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18 November 2018Last updated
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Relationships

How to detox your relationship

UAE relationship experts tell Louise Emma Clarke the 10 ways to get rid of our own issues and turn a rocky 
relationship into a rocking one

By Louise Emma Clarke
1 Nov 2014 | 07:36 pm
  • Couple with vintage suitcase in meadow

    Source:Getty Images

10 STEPS TO THE PERFECT RELATIONSHIP (AND HE DOESN’T EVEN NEED TO KNOW…)

Does your partner baulk at the idea of relationship counseling? It’s possible to give your relationship an overhaul without him even knowing. Louise Emma Clarke speaks to a panel of psychologists and relationship experts in the UAE to compile a 10-step plan to identifying our own baggage, staying mindful of our partners, and assessing the ways that we communicate….

1 – RECOGNISE YOUR OWN INSECURITIES

WHY? “It’s easier to see in others what is lacking than it is to identify this in ourselves,” explains relationship expert Helen Williams, Founder of LifeWorks Personal Development Training (www.lifeworksdubai.com). “Our insecurities, fears, anxieties, and worries become the missing parts of our relationships that we blame our partners for. When we recognise these insecurities instead of blaming our partner, we can create healthier ways of relating.”

HOW? Helen advises: “This is about learning to see our emotional selves more clearly, noticing our own defensive behaviour, and looking at the ways that we tend to block, shield and blame. To do this, you could keep a journal, create healthy ‘me time’, find meaningful friendships apart from your partner, or seek professional help.”

2 – ASK YOURSELF ‘AM I CODEPENDENT?”

WHY? How will you know if you have an unhealthy codependency on your partner? Clinical Psychologist Dr Tara Wyne from The Lighthouse Arabia (www.lighthousearabia.com) explains: “You will place an inappropriate level of care and reliance on your partner. Their mood, reactions, behaviour and emotions will dictate yours. Other signs will be neglecting other relationships, always feeling preoccupied with your partner, extreme reactions when in conflict or disagreement, and feeling empty when they are away from you. There are several ways to remedy this.”

HOW? “Start practicing being alone and being comfortable with yourself,” she explains. “Create or renew connections with others and develop or discover hobbies, so that your happiness isn’t fulfilled by just one person and you have something else to focus some energy on. Finally, spend some time evaluating how much you are relying on the relationship for your self-esteem – setting healthy boundaries for the amount of availability for the other is a good course of action.”

3 – IDENTIFY YOUR TRIGGERS

WHY? If confrontation has become commonplace, it is time to identify your triggers and learn how to avoid them. “It can be a vicious circle,” explains Helen Williams, “When we feel triggered, our tendency is to blame the one who triggers us, rather than identifying the feeling that is burning within us. Blaming quickly leads to defensiveness and shaming of our partner. We focus too much on our partner’s behaviour, avoiding all cues to our own. We feel lost, distant, and believe that it is our partner that needs to change.”

HOW? She continues: “If you feel sharply triggered, stop, take a deep breathe and try to identify what has caused it – this is a certain call to look within yourself and notice what needs to change.”

4 – SHOW THAT YOU CARE

WHY? “As obvious as it sounds, every relationship needs opportunities to connect – and that can only happen if you turn towards each other and show that you care,” explains Dr Tara Wyne. “This isn’t just about being around each other and doing tasks together, but it’s also about being accepting and encouraging.”

HOW? “There are plenty of different ways you can show that you care”, she continues. “Make a special meal or snack that your partner appreciates, compliment them on an accomplishment or effort, praise their efforts around the house and with the children, say thank you genuinely, put a loving note somewhere unexpected, call or email during the day just to connect, write a love letter, or ask about their memories, fears, dreams, goals and visions.”

5 – BE MINDFUL OF LANGUAGE AND TONE

WHY? Amrit Chand, Founder of Miracles Dubai (www.miraclesworldwide.com) explains: “Our vocabulary and tone play a huge role in our dealings with people in life. In relationships, this is even more vital, as this is so important to our communication as a couple.”

