The truth about relationships
By Petro Booysen
How we loose touch with each other in the 'busyness' of life! In my practice I see couple after couple who got so busy with everyday life; the demands of kids, work, house etc that they have lost touch with themselves, each other and the relationship. This often happens without anyone realising and leads to him or her simply one day discovering a lack of connection with his or her partner, and often a notion that the relationship 'is over' takes shape. Furthermore, when a person is tired / stressed / burned out / exhausted / depressed he/she simply cannot be his/her best self and thus also not be his/her best self in the relationship. When both are in this predicament we end up with a relationship where each partner is often barely coping, and neither one is able to be a constructive force in the relationship. A downward negative spiral fuelled by blame, criticism, anger, misunderstanding, frustration, distance and lack of support takes effect.
I have often thought about the enormous value of teaching, and so preparing, our kids from when young, through programs throughout school, for relationships. Somehow we are expected to just know how to have and foster healthy relationships! In my own life, and through my counselling work, have I realised that we mostly don't simply have an inherent sense of how we are supposed to be a 'good' partner and how to live 'well' together. (And if our examples growing up had been less than favourable, then even more so.) Everybody at some point in time face challenges in their relationship.
This education could include the information that often we may differ, but that difference is often good, as individuals, how to handle this, the issue of tolerance and healthy communication, and all specifically pertaining to forming and maintaining constructive relationships. Instead of 'Cinderella fairytales' we must educate our children on rather what it takes for a couple to live together successfully. Getting the message across that a relationship is like a flower that needs continuous care and attention and if you don't water and care for it, it withers away (even after years of being together). Thus, education emphasising the work and attention we need to put into our healthy relationships is needed and that a good relationship doesn't just magically appear with a 'happy ever after' label if the partners are 'right' for each other - even with the best union ongoing care is essential for a good connection.
So those of you who currently find yourself in a dry flowerbed in your relationship, take heart, it usually doesn't mean it is all over. There are skills to learn, strategies to apply and plans to make. Let's start watering by nurturing and caring. (Again remember that most couples feel like this at some point and you are thus certainly not alone).
If you need to, talk to somebody who can support you to get to where you want to be in yourself and in your relationship - It is worth it!!
No relationship is flawless or hopeless!
By Petro Booysen
A relationship is something to take care with, protect and nurture. Whether you have been together 5 months or 50 years care should still be taken. Indeed, the longer one has been in the relationship the more complacent one might become and hence nearly imperceptibly drift apart. Time must be made in the relationship to connect. Intimacy means a close connection. If intimacy suffers, different areas in the relationship will suffer. The couple that was once in love could start seeing itself as boringly married people with no common interests - except perhaps for their children and investments. They might feel trapped in the routines and necessities of every day.
In a study, by J and S Conway, of factors that held marriages together they found that a commitment to the relationship and keeping the relationship as a high priority, the ability to communicate, resolving conflicts, sexual intimacy, sharing fun and humor, realistic expectations, supporting each other and sharing leadership as well as personal growth were important factors. Good relationships however are a process and require mutual or team effort.
Pointers in constructive communication:
*Avoid verbal or non-verbal sarcasm, insults, threats, bullying or aggression.
*Commit to being constructive and not destructive.
*Talk when calm, even if you have to calm down first.
*Avoid defensive talking and listening - empathy is a good antidote.
*Good listening avoids interruption - show your partner that he/she is being listened to.
*Avoid being judgemental.
*Address the issue at hand together instead of attacking each other over it.
*Making regular time to connect and communicate.
*H Ginott recommended that the best formula for a complaint is XYZ: When X happened or when one's partner did X, you say that it made you feel Y, and that you would rather that your partner do Z instead. Thus use I statements e.g., 'When you didn't call to tell me you were going to be late for our diner appointment, I felt unappreciated and angry. I wish you'd call to let me know you'll be late' instead of 'you are just thoughtless and self-centered!' In this manner the person is not being attacked but the emotions are being communicated and the effect of the behaviour is verbalised.
Some suggestions to improve one's relationship:
Respect and love disarm hostility in a relationship. Try and see things from the other's perspective. Take responsibility if you are in the wrong. Find something you appreciate about each other and voice some praise. Refocus on each other. Treat each other in a caring manner. Develop common interests but do allow individual space. Plan for a special and regular time together. Practise constructive communication and conflict resolution.
Talking it through and practising the skills in counselling can help you to get unstuck and on your way to connecting.