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Relationship "Slump Busters"
Part 2 of 2

Larry James

UpDated January 7, 2009
Recommend this article to a friend!

Breathing Space - Give each other room to grow. No one can grow in the shade. If you are always hovering over your partner, you are literally smothering the love that could be yours. Partners need time alone. They need space. Give it willingly. Take time to be alone with your thoughts. This is another way to attend to your needs.

Manage Your Manners - Be kind to each other. Treat your partner with respect and dignity. Honor your beloved. Be the first to offer to help your partner in ways you may not have done before. Extend courtesy. So often we treat our friends better than we treat our partner. Don't fall into this trap. It's a dead end street. Remember, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you?" It works.

Count Your Change - Relationships never move in straight lines. They wander. And create opportunities you'd never expect. Evaluate your progress. Embrace change. Do not resist it. The smallest pebble in your shoe will irritate you until you do something about it. Be excited about the changes that occur in your relationship. Learn from them. If you think you do not have a choice in managing change, think again. The choices you have made in the past have caused the change that brought you to this moment in time.

Do your relationship differently. Your partner may take a while to notice and perhaps even longer to respond. Be patient. Notice small steps in the right direction. Praise improvement. It gives rise to inspiration and encourages them to continue.

Life (and your relationship) is not a snapshot! It's a moving picture. Notice what changes you are experiencing. Share them with your partner. Often a change in attitude toward your partner will bring about an attitude of change from your partner. Some partners only change when they feel the heat. Others, when they see the light. The latter is preferable.

Plant the Right Seeds - Always remember. . . you reap what you sow. You don't plant tomatoes and expect corn to grow. Likewise, you don't sow seeds of bitterness, resentment, anger, etc., and expect your relationship to thrive. Seeds of doubt clutter up your relationship garden.

When you plant corn, if it does not grow well, don't blame the corn. Look for reasons it is not doing well. When you find the reasons, (and you may have to dig deep for them), take action and do what needs to be done.

The same goes for planting good thoughts. They will never grow unless nurtured and nourished with love, understanding, acceptance, and forgiveness. Although blaming has no redeeming value, if you must place blame, you will be wise to accept responsibility and know that the blame goes to the person looking back at you in the mirror.

Put Passion Back in Fashion - Passion is not only about sex. It's about having strong feelings about something. Ever hear of a crime of passion? Passion means many things to many people. It may be a burning desire to reconnect with your partner in conversation. Demonstrate passion by passionately working together on your relationship. It can blaze new trails.

No sex? Not much intimacy anymore? Been a long time since you actually made love? Too long? Hummm! Know this is true: "Relationship problems always show up in the bedroom." Many couples avoid sex when marital issues surface because they feel emotionally distant. Often couples that come to me for relationship coaching in the sexual area discover that it's not about sex at all.

A lack of sex is nearly always a symptom of something that needs fixing in the relationship. It's about fixing all the little nuances that bring on the upsets in your relationship. It is difficult to be turned on to make love when there are upsets with your partner you have yet to address. Anger, resentment, disappointment, bitterness and stress do not make good bed partners. Unless there is a medical problem, when you fix these problems, usually the sex will take care of itself.

Sex is good and pleasure is good for you. Have a desire for more info on sex? Read, Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers.

Simmer Down - Manage your anger. If you have a complaint, only raise it when you are not feeling angry about it. As best you can, speak with loving words and keep it short and to the point. Don't lecture. Keep your examples current. Never use past hurts to illustrate current gripes. It only opens up old wounds and causes your partner to feel that they can never stop paying for past mistakes.

Avoid words like, "never" and "always" or things like, "You're just like your mother/father!" This only pushes your partner's panic buttons and escalates the disagreement.

When your partner expresses a complaint/grievance/criticism, rather than argue the point, listen nondefensively. Rather than counter attack, search for some small part with which you can agree, and acknowledge it. If an apology is called for, offer it. Listening nondefensively can put a damper on an argument expeditiously. Now. . . you can work on a solution together.

Date-Your-Mate - This is especially important if you are married. Once each week plan to spend some time together. I know. You have kids. It's easy to use your children as an excuse. Give it up. Hire a trusted friend to do an overnight and head for the "No-Tell Motel" to light the fire.