HOW? Tara Wyne advises: “Firstly, always try to start statements with ‘I’ and not ‘You’ – this let’s your partner know how you are feeling without getting them on the defensive. For example, say ‘I want us to save more’, rather than ‘You are careless with money”. Secondly, be clear about your needs, as your partner is not a mind reader, and always stay polite and appreciative. Lastly, try not to store things up and discuss any issues with your partner as they occur – you are less likely to remain calm and gentle to your partner if you feel ready to burst.”

6 – FOCUS ON WHAT IS GOOD

WHY? Dr Tara Wyne explains: “Both partners focusing on the positive is critically important. Fondness and admiration is one of the cornerstones of a happy relationship, acting as an antidote to contempt and harshness between couples.”

HOW? Dr Tara advises: “Try to remind yourself of your partner’s positive qualities regularly, especially when you are very struck by their flaws. Try to communicate the things you are fond of and admire at least once every day, which will build a connection and deepen your friendship.” She adds: “Making an effort to do this will also help to soften the disagreements, as we don’t go for the jugular quite as fiercely when we are very aware of how much we care for each other.”

7 – SCHEDULE TIME TOGETHER

WHY? “Whether you call it date night or coffee morning, it’s important to build a regular ritual into your schedule to spend time with one another,” advises Dr. Saliha Afridi, Clinical Psychologist and Manager of The Lighthouse Arabia (www.lighthousearabia.com). “Many people in a relationship start to take the partnership for granted after a while. The truth is that we constantly change as individuals as we go through different life experiences, so continuing to make a conscious effort to connect with one another and have fun is crucial.”

HOW? Dr Saliha advises: “Many couples head to a movie for their date night, but I think it’s a much better use of time to skip the movie and go for a walk instead. The point is to get to know each other, explore each other – and to do it time and time again.”

8 – ASK YOURSELF: ‘IS THIS DECISION GOOD FOR THE RELATIONSHIP?

WHY? “One of the keys to a healthy relationship is allowing the other person to influence your decisions,” says Dr. Saliha Afridi. “This communicates to the other person that you are in a relationship, that he or she matters, and that what he or she says matters. If you take decisions about work, travel, or big purchases without consulting or discussing with your partner first, you are communicating that their thoughts, opinions, and wishes are not valued.”

HOW? Helen Williams advises: “Learning to make decisions that honour both your truth and your relationship is a steep learning curve. Solid communication is the basis for this and each couple will have an individual way of achieving it. Listening to each other will enable growth in decision-making. Ask questions like: ‘Show me, teach me, and tell me why this is important for you?’”

9 – EXUDE GRATITUDE, RATHER THAN COMPLAINT

WHY? “Put literally, being grateful reflects a state of mind where you feel blessed and thankful for what you have,” says Dr Tara Wyne. “You will be in a state of mind where you see the positives in your life, which is crucial to making the most of what we have and who we are with. We can actually get more from our partner and relationship when we are grateful, because our openness makes us perfect for emotional connection and growth.”

HOW? She continues: “Let your partner know specifically what you feel grateful for and how appreciative you are for those blessings. Be specific about the difference they make to your life, what they add or bring, how they enrich you, how you are stronger and better because of them. The more grateful you are, the less you will dwell on what goes wrong in life and even what goes wrong in your day-to-day relationship. Gratutude almost gives you immunity to the small stuff that usually leads to bickering and discontentment.“

10 – ANALYSE HOW YOU SPEND YOUR TIME

WHY? Finally, ask yourself ‘how do we spend our time together and apart?’ Dr. Saliha Afridi explains: “What we do and how we do it has a big impact on the ones we are with. We often think that we are bionic and what we do remains inside of us and does not impact those around us. This is not true, and taking ownership of our own mental, physical and emotional health is very important.”

HOW? Helen Williams says: “Balance is essential here. Making ourselves too available kills the romance just as quickly as being too unavailable. Quality time over quantity time usually works best. Each partner in the relationship will have differing needs for contact and this needs discussion and understanding. For some people, quality time spent together is a very important part of relating, part of their language of loving. Others prefer to meet frequently, but for shorter periods of time.“

By Louise Emma Clarke

By Louise Emma Clarke