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Nurturing a Partnership

» Mental Health Library » Disorders & Conditions » Relational Problems » Featured Article

By: Tamra Hughes, MA, LPC

Tamra Hughes, MA, LPC

Finding balance between maintaining one’s individuality and independence and yet fostering connected, loving relationships can be a difficult task for many of us. We are raised in a society that encourages independence, yet too much independence in a relationship can lead to trouble. In an age of internet access, corporate travel, and two career households, it is important for couples to take the time to put equal energy into nurturing their partnership.

Taking the time to connect with each other and truly listen to what is going on in your partner’s life is vital to keeping the marriage alive and healthy. Too often, we listen to each other in a way that only partially takes in the information the other person is saying. We listen while contemplating our response, as opposed to listening to understand. It isn’t necessary to agree, but simply to comprehend in a meaningful way, what is being said. What is your partner really saying? How do they feel about it? What was their experience like? By listening in a way that considers the other’s feelings, we have a greater likelihood of staying in sync with each other.

With constant new developments in research and medicine, the average lifespan for an individual living today has increased dramatically over even so much as the last forty years. With this change, a lifetime commitment to another person needs to accommodate the individual growth that happens throughout a lifetime of experiences. So often I hear that one person in a relationship is unhappy because the other person is not the way they were, for example, ten years ago, when they first got married. I say, it is necessary to get to know each other constantly. With each new experience we have, we learn and we grow. We are constantly changing, regrouping and reconsidering. A healthy marriage is one in which respect for individuality is shown toward each other, and a fascination with learning about one’s partner is a daily adventure. Listen to understand. Listen to learn. Respect the other person as you would someone you were just beginning to date, appreciating them as a unique individual. Respect can be contagious, and by showing respect and creating respect, a couple can foster or renew feelings of partnership.

10 Ways to Nurture Your Partnership

  1. Plan a date night at least twice a month. Take turns planning the date. Enjoy each other, laugh together, have fun and make good memories. Don’t discuss the problems in your marriage during this time together. Rather, focus on the positives. The enjoyment and relaxed atmosphere will go a long way toward minimizing individual stress levels and increasing intimacy and connection between you and your partner.

  2. Find something to thank your partner for every day.  It could be something they said today or yesterday or ten years ago, but it had an impact on you, so let them know it. It could be how hard they work or how well they parent. Regardless, make an effort to be thankful and you may be surprised at how good it makes you, and your partner, feel.

  3. Give your partner at least 20 minutes of your undivided attention every day.  If we can find time to devote to work, exercise, children and other demands, we can certainly try to carve out 20 minutes a day to devote to our partner. Take turns actively listening to each other. When this becomes a habit, you will find you greatly look forward to this time each day.

  4. Take a walk together.  Get away from the stress or demands of your work or home and enjoy a walk. Exercise releases positive hormones called endorphins that reduce stress and increase positive feelings. Not only will this help your relationship, but it may also improve your physical health.

  5. Smile. Body language goes a long way and makes a big impression. Smile more and your partner will find it hard not to smile back at you.

  6. Write your partner a note to give them at the end of the day. (Or send them a thoughtful email). It feels good to know your partner was thinking of you, and it feels even better to do something for your partner. Kind gestures fuel more kind gestures.

  7. Laugh together. When we are dating and are caught up in the newness of another person, we tend to be surprised more at their humor or jokes, and we laugh more. Like exercise, this too releases endorphins that are stress reducers and also can increase good feelings between partners. But finding the laughter can be more difficult if you and your partner have been together for a while. Try looking at your partner through a new lens. What is charming about them? Take yourself less seriously from time to time. Relax and don’t judge. Every now and then it is good to be silly and just enjoy life together- and enjoy laughing together.

  8. Focus on your partner’s strengths, not their weaknesses. If you look for the good in your partner, you will find it. Likewise, if you look for the bad, you will find it. And remember, if they look for the bad in you….

  9. Find a hobby to share with your partner, and respect the hobbies you each maintain individually. Enjoying an activity together is fun, can be something you look forward to, and is something that will increase your bond. But it is healthy to have your own activities that you enjoy. It also gives the two of you more to talk about as you share your experiences from times not only when you were together, but from the times when you are apart.

  10. Ask yourself, "How has my partner grown over the years?” as opposed to "How has he/she changed?” Change is inevitable as we experience new things. Think of your partner’s life as their story. If you were reading their ‘story’ would you see the natural progression of experiences and growth. What has impacted them and how have they adjusted to those experiences? This could provide you with countless opportunities to talk with them and learn about where they are in their lives right now. This is a great way to keep the excitement alive in a relationship.

About the Author...

Tamra is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado. She enjoys working with couples and individuals in the areas of relationships, divorce, parenting, anxiety, and trauma. She also does extensive work utilizing EMDR to help her clients recover from difficult experiences and unproductive behaviors, beliefs and anxiety.

Click here to contact or learn more about Tamra Hughes

Last Update: 9/9/2010

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