Dinner dates are great too, but be creative and discover other options. Take a "hand-in-hand" walk. Visit an arcade and play some games. Think different! Put together a picture puzzle.

Schedule a "Play Date" where you play and have fun together. Go dancing. Have an extended dinner in a nice restaurant, just a few hours to connect with each other, away from family obligations. No conversations about issues. Focus on having "fun" and really "being" together. It'll make a world of difference in your relationship.

Be Your Partner's Hero - A hero is defined as one that is much admired or shows great courage. The partner, who is willing to devote the time and energy necessary to work on making the relationship one they can be proud to be in, is a hero. It takes courage to step up to the plate and take a stand for the relationship. It takes even more courage to begin to "do whatever it takes" to make it work. Talk's cheap! Show me! Be a hero.

Value Added - Conventional business wisdom says that companies maintain market leadership by constantly adding value. Failing to do so is a sure path to demise. The same principle can be applied to relationships. What are you doing on a daily basis to add value to your relationship? Remember everything you do either leads you closer or further from your relationship goal. Perhaps you might consider reinventing your relationship model to include some of the more than 50 ideas presented in this article.

Audioapathy - Empathic listening is a choice. Audioapathy is a word I coined to describe the condition often experienced when partners become apathetic about listening when their partner talks with them. It is a dreaded dis-ease that can poison your relationship. Although it appears that men are more affected than women, some women also get it.

Hearing is involuntary. You can be sound asleep and still hear something or someone, but listening is voluntary. It is an intellectual and emotional choice. It implies effective communication between the sender and the receiver, which hearing does not.

It is a wise partner who, when their partner is talking, puts down the evening newspaper or turns the TV off, makes eye contact and truly listens to what their partner is saying. Very wise. Listen like you mean it. It may be difficult to listen to what they have to say, however, if the truth hurts - be grateful. When your partner talks, listen for the truth about what they are saying instead of going on the defensive. That only keeps you stuck.

It may take courage for your partner to express their feelings if they haven't been used to doing so. To immediately defend your own position (or to disagree or argue) invalidates your partner's feelings and usually serves to turn off future sharing possibilities. Listen for the opportunity to assist the relationship by taking responsibility for what you may be doing that trips their trigger and causes them to make a choice to feel the way they do.

How often do we just wait for our partner's lips to stop moving so we can say something? Empathic listening gets inside your partner's frame of reference. You see their world the way they see it, you understand their paradigm, you understand how they "feel." Listening is one way to connect to others without trying to fix them.

Apathetic listeners breed contempt, resentment and often the person who desperately needs to be heard eventually shuts down. A lack of effective communication is the number one problem in relationships.

Try this. Listen to your partner without the burden of having to "do" anything other than give them room to talk. Listen more and talk less. You can't learn anything when you're talking. How do you spell success in a relationship? Be wise. Listen.  L-I-S-T-E-N.

Learn to listen. You don't learn anything from hearing yourself talk.
Leo Buscaglia

Voice Power - Practice voice modulation; change your voice pitch and avoid crescendos at all cost. Raising your voice to your partner (some would call this yelling) is the worse form of communication. It is emotionally abusive, unfair and shows a high level of disrespect for your love partner.

If your partner raises their voice, whether man or woman, back off physically from them, lower your voice to slightly more than a whisper sending a signal that you are not willing to listen if the yelling continues. Let them know that you are willing to mutually discuss the situation in a calm and respectful manner.

If you cannot peacefully reach this agreement, leave the scene of the disagreement. Generally speaking, a louder voice demands attention. If you go away, you deny them the attention they so disrespectfully demand. It is a smart partner who withdraws rather than becoming a partner in a shouting match.

A quiet loving voice manner is respectful and will always get you more of what you want. It is not necessary to raise your voice when talking face-to-face. It demonstrates immaturity and is childish. Watch your decibels.

