The world continues to change and evolve. We have more information on what makes relationships work than ever before. Relationships are without a doubt an integral and important part of our lives. We know love isn’t easy and getting all the help we can makes our chances of creating a successful relationship better. Here are some relationship tips from relationship experts.
Why listen to me? I’m a Marriage and Family Therapist, relationship expert and author of many articles on relationships, as well as the creator of WeConcile® an in-depth, online DIY relationship restoration application. Below, I’ll share a bit of the experience I’ve had with each of these experts.
1) Honor your need for a close emotional connection.
“We are born to need each other. The human brain is wired for close connection with a few irreplaceable others. Accepting your need for this special kind of emotional connection is not a sign of weakness, but maturity and strength.” – Dr. Sue Johnson, the primary developer of Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples. http://drsuejohnson.com/
Sue Johnson is a brilliant clinician. Her work has changed couples counseling. I have trained in and studied EFT for couples as well as participated (with my husband) in a Hold Me Tight workshop Dr. Johnson ran. Without her work, WeConcile® would not be the effective tool that it is.
2) Look at the actions you take that are destructive to your relationship and try the antidote action instead.
“Dr. John Gottman discovered four negative behaviors, or The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, that spell disaster for any relationship.” These are Stonewalling, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Criticism. He also has antidotes to these four negative behaviors. “Use I statements and express a positive need. Remind yourself of your partner’s positive qualities. Accept your partner’s perspective and apologize for any wrongdoings. Take a break and spend time doing something that is soothing and distracting.” Drs. John and Julie Gottman are the founders of the Gottman Method. https://www.gottman.com/
Excerpt by Elizabeth Lisitsa, staff writer for the Gottman Institute. https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-four-horsemen-the-antidotes/
Although I have not taken any of the Gottmans’ courses, I have read a number of his books. Gottman has made an enormous contribution to the field of couples therapy and his work is filled with great marriage tips. We both live on Orcas Island and I look forward to meeting the Gottmans in person!
3) In a relationship, knowing what matters to your partner is your job.
“Devote yourself to your partner’s sense of safety and security and not simply to your idea about what that should be. What may make you feel safe and secure may not be what your partner requires from you. Your job is to know what matters to your partner and how to make him or her feel safe and secure.” Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT is the developer of A Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy®(PACT). https://stantatkin.com/
Stan Tatkin’s work pulls the couple into their embodiment. After all, we live in our bodies. As we hold each other and look into each other’s eyes, our bodies calm. We feel safe. We regulate each other. Stan emphasizes the impact of physiological connection. I took a training with Stan and found it to be very valuable.
4) Remember that it is an honor to be able to step into your partner’s world and have a chance to understand him or her.
“Our relationship lives in the space between. Honor the space. Honor the between. Tend it like a garden.” Hedy Schleifer, a psychotherapist who specializes in the “Art of Connection.” https://hedyschleifer.com/. You can see her on Youtube.
Excerpt from “An Adventure in Intimacy” workshop material.
I love Hedy. She is a charismatic and incredibly talented clinician. My husband and I did her Adventures in Intimacy training years ago. It was amazing.
5) Your relationship has a purpose – to bring up your unfinished business for healing.
“Romantic love delivers us into the passionate arms of someone who will ultimately trigger the same frustrations we had with our parents, but for the best possible reason! Doing so brings our childhood wounds to the surface so they can be healed.” Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. & Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D., cofounders of Imago Relationship Therapy – https://harvilleandhelen.com/
Hendrix’s theory of purposeful relationships helps couples reframe their issues from problems to opportunities for healing. I have read some of Hendrix’s work and find it useful, especially his Imago Dialogue process and his perspective that relationships have the purpose of healing old wounds.
6) You can learn to be there for both your partner and yourself at the same time.
“The ability to respond effectively when feeling upset, provoked, annoyed, ignored, or mistreated is one of the most important abilities identified by researchers [as crucial to relationship success]…People who are effective at these moments require that they be treated with respect, but they also have ways of making it easy for their partners to do so. They know how to stand up for themselves, but they do it without a lot of fuss. They don’t make a big deal of how awful their partners are for being selfish, inconsiderate or controlling—they just require that their partners give their priorities and opinions equal regard.” Dr. Brent Atkinson, cofounder of The Couples Clinic. https://thecouplesclinic.com/
I’ve read Dr. Atkinson’s writing (and quoted him in articles I have written). I find his work to be enlightening. He has written several books which I intend to read.
7) If you decide to get couples counseling, don’t go in blind. Look for someone with couples training, and make sure you feel comfortable with them.
“To find the right therapist consider one who is challenging and direct but not judgmental. Also, know what you are looking for from therapy, get the most experienced one you can afford, ask questions before you make the appointment, evaluate your first session and evaluate the therapeutic relationship.” Esther Perel is a Belgian psychotherapist notable for exploring the tension between the need for security and the need for freedom in human relationships. She founded the podcast, Where Should We Begin. Esther Perel – https://www.estherperel.com/. Esther Perel has some fascinating Ted Talks on sexuality in relationships. https://www.ted.com/talks/esther_perel_the_secret_to_desire_in_a_long_term_relationship
I enjoy Esther Perel’s work. She brings in fresh ways of looking at relationships and explores some of what we don’t generally talk about.
8) The more couples education you get, the more easily you can solve your relationship issues.
“Couples education can help couples enormously, especially if you cannot afford regular therapy. Even without a therapist, you can be guided through a map of learning, beginning with defining goals and issues, learning about your cycle, understanding how attachment impacts your love relationships, and more. The more you become aware of the roots of your problem, the more likely you are to solve it.” Jennifer Lehr, MFT, JenniferLehrMFT.com founder of WeConcile – a DIY, online relationship restoration application. WeConcile.com
This is me! In 2008 I had an idea of creating an online educational platform for couples so they could have access to low-cost help. WeConcile is the culmination of years of training, study and my work with couples. WeConcile is finally out in the world. It is a great resource for couples and can be used with or without a therapist. It consists of 24 levels or chapters. You may only need to do a couple of them with your partner or may choose to do all of them.
9) Connection requires that we affect each other. Don’t be afraid of being affected by your partner’s feelings.
“For “full” emotional communication, one person needs to allow his state of mind to be influenced by that of the other.” Dr. Dan Siegel is the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA. – https://www.drdansiegel.com/
Excerpt from: Daniel J. Siegel (2015). “The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are,” p.94, Guilford Publications
I’ve read a lot of Dr. Siegel’s work and have admired him for years. He is a great contributor to the fields of family relationships, couples therapy and, mindfulness.
10) Find a balance between your relationship time and your individual time.
“When I work with couples, I always assess their relationship balance and whether it’s working for them both. If it’s not, it first must be understood why they operate that way. There are many reasons that motivate people towards the various styles including family of origin experience (what did their parents do?), fear of engulfment or the opposite, fear of abandonment. The next step is figuring out what they can do differently to create more balance. Often it involves increased awareness, better communication and, behavioral change. Ideally, the end result is the two overlapping circles that validate all three parts – the “you,” the “me” and the “we.” ” Lisa Kift, MFT is the creator of LoveAndLifeToolbox.com.
I’ve known of Lisa Kift for years. She has a great website filled with helpful articles for couples. A couple of them are mine. She also has some workbooks available to help couples.
I hope you find these relationship tips helpful and that the information here enables you to improve your relationship.
If you are looking for more resources, here is a list of the Top 100 Marriage Counseling blogs.