Restoring a Healthy Relationship

Relationship Workout

In restoring a healthy relationship you have to choose the areas where your scores were highest in the Healthy Relationship Quiz and concentrate on the advice given. If all areas seemed high, then focus first on communication.

Communication - Restoring a Healthy Relationship

Communication in a Relationship

In a relationship good communication takes time, effort and hard work. 'Make a date each week to spend time together,' insists Sarah Litvinoff. Take half an hour each to talk about how you feel and what you want in life, as if you were explaining yourself to a stranger. While each person talks, the other must be silent and listen with full attention. At the end of the hour stop the conversation. If you want to talk about it, make a date to do so, but not for a few days. 'Doing this regularly will make you and your partner much closer,' says Litvinoff.

Try one of the following books:

Sex - Restoring a Healthy Relationship

'If you feel you've got to be perfect in bed you'll get yourself in a terrible state,' warns Maryon Tysoe. However sometimes there are real sexual problems which need addressing. Painful intercourse and lack of erection can often have physical causes - speak to your doctor or pharmacist. If you respond to what psychologists call erotic cues (nudity, masturbation, etc.) with anxiety, guilt, shame or embarrassment then there could be deep-rooted concerns about sex, which counselling could help with. "The main reason psychologists think sex therapy works is because it encourages the couple to talk to each other," says Tysoe.

Try one of the following books:

Money - Restoring a Healthy Relationship

Very different attitudes to spending, saving, accounting and budgeting are a real problem,' says Sarah Litvinoff, 'because money affects every aspect of ordinary life.' Do you tell each other what you earn, spend, save? If not, why not? If you are open with your finances but you still quarrel, it could be that the friction is masking a difference in priorities.

For instance, one of you has a new car in your sights while the other wants to pay off the mortgage. You need to reach a compromise or you will be fighting all the time. If neither of you are very good with money, sit down with a sensible outsider - a financial adviser or simply an astute friend - and work out what needs to be done. Litvinoff suggests you start by listing what you spend money on. Often disagreements come about from pure ignorance: the groceries might honestly cost more than you thought.

Try one of the following books:

Trust - Restoring a Healthy Relationship

Trust in a Relationship

Social psychologist Elaine Hatfeld suggests that there are six major fears that hold us back from divulging all in our relationships:

  • Fear of hurt and rejection.
  • Fear of losing one's individuality or of being engulfed.
  • Fear of having one's faults exposed.
  • Fear of one's destructive impulses if one were to 'unleash' one's feelings.
  • Fear that information disclosed now will later be used as ammunition.
  • Fear of losing control.

If you value your relationship you have to develop trust. Start by telling each other things like how you lost your virginity; your greatest fear; your worst moment. It needs to be a gradual process, so take it gently. If you feel you can't trust your partner, check whether this is based on fact or irrational fears. 'Feelings of unease should never be ignored,' says Maryon Tysoe, 'but ask yourself whether your feelings are based on your anxieties rather than what is really happening? If you are sure they are not, then talk to your partner about it.'

Try one of the following books:

Commitment - Restoring a Healthy Relationship

'Sometimes sticking in a relationship can be easier than admitting you've made a mistake,' says Maryon Tysoe. Or there are external pressures: your families want you to marry; you're scared you won't find anyone else. You can't force someone to commit to you; equally you cannot con yourself that love will miraculously appear when you get married or have children. If commitment is the big issue in your relationship then you need an honest, no-holds-barred discussion. Obviously this depends on your situation, but it is valid if you have been together for some time or are on the verge of some external commitment (mortgage, kids, even a pet.)

Compatibility - Restoring a Healthy Relationship

If you're not compatible in the fundamentals: your age, race, culture, social and religious background, you will have far greater challenges than many couples. 'A couple need common experiences to communicate well,' says Professor Markman who believes that even a four-year age gap can cause potential problems. Make certain that your relationship is in peak health in the communication and trust areas.

However you might be as similar as two peas in a pod and still have problems. Sarah Litvinoff suggests you put yourself in your partner's shoes and describe yourself through their eyes. Check on points you think your partner finds irritating or would like to change about you. Discuss whether you got it right. Then swap places.

The Final Outcome

Relationship Quote

You may have scored quite highly in several areas. Does this mean you should ditch your relationship?

Psychologist John Gottman found that in a stable and healthy relationship, positivity outweighed negativity by the ratio of about 5:1.

In unstable relationships it was less than 1:1. As Maryon Tysoe comments, 'You're going to get some disagreements, arguments, criticism and the like in a relationship; but what's important is that this heavily outweighed by positive interactions (agreement, complimenting, hugging, humour, etc.).'

When you should get out?

When your partner is violent. If you answered yes or sometimes to question 9e, end the relationship completely for both your sakes. The only salvation will come if s/he accepts that s/he has a problem and seeks professional therapeutic help, but that choice has to come from him or her.

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