It’s springtime and with springtime comes spring-cleaning. Right? You have probably seen one of those checklists that remind you what to do for your house? Listing things like check the sprinkler systems, change your filters etc. Most people are so busy these days that they would forget all about what to do in that regard, without the aid of a checklist of sorts!
One checklist in particular that most people avoid is the one that evaluates your current relationships. There comes a time when we need to step back and evaluate how a relationship is going. Whether it’s a spouse, a friendship, or a new boyfriend or girlfriend, it requires thought, care and a spring-cleaning all of it’s own.
I’ve compiled a list of things you should look for in any relationship. If some of these key traits are absent, it might be time to have a serious conversation. Remember what happens to our homes or cars when we ignore the maintenance? Disaster. The same concept is evident in our relationships. Don’t wait for a crisis or a disaster to make changes. Do the maintenance up front to avoid the worst-case scenarios, and actually enjoy your relationships.
We know the maintenance can be tough. That’s why we often say, “oh it can wait”, or “maybe it will get better”. But remember, like the car or the house; issues don’t just fix themselves. Your car doesn’t just show up one day with the oil changed, because you were “thinking” about getting it done. (Although, that be awesome!)
To help you with this process, we have compiled a list of symptoms in a relationship to look for. These symptoms need to be addressed NOW, so they won’t turn into disasters later.
- Distracted- That feeling you may have that won’t go away. He/She seems distant or distracted, or you’re feeling unengaged yourself.
- Not Speaking Up- In a healthy relationship, if something is bothering you, it’s best to talk about it, instead of holding it in. If you find yourself holding in things to avoid conflict or to please the others, while forgoing your own needs, this can be a problem.
- Respecting Each Other’s Privacy- Just because you’re in a relationship, doesn’t mean you have to share everything and constantly be together. Healthy relationships require space. Keep outside relationships and interests alive. No one person can meet all of our needs, and expecting too much from someone can put a lot of unhealthy pressure on a relationship.
- Touching- Physical Touch is missing – sexual intimacy is often a cornerstone of a relationship. However, sexual intimacy isn’t the only type of physical touch that is needed in a relationship. Regular, affectionate touch—holding hands, hugging, or kissing—is equally important.
- Fighting- Conflict is inevitable and can be very unproductive. Starting a discussion while we are extremely angry commonly results in an argument, that derails the communication attempt and yields less than positive outcomes. Feeling like you fight about the same things, feeling like you’re lost, or finding yourself always defending your position on a topic, can be a sign of trouble.
- Negativity- Comments from your significant other are all negative. Communication is really the key. A good ratio of 50/50 positive to negative feedback should be the minimum. Once feedback from our significant other crosses that threshold, and becomes mostly negative, it is a sign of trouble. Criticism and put-downs in any kind of relationship have detrimental outcomes.
- Priorities- One of you puts your children’s needs first before the needs of your partner. Therapist and author Andrew G. Marshall writes: “If you put your children first, day in and day out, you will exhaust your marriage.” Putting your children first repeatedly will make you feel exhausted and your partner unfulfilled.
So what do we do when we notice these problems? Start by focusing on yourself and taking control of what you can do in the relationship:
- Focus on the strengths. You developed this relationship for some reason. Remind yourself of his strengths and the things that might be going right. Verbalize your love of these things and encourage him to show those same behaviors. Remind yourself of those same qualities that he loves in you. Show them off and be proud.
- Stop the criticism and negative comments. Remember that teacher that always pointed out the errors in the paper you thought was perfect?? What did you think about her?? Exactly, pointing out other people’s faults or errors turns them into the type of person who will go elsewhere for acceptance and admiration.
- Physical Touch – Sometimes non-verbal communication speaks volumes to your partner, especially if sex has become non-existent. Simple handholding, or a touch on the back or shoulder can project feelings of warmth and engagement toward your partner. Done consistently, these actions create major changes in one’s attitude toward the relationship.
- Do Something Different – many times, couples who have been together for many years, get into a routine in which they do things for each other. But the once compassionate act of service slowly turns into a stale routine that is often taken for granted. This can quickly turn into resentment, and relationships lose their sense of excitement. Go somewhere new, do something different, spice it up and share in this with your partner.