Discover Your Partner's Hot Buttons - Push them spontaneously. I'm not talking about the ones you've been pushing, but the ones you should push. Like turn-ons. Know what makes your partner happy, excited and blissful. You must pay attention to do this. Make notes if you must to help you remember. Often what they need is only a warm and tender hug, a kiss on the neck or an unexpected full-body massage.

  • "The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change until we notice how our failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds." - R. D. Laing, Scottish Psychiatrist

Pay attention!

Search Engine - Get your engine going and search for solutions to small issues to head them off before they grow into something unmanageable. Plan ahead. Preventative maintenance works. Take a look at all the problem areas of your relationship and begin the work that needs to be done.

Remember, a relationship is something that needs to be worked on all the time, not only when it is broken and needs to be fixed.

Write! "Right!" - Journal. Put your private and personal feelings on paper. It is important to get your thoughts out of your head and make them tangible by putting them in writing. Often the thoughts you have about your relationship are disconnected from the real issue. Your mind skips from one thought to the next so rapidly you have no time to focus on thinking about what really matters. When you can see your thoughts on paper it helps you to more effectively deal with the situation. Read, For Your Eyes Only for a more in depth look at journaling.

Time-out - Make time to think about your relationship, your partner and the progress you are making. Thinking can stimulate your mind to action. Listen to your heart. It always tells the truth. It is far better to concentrate on the good than to dwell on the hurts of the past. Listening is the foundation for concentration. In your time-out look for the truth about the direction you need to take.

When difficulties arise, be a relationship tweaker. Don't wait. Do something, preferably with your partner that will quickly get your relationship back on track.

Remember, there is always more than one way to do anything. There is no "one way." There are only many ways to reach your relationship goals. You have but to be open to them. Together, choose a solution that you can both support and fine-tune it. Instead of living with old memories, create some new ones. . . together. Think openly, with no boundaries or rules and watch the creative juices flow and the ideas come forth.

Also be aware that ideas are a dime a dozen, however the people who put them into action are priceless. Studies have shown that as an activity becomes more difficult, the brain becomes more active. Take time to ponder the number of choices that are available.

Mission Possible - Keep the faith. When you decide to recommit to your relationship, you open your relationship to infinite possibilities. Harbor high hopes. Anything is possible when you really believe it and take the appropriate action to achieve it.

Back to the Future - Remember the good times. To stay motivated during the tough times, take some time to go back in your memory to when you were first together. What was it that first attracted you to your partner? Take a moment and look to see those qualities now. Banish negative thoughts about them. Take care to notice the things you admire about your partner, no matter how small and next, tell them. The more you focus on the good, the more good you will see.

No Excuses! - If you truly have a desire to have your relationship work, you cannot allow yourself to offer excuses. No excuses! There are only results or reasons why. The reasons why are the excuses we come up with to avoid taking responsibility for our relationship and to avoid doing something we may be afraid to do and know must be done.

Holy! Holy! Holy! - You must never forget the importance of the spiritual side of your relationship. Marriage is sacred. So are the vows you make. Making a relationship work should not be totally dependent upon what you or your partner do or do not do. God, a Higher Power - or whatever you choose to call what you believe in - can only inspire you to make the right choices. He alone cannot do it for you. You and your partner must do the work.

Listen for God's soft whisper. He speaks to you in the stillness of daybreak and in the midst of conflict. Are you listening? I highly recommend the following list of priorities: God, you, your relationship and your work - in that order!

Give Up Whine - In relationships there is no fine whine. Get a grip. Whining does not work. Neither does dissing, ranting and raving. Especially if it always about the same old thing. The more you run over a dead cat, the flatter it gets. Do you want to get closer to the one you love? Practice the "three Cs." Don't criticize, condemn or complain. Constantly complaining is a form of whining. It is also often called "nagging." Quiet, please. Instead, catch your partner doing something right and shower them with praise and adoration.

Stay With It - Work the program. Make it a lifetime commitment. Never stop. We often get so wrapped up in our everyday experiences that we forget that our relationship comes first. It does, you know. Make it a habit to work together on your relationship. When you become discouraged, seek out someone in your support system, perhaps a friend whom you know will be your encourager. To paraphrase Vincent Van Gogh, "When you hear a voice within you saying, 'You're not going to make it,' than by all means continue making better choices and that voice will be silenced."

