication created by Sharon Anthony Bower and Gordon H. Bower and is more fully explained in their book, Asserting Yourself: A Practical Guide for Positive Change. New York: De Capo Press. See also Cameron, K. (2008). Positive Leadership: Strategies for Extraordinary Performance San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

(2) McGonigal, K. (2012). The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It. New York, NY: The Penguin Group.

(3) Gallagher, M.W., & Lopez, S.J. (2009). Positive expectancies and mental health: Identifying the unique contributions of hope and optimism. Journal of Positive Psychology, 4, 548-56.

(4) Skodol, A.E. (2010). The resilient personality. In J.W. Reich, A.J. Zautra & J.S. Hall (Eds.), Handbook of Adult Resilience (pp. 112-125). New York: The Guilford Press.

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How to Speak Up in Your Relationship Without Having a Fight

The dreaded three words “can we talk,” can immediately stir up defenses. Or maybe those words live on the tip of your tongue, but you just don’t feel like dealing with the spiral downward into the argument abyss, so you never say what is on your heart.

But then, what happens to those concerns, thoughts, worries, and requests that never get said? Do they fester, do you ruminate, do you stuff them? …I am fairly certain they don’t magically disappear. So what are you to do?

At some point, you must speak up. A healthy, happy and lasting relationship requires open communication where you can speak your mind so that these issues do not result in deep resentments that ultimately sabotage your relationship.

So here are some ideas of how to speak up in your relationship without ending up in a fight.

 1. EMBRACE AN ATTITUDE OF ABNORMAL IS NORMAL

This one is a mentality shift, and something that may take some time. However, shifting your attitude can be huge in terms of normalizing the need to have conversations about your relationship.

The reality is that relationships are constantly being thrown out of balance. They are regularly in need of attention and adjustments. This is NORMAL.

So, when you need to talk to your partner about an issue, it doesn’t mean that he or she is a bad partner or that your partner is doing a bad job, it means that you are in a NORMAL relationship that requires some maintenance.

Try to talk with your partner about this mentality. Remind him or her at the beginning of a relationship conversation that it is normal to have to make adjustments in how we behave and treat each other.

If you and your partner can get to a place where it is jointly accepted that it is normal to need to talk about your relationship, then these conversations will go more smoothly, and defenses will not be raised at the hint of a “relationship talk.”

 2. HAVE REGULAR RELATIONSHIP TALKS

Part of normalizing the need to have talks is to have them regularly, almost like a management meeting. In our couple’s course, Couple LINKS, we refer to this as huddles.

We suggest monthly or even weekly, you and your partner sit down and review your relationship. BTW this isn’t a gripe session…it’s an opportunity to check in with one another. Hit on how things have been going well, and then what needs a bit more attention.

The more you do this, the less likely issues will grow and fester, and the less intimidating these conversations will become.

3. STRIKE WHEN THE IRON IS COLD

So often we hold in issues until they ooze out of us because we can’t contain them anymore. And, more often than not, this happens at the worst times, like when your partner is about to head out of town, or they have an early morning commitment and it’s 10:30 at night.

The tip here is to bring up an issue when things are going well. When you have some downtime together and are in a good place, say something like, “Hey, I’ve been wanting to talk with you about something, you think you’d be up for it?”

Trying to talk about issues when it’s tense, when you’re about to overflow with emotion or frustration, or when time is tight doesn’t go well. So get in there when all is good!

(I wrote a post about Fighting Fair that may also be worth a read….you can check it out here)

 4. STICK TO ONE ISSUE AT A TALK

I’m certain this has happened to me. When you begin a relationship talk and suddenly you’re talking about all the issues you have been bottling up, giving examples, and trying to explain everything that has ever bothered you. And then you realize, you’ve lost your point. This is an example of “partner overload.” Seriously, who can hear all those things at once and not feel totally defeated or defensive.

Next time, choose one issue. One point you’d like to discuss and ONLY talk about that point. This will help you to keep it clear and it will also help your partner not to feel like you are attacking from all sides.

 5. DON’T GET SUCKED INTO ARGUING EXAMPLES

This is another relationship talk trap. It’s when you start by bringing up one issue and your partner says, “When did I do that?” or “Give me an example.” Ok, so watch your step. It’s totally acceptable to give an example, and even recommendable to have an example already in mind, but don’t get sidetracked into arguing the details of that example.

It’s common for the partner on the defensive to argue that the example given was an exception, not the rule. But, chances are, if you’ve come to the point of needing to talk about something, then it isn’t the exception.

So, handle it like this, “I don’t want to argue every example because I am sure there are reasons for why you did or said _______________. However, when ___________________ happens, I feel upset and want you to know. In the future, I would like _______________ to happen instead.”

Obviously, you may need to customize my suggestion, but the takeaway is to give one or two examples (not more), and then get back to your main issue. Continue to center the conversation on the overarching pattern, because your point is that there is a pattern of x,y,z that upsets you, and you would like your partner to know and make a change. So keep the big picture at the forefront of your conversations.

 6. WATCH THE CLOCK

You probably went into the talk with good intentions, but now the talk has dragged on, and you’ve lost any chance of the issue getting resolved. This can happen when the relationship talk just went overboard. It went on way too long.

Work to keep your talks to 30 minutes or less. This can help your partner from glazing over, or things erupting into something bigger. This is important because you don’t want your relationship talks to be so draining that you avoid them in the future. Try to keep any of your negative talks short and to the point.

