Expert Author Susan Leigh
Did you know that January is the busiest time of the year for divorce lawyers? More couples consider divorce and decide to take legal advice then than at any other time of the year. The intensive period of family togetherness over Christmas and New Year can put a serious strain on a relationship. Post-holidays come a close second!
It would appear that quite a lot of us find it a strain to spend long periods of enforced closeness together when there's little to occupy us. The rest of our time is often so hectic and full-on that managing the stress of everyday life can result in us losing the ability to easily relax together. It's then that our relationship can experience difficulties.
Let's consider 8 tips to help when your relationship is experiencing difficulties.
- Don't expect perfection. None of us is infallible and if we've made a mistake or ended up in a tricky situation it's important to be open and honest with our partner about it. Being able to share those difficult or awkward situations in a respectful, supportive environment is important and helps us prepare together in case those difficulties escalate.
- Communicate well rather than assume or second-guess what each other is thinking. So often we see couples who automatically finish each other's sentences or answer on their behalf. It may be seen as endearing or a quicker, more efficient option, especially if time is at a premium, but it can become irritating if we feel that we're not being listened to, respected or treated as an individual anymore. It's potentially humiliating to feel that we're losing our voice or our right to an opinion.
- There's no need to spend every free moment together and it can be important to have some hobbies or interests outside of the home. Some people treasure their separate activities; it helps them feel that they've retained their identity and individuality. Plus having some separate interests can be a great way to manage stress, provide a therapeutic timeout from any difficulties and offer new topics for conversation.
- Make regular, quality time for each other. Date nights might not always be an option, especially if there are baby-sitting, business or financial constraints, but try to have regular time which you claim as 'us time' to be a couple, play, chat and enjoy each other's company.
- If there are tensions in the relationship it might be beneficial to agree to put a hold on having a sexual relationship for a time. Yes, being intimate is an important part of a relationship, but sex can feel like too much pressure in an already strained relationship. Invest in rebuilding the intimate side of your relationship slowly. Maybe go for walks, take a bath together or give each other a massage. Even a shoulder rub whilst watching TV can be a good way to rebuild closeness.
- Commit to actively listening to each other, and discover how effective this is as a way to rebuild intimacy. It's sexy when someone really listens and is interested in what you have to say. At first you may need to sit together and time an uninterrupted five-minute window each to say what's on your respective minds. Demonstrate that you've really listened by reflecting back what you've heard. This arrangement can prevent the listener from jumping in with their comments, explanations or feedback.
- Consider relationship counselling. Booking time with a professional relationship counsellor can be a worthwhile exercise as you have to set aside time to focus and commit to dealing with the issues in your relationship; how you're feeling, what you want and need, whilst also exploring how your partner is feeling.
- Learn to apologise readily and effectively. A genuine 'sorry' uttered immediately and in a sincere way can go some way towards repairing a damaged relationship. But beware of being sorry for everything and your apology becoming a grudging, automatic response. Sometimes there may be merit in breaking down what you're sorry for; for example you may feel that something needed to be said but are sorry for the hurt it caused. Be clear when you apologise and make it meaningful.
Investing time and attention in your relationship, perhaps with the help of relationship counselling, can help you rediscover what attracted you to each other in the first place and reignite those feelings of love and commitment.