Stick with it and your partner will stick with you. Positive repetition builds your relationship reputation. Become known to your partner as someone who is consistent with their best efforts; someone with commitment, perseverance and dedication to serving the relationship.

Preventative Maintenance - Don't allow your relationship to crash and burn. Perhaps there should be "black boxes" in relationships. That way when a major relationship crash occurs you would be able to analyze more correctly what caused the problem. Forensic experts know that in analyzing black boxes, any deviation in any sequence of events would have prevented the crash. That's good to know.

Adjustments in your own position about your relationship can and will make a BIG difference. Giving up being "right" about YOUR position is a great first step. You'll be amazed! Make this commitment and it will transform the "rumbles" in your relationship to "ripples" almost immediately! Ask yourself, "Would I rather be right or happy?"

Relationships are something that must be worked on all the time, not only when they are broken and need to be fixed.

Agree as partners to keep your relationship in a constant state of repair by continually working on it. This is a good way to prevent future issues from occurring. Sustain your relationship by periodic visits to those best in a position to help you. Got a relationship problem you cannot solve? Relationship coaching is a wise choice.

My friend, Dr. Michael LeBoeuf, says "A mistake only proves someone stopped talking long enough to do something." People in relationships make mistakes. The key is to learn from your mistakes and push forward. Never stay hooked to the past. The past is an energy drain. Focus on what you want, not on what you don't want. Practice constructive doing. You make fewer mistakes that way.

The miracle of error is the access to opportunity it presents. Problems validate what you are committed to. They get in the way of your commitments, therefore they validate what you are committed to. If this were not true, we couldn't call them problems. Accept responsibility for your problems. If you don't, you are the problem.

It is infinitely wiser to experience relationship problems as those situations which lure you on to self-discovery than to be stopped by the unpleasantness of the circumstances and be shut down to the possibilities the problem presents.

There are no accidents. Relationship problems occur for a reason. It is sometimes difficult to find the good in what appears to be all bad. There are important lessons to be learned in every circumstance. Problems by design are repetitive. They come back if you don't learn from them and do something to prevent their reoccurrence.

Be a Smarty Pants - Yearn to learn. Learn more about having healthy and successful relationships by visiting quality relationship sites on the Internet. Develop a need to read. Join a book club and purchase relationship books. Subscribe to relationship eZINEs. Attend relationship seminars. Get relationship coaching. You can never know too much about relationships.

Exercise Empathy - Do your best to see your partner's point of view. This assists especially when you are both in major disagreement. Give up what you want and focus on what you both "need" to make the progress that will benefit both of you.

Count Your Blessings! - Look for the basic goodness in your mate. What do you like best about them? Make a list of all the reasons you are together. It will help you to stay fixed on the positive and focused on what matters the most in your relationship. Believe that the difficulties in relationships are challenges that can be understood, and once understood and worked on "together," they eventually go away. Trust in the goodness of your partner. What you think about and speak about, you bring about.

Leave Work at Work - Dave Barry once said, "You should not confuse your career with your life." I agree and would add, "or your relationship!" Your relationship must come first, then your career.

Hmmmm! What About Housework? - Guys! This one is for you. Nowhere is it written that your sweetheart should be responsible for all the housework. No husband has ever been shot while doing the dishes, taking out the trash or running the vacuum sweeper! Think about it!

Recovery from a relationship slump is not only about reconnection. It's about collaboration. My friend, Ian Percy, CSP, has written a wonderful article called, "The Joy of Collaboration."

Make some new promises! Make a promise to your partner to use this list of "Slump Busters" to assist in the growth of your relationship. A commitment to do so is a healthy step in the right direction. A healthy love relationship is the reward.

You can do the work of relationships by design or default. The choice is up to you!

What can you expect if you begin to do the work of a healthy love relationship? Miracles in your relationship, that's what! The reward for better choices is a love that grows. . . and grows. . . and grows!

There is no try - there is only do or not do.
Yoda, from The Empire Strikes Back

Copyright © - Larry James. Adapted from the book, "How to Really Love the One You're With."

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