12 Ways To Stop A Romantic Slipup From Ending Your Entire Relationship
Have you ever made a silly mistake that ruined a great relationship? I can't be the only one, can I? Well, since then, I've read a lot more about the science behind how to have happy, long-lasting relationships, whether they're with romantic partners, family or friends.
My wife and I have been together for 18 years – over half of my life – and I have a wonderful circle of close friends. I want to share these science-based tips with you, in order to help you avoid those silly mistakes and help your relationships flourish.
1. Be intentional.
Be intentional and figure out the truth about your relationship. Think through all the aspects of your relationship: your feelings and thoughts, the other person's feelings and thoughts and the external context. If you notice yourself flinching away from a certain aspect of reality, it's time to double down your focus and really get at the truth.
The things you flinch away from (the truths you don't want to acknowledge) are likely the things that will undermine your relationships the most in the future. It's better to face the truth squarely in the face right now, rather than let it sabotage your relationship in the long run.
2. Avoid failing at reading your SO's mind.
One of the biggest dangers in relationships is assuming the other person is exactly the same as you in his or her feelings and thoughts. This is something that's so easy to flinch away from, as our emotional selves just don't want to accept the fact that the people we're so close to are actually so different from us.
I know I've made this mistake, and it has cost me dearly in the past. So, how do you avoid it?
3. Use tell culture.
Tell culture is a communication strategy where you are open and honest with the people in your life about what's going on with you. You lower your private barrier, and you become vulnerable and authentic. Tell this person information about yourself that you think he or she would want to know.
For example, if you want a hug, you should tell the other person you would enjoy a hug. However, for tell culture to work, it's important for you to not expect that the other person will hug you.
You are responsible for telling this person about your needs and desires. But this person is then free to act as he or she so chooses, based on his or her own needs and desires.
4. Remove communication barriers.
For open and honest communication to work, you need to remove all communication barriers. Figure out your individual communication preferences, and then compromise on something that works well for the both of you.
5. Practice emotional attunement.
As you communicate with each other, don't just listen to what the other person is saying. Listen to the emotions underneath the words. Notice whether the other person seems stressed, frazzled, sad, frustrated, confused, pleased, glad, joyful, etc.
Pay attention to the tone of his or her voice, his or her body language and the content of his or her words. Such emotional attunement will improve your ability to understand the other person.
6. Check in on your relationships.
This is the magic bullet solution to so many relationship problems. Schedule systematic meetings to talk about the state of your relationship, and discuss what can be improved upon. You can follow this science-based questionnaire, or come up with your own approach to the relationship check-in.
For example, my wife and I have a relationship check-in every two weeks. We first talk about what we appreciated the most about the other that occurred over those two weeks. Then, we discuss what can be improved upon in our relationship, and how to go about doing so.
We then finish up with gratitude toward each other, and we appreciate the other person for doing the relationship check-in. We then have some delicious chocolate to reward ourselves. It's done wonders with regard to improving our relationship.
7. Trust others.
All of these strategies will help you build trust, which research shows is the key to having happy, lasting relationships. Always keep a personal evaluation of your level of trust in the back of your mind. How much do you trust the other person to act in ways that match your mental model of him or her? How much do you trust that person to have your back?
If you want an intentional relationship, do things to build up trust. Gather information about the other person's trustworthiness. Exhibit vulnerability and openness, share secrets and be generous in your offers to compromise.
If the other person proves him or herself as trustworthy, be more committed to the relationship. If he or she does not, reevaluate your level of commitment, as the relationship will likely not work in the long-term.
8. Respect the other person's boundaries and privacy.
A key aspect of showing trust is allowing one another to set boundaries and permit privacy. Technological developments make it so easy for us to track one another, and to be in constant communication.
However, permitting each other to have private space, and not pushing the other person to do the things he or she would prefer not to do helps in creating happiness in relationships.
9. Have healthy conflicts.
Conflicts can actually be healthy in a relationship. If you go into a relationship expecting you'll never fight, you'll lose out on great experiences because the first fight may very well lead to the end of the relationship. Instead, learn strategies for healthy conflict resolution, and talk about them with your partner before the fact.
Start any conflicts by highlighting how much you care about the other person and the relationship. Talk about the facts, but also talk about how you feel about the person. Avoid the blame game. Instead, be as generous as you can by interpreting the other person's actions. Be open to changing your mind if you realize you've made a mistake, and apologize quickly and profusely.
Avoid focusing on the past. Instead, focus on better behavior in the future. At the end of any conflict, focus on reconnecting and rebuilding the emotional bonds that have been strained by said conflict. My wife and I found these techniques to be incredibly helpful with regard to resolving tensions between us.
10. Meet your own goals.
Remember that you are in the relationship for yourself. Meet your own goals first in any relationship.
Be intentional, and consider what you want from the relationship as you evaluate it in your own mind and heart. Don't allow the other person's needs and desires to overwhelm yours.
Play by the rules of tell culture. Be honest and open with the other person about your needs and desires, and encourage that person to do the same. Otherwise, you'll risk building up resentment and frustration, thereby subverting the possibility of a happy, long-lasting relationship.
It's important to balance your needs with the other person's needs. Seek a mutually beneficial compromise with regard to any areas of disagreement. The ability to compromise is the key to happy and lasting relationships.
Today's society emphasizes individuality. But for any relationship to work, we need to get out of our self-centered shells and put ourselves in the shoes of the other person. We have to understand the other person's perspective, thoughts and feelings.
This makes compromise much easier. My wife and I make compromises for each other all the time, both big and small. It's how we keep our relationship strong.
12. Don't fight against change or diversity.
People and relationships change all the time. This is not something to mourn. It's just a fact of life that should be acknowledged and celebrated. Sometimes, a relationship needs to become more diverse in order for both people to remain happy.
So, consider the possibilities of non-traditional relationships, such as polyamory. At times, people who are right for each other at first will no longer be right for each other later. To ensure mutual happiness, it's important to let your SO go at that stage. The key is to be intentional and pursue your own goals in any relationship you're in.