With Covid optimism in the air with signs of positive change, many couples are finally addressing the issues that have gone subterranean during this pandemic. Some relationships have benefitted from the additional time together but many have been pulled tight, especially if there were unresolved issues between the couple before. Anxiety can strain an already tense relationship. For some couples, holding things together for themselves and their families, their marriages have not being prioritized.
Here are 7 ways to strengthen your relationship:
- Re-open the communication lines. Now more than ever you need to talk to each other. Do you know how the other is faring with everything? Have you asked? Do you have a sense of how your partner feels about the relationship? Are they ok? No matter how much is going on in your lives, schedule a weekly check-in with each other allowing the opportunity to get a read on the emotional status of your marriage. This also provides an opportunity to process any hiccups that might have occurred before resentment has a chance to build.
- Repair the relationship if needed. If you have inadvertently hurt your partner in some way, own it. When things are tense it’s easy to misstep by not choosing your words carefully or using a tone that sounds more harsh than you meant it. If you feel hurt by your partner, let them know to allow for the opportunity for relationship repair. Sweeping things under the rug can ultimately be more damaging.
- Allow each other to “be.” If you’ve been together for some time, hopefully by now you’ve learned that your partner is who they are and there’s probably not much changing that. As intuitive as this sounds, many still resist and lament this. Just because you can’t imagine how he can be perfectly content staying home and puttering around on weekends (hello, introvert) while you are desperate to mask up and see people (hello, extrovert), I’m suggesting you’ll both find much more peace together if you relax and allow the other to be. In that example, if one needs more social stimulation, perhaps they can connect with friends while the does house projects.
- What are you grateful for? The last year may have exacerbated your negativity bias, individually or in your relationship. Rather than finding faults about each other, agree to share aloud things you appreciate about each other. Don’t underestimate the power of even the smallest things that happen throughout the day. “I really enjoyed the time we spent talking last night when the kids went to bed. It was nice to finally connect.”
- Understand how you each feel loved. Couples can get tripped up on this as they often have totally different “love languages.” And it can be hard to understand the other’s way, let alone remember to try to meet that need. For example, one might get a lot of fulfillment from physical touch and affection where the other needs words of affirmation. Other ways people feel loved are through time spent, gifts or even cleaning the kitchen (acts of service). The key is to know how you both feel loved. If you’re not sure, ask!
- Be reliable. One of the most important aspects of emotional safety in relationships is trust. The more you believe the other has your back and you can safely turn towards each other, the stronger your marriage will be. This includes loyalty and follow through.
- Know when you are in trouble. When resentment builds and disconnection occurs it can be disastrous. Unfortunately it can also sneak up on your marriage. There has been extensive research around the four most negative relationship behaviors; defensiveness, criticism, stonewalling and contempt. If any of these are occurring in your relationship, it’s time to address the underlying causes.