What a Real Relationship Looks Like
Do you ever think negatively about your partner and your relationship? Maybe you feel:
Disappointment. Disagreement. Out of sync. Out of touch. Lack of balance. Unfulfilled expectations. Unmet needs.
You probably do not associate these words with what happens in a good relationship. That is perfectly understandable. And yet, that’s exactly what happens in a successful, real relationship.
- Many of us grew up without watching a real relationship unfold day in and day out
- Our main source of information about successful relationships comes from Hollywood movies that never show us the sequels to the “happily ever after”
- We lead pretty isolated lives in spite our constant connectivity. We don’t have role models of successful relationships and we live in an anti-relational cultural environment
- Our ideas about what happens are rooted in our imagination, not in reality
In real relationships:
- We are disappointed
- We don’t get our needs met
- We can be out of touch and out of sync
- There are some things on which we never agree
- Our partner may exhibit personality characteristics or behaviors that we dislike
Good Relationships: Ups Versus Downs
In successful relationships the ups outweigh the downs. Periods of harmony follow tough transitions. Partners deal with disagreements and unmet needs. Empathy trumps hostility. Expectations get reconsidered, clarified, and addressed yet again.
And of course, in a real, successful relationship, we can repair and apologize, forgive and rebalance. And we do this with respect, patience, acceptance, love, and caring acts.
Then, we do it all over again.
However, consistent, negative thoughts about your partner can lead to severely distressed relationships.
If you know that a good relationship includes disagreements and disappointments, how do you deal with them, knowing that thinking about your partner negatively is not helpful?
Try to shift away from those negative thoughts. Focusing on modifying the negative thoughts you have about your partner is obviously not the only way to deal with disagreements and disappointments, but it is a good way to become a better partner.
How to Turn Negative Thinking Around
Let’s look at how acceptance, commitment, reflection, and appreciation can help create positive associations with your partner and strengthen your relationship.
Your partner is not like you. Knowing and accepting his/her “flaws” or differences may go a long way to decrease your negative thinking about your partner.
The more negatively you think about your partner, the more you may trigger your own thoughts about finding a different one. Frequent activation of the thought that a different partner may be better for you may erode your commitment to working things out. Consider couples therapy exercises to maintain and strengthen your connection.
Understand Your Contribution
The more you think that something is your partner’s faultthat your partner is not living up to your expectations or meeting your needs—the less energy you will put into figuring out what kind of partner you actually are. Consider asking yourself:
- How are you reacting?
- Are you kind, respectful, appreciative?
- Are you meeting your partner’s expectations?
To avoid going down the rabbit hole of negative thinking about your partner, try this mental experiment whenever you start on that path in your head: Think positively about your partner.
- What are the things you like?
- What are your grateful for?
- What do you appreciate?
After you answer these questions, try verbally saying some of these things to your partner. Complete one of these sentences at least once a day:
- “I really appreciate it when you….”
- “I like it when you….
- “It really helps me when you…”
Focusing on the kind of partner you are, and figuring a way out of the negative thinking about your partner is a difficult shift to make but worth the trouble if you want to create new habits and have a shot at a better relationship.