 7. TIP THE SCALES

The final suggestion that I have is to make sure you have significantly more positive than negative talks. Step back and look at the overall mood of your togetherness. Are your negative talks an exception, or do they seem like a bitter seasoning that is sprinkled throughout your time together? Make an intentional increase of your compliments, your expressions of appreciation, and your relaxed and enjoyable conversations so that when you need to bring up an issue, it is with a backdrop of respect and security.

2020-06-08 08_38_34-10 Things to Remember in a Relationship... - ELLDUCLOS

10 THINGS TO REMEMBER IN A RELATIONSHIP…

No relationship is perfect. Every relationship takes work each and every day. You are constantly learning something new about each other. There will be times when you may not see eye to eye and there will be times when you may not agree. I am currently in an almost 8 year relationship and I have learned

COMMUNICATION IS KEY

There will be times when you make each other upset or maybe you won’t agree. It is so important to make sure that you are communicating your feelings with one another. Your partner is not a mind reader. (sometimes I forget this!) When you and your partner are feeling upset, communicate it! It’s important to always let each other know when you are upset because if you don’t, the problem may never get resolved. You can only make each other happy if you know how to.

It’s also important to try to remember to communicate when you are happy too. I know that my partner appreciates when I let him know just how happy I am when he does something that puts a smile on my face. Whether it be watching a tv show with me or doing something without me having to ask. It just makes your partner feel noticed and appreciated. It also let’s your partner know what makes you happy and what you like.

 

THE 5 LOVE LANGUAGES

If you have never heard of the five love languages then let me explain a little.

A love language is the way you “receive love.” I once read this book “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman and learned a lot!! I recommend this book to everyone. You can receive love 5 different ways; through: acts of service, words of affirmation, physical touch, receiving gifts, or quality time. It’s essential to figure out you and your partners love language so that you can show each other love in the correct ways.

Remember that your love language can be different than your partners. The way you enjoy receiving love is not always the same way your partner enjoys receiving love. Sometimes we forget that and instead of showing our partner love the way they want, we end up showing them love the way we want.

This book really changed the way I viewed my relationship and it also made me a more loving partner.

You can also take the quiz & find out your love language here

NEVER GO TO BED UPSET 

I’ve learned that going to bed upset makes everything worse. Not to mention it can cause some serious nightmares! It can be upsetting to lay next to the one you love or like a lot, knowing they are upset with you. Always communicate your problems and make sure you two can go to bed happy with each other.

ALWAYS DISCUSS, TRY NOT TO ARGUE

I know this can be a tricky because when we get upset we tend to raise our voices hoping to get a point across. Yelling can back fire and make a situation worse. I find that talking respectfully and discussing issues in a mild tone gets the point across much better than yelling back and forth. If you do feel as if you need to step away for a minute to collect your thoughts and take a deep breath, you should absolutely do so! Trying to discuss things while you are extremely frustrated or upset can also lead to hurtful words that you don’t mean.

BE HONEST

Don’t lie or try and hide anything from one another. It is important to be open and honest with your partner. If your partner finds out from another source (which he/she eventually will) it can lead to disappointment, arguments, and trust issues. Avoid this easily by being honest.

 

SHOW AFFECTION, KEEP THE ROMANCE ALIVE

Have you ever heard someone say, “Are you two still in the honeymoon phase?” I sure have. Then I find myself wondering, the honeymoon phase has to come to an end? The answer is, no, it really doesn’t. Show love and affection towards each other daily and that honeymoon phase will never end.

I know some days are busier than others but, to make the effort to kiss each other day and night is quite a simple task. Don’t you think? Or even complimenting each other daily. Try to cook dinner and have a romantic night in just the two of you, once a week. Why not? Although I know with children it can be hard at times. Don’t give up though. Always kiss each other goodnight.

 

QUALITY TIME IS IMPORTANT

It’s important to remember to make time for one another. Life can get busy and we can get caught up in our daily routines. Set aside time where you can spend it without any company or electronic device. Do something fun or relaxing. Whatever you love to do together.

GO OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE

You will appreciate keeping the relationship exciting. Go out of your comfort zones and try something new together. Whether it be a new restaurant or activity such as sky diving! (okay it doesn’t have to be that extreme, but you get my point!) Have some fun! It can also rekindle that flame!

 

LISTEN TO AND SUPPORT YOUR PARTNER

Be your partners biggest supporter. Always listen to your partner when he/she is talking to you. Be engaged in the conversation. If your partner is having a tough day, be there. Always try and lift one another up. You will see each other’s darkest and brightest days. It’s always nice to know you have a shoulder to lean on whenever you need it.

DON’T COMPARE YOUR RELATIONSHIP EVER

It’s so easy to compare your relationship to someone else’s. Why is it that, as humans, we always look for more? We are never happy with what we have? Or maybe we are, we just fail to appreciate it. When you start to compare your relationship to someone else’s, you start to be unappreciative of what you have. No relationship is the same and no relationship is perfect.

It may look like “Jim and Sally” have a “perfect” relationship on the outside but you don’t know what it’s really like. The only way to know, is if you were them. Focus on your relationship and the reasons why you are in it.

Relationships are a lot of work, but when you are with the right person, it’s all worth it.


I am not here to tell anyone that their relationship is right or wrong. This is just what helps me keep my relationship healthy and growing, almost 8 years and counting!

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As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, I have been working with individuals, couples and families for over twenty years. My goal is to help you enhance your life, improve your overall functioning and have a better understanding on how to care for yourself.

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