Particularly since lockdown people seem to talk about relationships more. Breakups and divorce rates have gone up, but the question remains: can we really blame it all on one virus?
It would be easy to do so, except the truth is that those relationships which didn´t last through lockdown, most likely had challenges before, only they weren´t as obvious.
When we lived what we call a “normal” day to day life with our hobbies, work and friends- we had many more distractions than we have now. It is harder to walk away from conversations that are intimate and needed when you are together 24/7.
And then the other extreme that some couples face is being apart from each other, which brings a different set of issues.
Yet, regardless what situation you face as a couple, there are mindset shifts you can make on your own or with your partner. These will benefit your relationship. Ultimately what it comes down to are some key factors that determine longevity and happiness, but let me elaborate.
1. Don´t gossip about your partner.
This may be an obvious one, but haven´t we all done it? When our partner does something that outrages us, we tend to turn to a friend to get the anger off our chest. That does not necessarily have to be a bad thing. One of my new years resolutions in 2019 and for 2020 was to address issues with the person I face the challenge with rather than going to someone else. The only exception I allowed myself was, if I did not know how to communicate the problem, I could seek advice.
The reason I suggest you do not talk about your partner negatively with other people is because “what goes around comes around”. The more you gossip, the more you confirm to yourself that there is something wrong in your relationship. Energy goes where focus flows, so the more you focus on their flaws, the more that will be prevalent in your mind.
2. The solution to when your partner is in a bad mood.
I want to give you an example that may be familiar to you. It´s the weekend and you´ve been so excited to spend quality time with your partner. Unfortunately they had a bad week, are in a bad mood and not up for anything. You could easily be upset or annoyed about this or you could think to yourself: “My partner being upset, this does not mean that I have to be upset.”
This doesn´t mean you ignore your spouses feelings, it only means you don´t take them on. The reason this will take pressure off your relationship is the following: when you expect your partner to be in a cheerful mood for the weekend, there is an underlying assumption that your partner should “make you happy”. However it is not your partners job to make you happy, it is yours, which leads to the next point…
3. Show up for yourself.
As mentioned above, it is your job to make you happy and when your partner sees you smile, they will be delighted about that. Not just in our romantic relationships, but more so, we desire for people to show up for us. To live up to their word; to act as we like it; to make life easy for us. Sorry to tell you this, but you probably already noticed, life has brought us here to grow. So when your mother, friend or partner doesn´t do what they´re “supposed” to do, you still have the opportunity to show up for yourself.
What could that look like? Let´s return to the example. It´s the weekend and your partner doesn´t want to do any of the things you planned, because they don´t feel like it. You not showing up for yourself could look like this: You are annoyed and stay on the sofa all weekend long, eating popcorn and chocolate. You showing up for yourself could look like this: You call a few friends and see what they´re up to; you read a book and enjoy; you go for a beautiful long walk by yourself.
You might wonder, what does this have to do with the longevity of my relationship though? When you stay “sour” for a whole weekend your thoughts about your partner are likely to be negative. Whereas if you showed up for yourself you probably thought: “Anybody can have a bad week every now and then, I´m gonna have a good time regardless” and then you would have moved on. I will pick this up again further down and you will see why this is so important.
4. Do your inner work.
We all have inner wounds, whether they are from childhood or previous relationships. This invisible “baggage” can unfortunately really harm our partnership, given we blame our significant other when we get triggered.
We say: They shouldn´t have behaved a certain way or they shouldn´t have said that thing. Yet in reality we have a choice of various thoughts to think of one situation, but our past invites us to only think one way. When we explore and let go of our baggage, we develop a more relaxed attitude, which in turn benefits our relationship.
5. Water the grass where you are.
This may be an obvious one, bear with me. Creating the relationship of your dreams (even if you´re already in it) starts and continues with your thoughts. If you compare your relationship with other couples or if you occasionally think: Her boyfriend does xyz and mine doesn´t or if you have fantasies about the neighbor, you may not be watering your garden.
The moment you are thinking about someone else or comparing your relationship, you have no time to think about how you can nurture your relationship, because you can only hold one thought at a time. Hence if you are watering your neighbors garden, you can´t water yours whilst you are over there. If there is something that your partner doesn´t do, but you are certain you want to be with him, my suggestion is to water your garden by doing things for him that make him feel love. When you do so, you focus on love instead of lack of love, which results in you feeling the love too.
6. Know your boundaries.
I used to think that you needed boundaries for everyone but your partner. How wrong I was. I had to realise that boundaries are something you need for every person in your life, especially your partner. Your significant other has much more opportunity to violate your boundaries by accident simply because they are closer to you than any other person in your space.
Most of the time we only realise that we need to set a limit when one of our boundaries (that we didn´t know we had) were violated. In that case we can either seek a conversation or depending on the situation, make a pact with ourselves to behave differently in the future. Boundaries are mostly about how we show up and what we allow. Once we understand ourselves at a deeper level, we are able to show up accordingly. This benefits our relationship in the sense that when we are true to ourselves, then we have no reason to blame.
7. Love your partner as they are.
This is a big one and I´m not saying it´s an easy one. Yet, ultimately it is our choice to be with someone. If we did not want to be where we are, we do have the option to leave. The reason I am stating this is, because some of us criticise our partners regularly, without the intention of leaving the relationship.
We don´t like their eating habits or that they are forgetful, whatever it is, when we constantly critisize our partners flaws we do not love them as they are. We may claim “we love them”, but our other half certainly doesn´t feel loved for who they are fully. The reason this point is so important is because we all want to be loved the way we are. And if you don´t do your part, chances are that tension will arise over time.
In conclusion: The quality of your relationship is directly related to the quality of your thoughts.
The ultimate point I want to make with this article is the following: Your relationship is tied to the quality of your thoughts. If you think negatively of each other or of the relationship itself you are likely to split one day. If your thoughts are loving you are likely to last.
The interesting point is that this means, it actually isn´t of importance how many hobbies you have in common or how “compatible” you are. What matters is what you believe to be true about each other. I want to give you an example to make this more clear. One of my friends recently shared that she and her husband have not much in common in terms of interests. Due to this fact they made it a point to intentionally pick things to do together.
I´m stating this example, because it would have been very easy for them to say: “We´ve got nothing in common, this is not going to work”, but because both of them choose to believe that this isn´t an issue, they are happily married. This goes hand in hand with what I affirm in my award winning book “Love Life Simplified” which is that you could literally pick anyone to love. You obviously get to choose, but I want you to be aware that how much you enjoy your relationship is about the quality of the thoughts that you select.