There was once a man who sat down with his therapist and began to recount his troubles. He listed his woes, “I’m fed up! Each day when I wake up, I feel so shaken up. My bills have gone up. I’ve felt ill lately, and I’m worried my time is up. I have too much responsibility at work –– everything is up to me! Even sitting here with you, it’s hard to speak up.” The therapist, looking back at him calmly, responded, “You sound like you are really down.”
Sometimes it’s difficult to find a rhythm of upswing to get us moving forward. Often in relationships, we feel as if we are walking a tightrope with a chasm of failure looming below. But, look up! There are positive steps we can take to strengthen our relationships and keep them from sinking.
1. Show Up.
There is a difference between simply being somewhere and showing up. Showing up means being fully present when you are with your significant other. What are some temptations that rob us from being enaged with our partner? Work is a common culprit; put away your cell phone and set boundaries that allow you to be attuned to your partner. Children can also serve as a distraction. Be sure carve out time that allows for you and your partner to connect one-on-one without the prospect for interruption.
2. Open Up.
We cannot truly and fully experience the depths of love without being willing to dive into the realm of vulnerability. To be loved is to be known through and through. As Timothy Keller says, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial.” Why would we shortchange ourselves in one of the most profound and important areas of life? A thriving relationship requires a sacrificial act of opening up. Be free to love and receive love by becoming vulnerable.
3. ‘Fess Up.
Anyone who is in a successful relationship has mastered these two words: “I’m sorry.” Disagreeing, making mistakes and working through challenges are not only normal, but healthy. Doing so shows signs of life –– partners living fully and learning from one another. Relationships become problematic when one partner refuses to acknowledge the moments where they’ve failed. Apologizing for mistakes does wonders to increase your humility and make your significant other feel valued. At the end of each day, take inventory of your missteps and apologize before you turn out the lights.
4. Listen Up.
The word “conversation” stems from a Latin term that means the “act of living with.” No one enjoys the thought of spending their lives with someone who is domineering, uninterested, or distant. When speaking with your significant other, actively listen to them. When they share with you, engage. Ask them to further explain the details of an event that happened in their day. Did they have a difficult phone call with their sibling? Ask them how it made them feel. Don’t cut them off or check out.
5. Speak Up.
We all know well that love is a two-way street, traffic will flow both ways. Failing to voice your true feelings in a loving way is a disservice to yourself, your spouse, and the relationship you share together. When you love your significant other, you want to know what they are thinking. It helps you know them more and makes you feel close. Apply that same logic to your spouse. They want to know what you’re thinking. Share it!
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