So if you’re a new parent then you probably already know that keeping a good relationship can be tricky in the early days (or later ones!). Often, though, there are a few simple things we can do to make big improvements quickly.
Here are my top 5 tips for improving your relationship.
#1 – Ask for what you need directly
Asking for what we need can be hard. We might not want to create work for our partners after they’ve had a hard day. Perhaps it’s just easier and quicker to get on and do things ourselves. Or maybe, we subconsciously believe that our needs won’t be met so we don’t even consider asking.
This can quickly lead to resentment though and sometimes, passive aggressive behaviours in an attempt to get our partners to do what we want.
When I use the term passive aggressive I really mean trying to manipulate a situation to get what we want. For example, you might try to get your partner to do the washing up by making a few snide remarks or moaning that you have to do it again. You might slam dishes down and huff and puff in an attempt to get him to offer to do it. Chances are though that he’ll fail to pick up on your hints or just ignore you.
Or if your partner has asked you to do something you don’t want to do you might complain about it, delay it or just outright not do it.
When we’re being passive aggressive in our relationship no one wins. You’re unlikely to get what you want by this method and even if you do, you’re probably going to piss off your partner in the process.
The solution? Ask directly for what you want to happen. If you want him to do the washing up ask him. Need him to sort the baby out? Ask him. Don’t want to go visit his parents? Say so.
Don’t try to manipulate, ignore or refuse to engage in a situation. Be adult about things. Talk about them directly. Be upfront about how you are feeling and what you need. Even if you don’t get the response you want, at least you will be able to talk it through and resolve any issues.
#2 – Communicate daily
In the early days of a relationship we spend so much time getting to know each other. We spend hours talking about how we’re feeling; our goals, hopes and desires. We connect deeply because we really get to see just who the other person is.
Then life starts to get in the way. Especially after a baby.
Rather than talking about the bigger stuff, we slip in to daily conversations about what we want for dinner or what we’re going to watch on TV. We ask how our partners are without really being interested or taking the time to listen to their response. We shout at each other over banisters or from different rooms rather than sitting down to talk.
So it’s easy to become flat mates who don’t really know much about each other anymore.
The solution? Communicate. Daily. Make the time to listen to what your partner has to say. It only has to be 10 mins but will help to make you feel connected again. Rather than saying “How was your day?”, ask them to tell you how they are so they feel invited to open up.
And be honest in return. When your partner asks you how you are, tell them truthfully. Confide in them. What you are worried about? Is there anything you struggling with? What is making you really happy right now?
When you both take the time to find out about how the other one is it becomes much easier to feel like you are a couple rather than just two people who share the same house.
#3 – Spend time together
Everyone knows that date night is important in a relationship but don’t underestimate how important spending time together on a day to day basis is too.
Assuming that you don’t manage to get date night in weekly, if you focus primarily on using date night as a chance to spend time together it can mean that your relationship in between starts to suffer. It can also make date night feel pressured because it’s the only chance you have to see each other. It might feel a little awkward because you aren’t used to spending time with just the two of you anymore. Perhaps date night becomes the only time when you can talk about things that are bothering you.
Someone today told me that date night is just scheduling a row – sounds very cynical but there is a lot of truth in that for couples that don’t spend much time together outside of date night.
So try to find ways to spend more time together every day (read my post on 5 ways to easily spend time together). Little and often is important to maintaining your connection.
Don’t think that it has to just be couple time, spending time together with the kids in tow counts too. It’s about taking the opportunity to enjoy each others company and have a chance to catch up. Go to bed together and spend 15 mins talking about your day. Cook dinner together or join in each others hobbies.
Whatever it is, spending just half an hour each day together, whether you’re doing chores as a couple or just sitting and talking, will really help to improve your relationship.
#4 – Express your emotions
We all have emotions, that goes without saying. We aren’t all good at expressing them though. Especially if they are related to how we are feeling in our relationship.
Thing is, unexpressed emotions will fester and come out in other ways. You might think you’re successfully repressing that you resent your partner for not doing more round the house but I guarantee that he’s picking up the vibe you’re giving out and knows you are pissed off about something!
It might not even be related to your partner. If you’re feeling lonely since becoming a mum or perhaps worrying about going back to work then it will show up in your relationship too. Your partner will know there is something bothering you. But if you don’t tell him it will just create a block between how well you connect as a couple.
The solution? Talk about how you are feeling. Be totally honest about things. If you’re unhappy say so. It won’t go away so you will need to deal with it at some point. Better sooner rather than later. Many a problem in a relationship has been solved just because someone brought it up.
It’s great to talk to your partner because it means he will get a chance to support you. If he’s upset you then talking to him will give him the chance to put it right. If you are worried about something then he can offer you reassurance or advice. And if it’s about a problem in your relationship then he really is the one who needs to know.
But sometimes, you can’t talk to your partner. For whatever reason. In this instance talking to someone else can help. Even a professional. Ultimately it doesn’t matter who you talk to to work through your emotions. As long as you do talk!
#5 – Sort your own issues out
We all bring baggage to a relationship. It’s almost unavoidable that we don’t. If we’re lucky, we get in to a relationship where our baggage doesn’t matter. Where our partners personality and own baggage doesn’t trigger ours. If we’re unlucky, however, (or just plain normal!) then our own issues can cause problems in our relationships.
If, for example, you are always worried about your weight then well meaning comments from your partner about how you could exercise more or eat less will go down like a lead balloon. It could trigger you in to feeling like your partner also hates the way you look when he was just trying to help.
Or maybe you’re finding breastfeeding really hard so when your partner says he’s worried about baby’s weight gain you might feel that is a personal attack on you or a criticism that you aren’t supplying enough food. But your partner might just be making an observation or expressing his own concerns.
Sometimes it’s our own issues that can make things our partners say or do feel like criticisms against us.
The solution? Sort your own issues out. We need to resolve any baggage we are carrying so we can be happy in ourselves as this means we can be happy in our relationships too. If you need help to do this that’s fine but make sure you get it. Fast. The sooner you can release your fears, insecurities, anxieties and past hurts, the sooner you can get on with building a better relationship.
So there you have it. 5 ways in which you can improve your relationship. They might not be easy at first but persevere and you will definitely reap the rewards in the long term!
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