Do you feel your relationship has lost its way? Perhaps communication has broken down between yourself and your partner, or you’re arguing more and more about the things that previously didn’t matter.
Join our excellent Psychologists Karolina Jurasik and Anna Nauka for a workshop, on Saturday, 25th November that will help restore the love between you and your partner, so you can have the relationship you want and deserve.
We ask Karolina and Anna about the highs and lows of love and how to work on the relationship you want.
What kind of pitfalls do couples come up against that damage their relationship?
We find that couples usually seek for a therapist’s help when they start fighting so much that they don’t really feel happy in their relationship anymore. Fights happen for various reasons: life changes for partners, like a new job or for the relationship itself, like getting married or having kids. What is important though, is that fighting is only a symptom of a problem, not a problem itself – happy couples fight as well. What is really damaging for the relationship is a gradual loss of interest that partners have in one another. When they withdraw and they are not interested in themselves anymore: how their day went, what they think about the movie that they’ve seen. It becomes a problem when partners develop negative emotional sentiment towards their partner as well. When everything that your partner does makes you feel annoyed, you stop having fun together, you criticise one another all the time, that is the moment when the fighting starts becoming a problem. We are just not really nice to people that we don’t really like.
What words/phrases should someone avoid when starting a difficult conversation with their partner?
In the matter of a difficult conversations and conflict, most therapists agree that some ways can be very hurtful to the relationship. Most importantly we should definitely stop ourselves from using verbal aggression, which means shouting, yelling, using personal, hostile comments about our partner’s character, abilities or appearance or even insults. What is also extremely destructive is blame. Being able to take responsibility and accept our partner suggestions and influences is crucial in finding our way out of the problems in a non aggressive way. Try to use “I statement” describing how you feel and what you need from your partner. Bring only one issue at the time and try to negotiate and resolve it with your partner. Don’t use it as an opportunity to tell your partner about everything they ever have done wrong. We’ve all done things that were wrong, so this can be especially disastrous.
How important is communication in a relationship?
John Gottman’s studies show that communication in the relationship is important. It is vital that partners stay engaged in the relationship, and are orientated towards one another. Contrary to the classic approach though, Gottman thinks that it is not active listening or mastering problem solving skills that the couple should focus on. It is being aware of how we bring up the issues with our partners and how we accept the influence from them. Happy couples have five times more positive interactions with each other than unhappy couples – they are softer with each other, they respond positively when the issue is being raised and they descale negativity that arises in their relationship on daily basis. So it is more about learning how to be positive in our communication and this is a part that we will focus a lot on our workshop.
What three things can someone do today to strengthen their relationship?
First of all, try to organise quality time together and get to know each other. People are changing constantly. The most content couples are familiar with each other’s worlds and constantly are updating this information. It can be even a 15 minute chat over a cuppa if you make it meaningful. Secondly, try to listen and turn towards your partner rather than away. According to Gottmans, people in relationships makes constant “bids” for each other’s attention, positive emotions, humour and care. We are responding either towards our partner showing them interest and positivity or away by ignoring them or responding negatively or aggressively. Thirdly, constantly try to show each other affection, fondness and admiration. Think about the way you can bring them to and nurture in your relationship. Try reminding yourself and your partner why you love them and it will be easy to forget about any even difficult conflicts.
Is there such a thing as the ‘perfect relationship’?
Again, in line with Gottmans’ theory – perfection does not exist and what we should focus on is on achieving a “good enough relationship”. A relationship is a good relationship if the two partners are happy together and they enjoy each other’s company, they feel stable and satisfied. When it comes to specifics it is very hard to say anything as we are all different, coming from various socioeconomic, ethnic and racial groups. It is up to a couple to decide what is and isn’t OK with both of them and how they define a perfect relationship. What we can do is just to try to facilitate the process of mutual understanding and creating shared meaning.
How can this workshop help to strengthen a relationship?
Our workshop is designed to help couples that want to create more meaningful and content relationships. We want to help them to commit into active creating and participating of the relationship, which means not only being in the relationship but also having an impact on how happy my relationship is. We would like to focus on numerous areas that will help participants to achieve it. Firstly, we would like to work on positive and soft communication skills and non-violent way of resolving the conflict. We hope to share communication tools with participants, which they will be able to use in their everyday interactions. What is very important to us, is to help participating couples to develop their own individual ways of showing each other affection and kindness. Ability to do it can completely change the atmosphere of the relationship and help them to grow emotional intelligence long term. Lastly, we want to guide participants in discovering their “shared meaning”, which means learning common values, rituals, establishing goals, creating their own micro culture.