The 8 ‘how-tos’ of love relationships

celibate couple

by Carmen Harra

Relationships were meant to be the joyful journey of two loving people striving towards fulfilment and enlightenment …

If only it were that simple.

At times, being in a relationship has a curious way of leaving us more confused, frustrated and dissatisfied than does being single. We love our partner but we don’t understand them, yet we want to work things out. Escalating emotions lead us to overreact and over-analyse. It’s complicated, at best.

As a psychologist, I’ve heard every relationship dilemma imaginable. Some require deep analysis and serious effort, while others benefit from a quick fix. From cheating scandals to bitter betrayals to being married for 30 years but sleeping in different beds, I’ve been taught one monumental lesson by my career: There is a solution to every single conceivable problem.

No matter how seemingly perfect, all relationships suffer from some cause for concern. Chances are, your love relationship is speckled with some of the more manageable issues which are both temporary and reparable if the right actions are taken.

Reflect on these eight how-tos and apply my solutions to reach emotional prosperity in your partnership:

1. How to settle arguments

Contrary to what you’ve heard, arguments can be quite a productive force in relationships. That’s because it’s not so much about the initial argument as it is about the final agreement.

This means that how you resolve your disagreements and the conclusions you reach far outweigh the dispute itself. Never leave feuds unfinished or let things ‘go away on their own’. An argument which occurs once is bound to become a recurring source of conflict. Compromise to resolve disagreements once and for all by eliminating the catalyst of your hostility.


2. How to encourage better communication

Most couples complain of communication issues. Not listening is a roadblock which impedes mutual progress. Yet it’s a common issue because both partners hold dearly onto their egos and would rather not have their opinions questioned.

The key to communication is to invite your partner to talk first. Ask your partner a key question, which is likely to lead him or her to release his or her thoughts and emotions. Once you have listened openly without speaking, tell your partner that you’re ready to share your point of view. Speak to your partner as if you were speaking to your best friend: Uninhibited, un-intimidated and unafraid.

3. How to resolve recurring issues

The first step in resolving recurring issues is to dig to the root of the problem. This means, for example, that your partner’s emotional issues are not random, but might stem from some childhood experience or a deep-seated need. Once you’ve discovered the origins of the issue, you must address and manage this underlying cause before you can put a stop to a persisting problem.

Breaking patterns of negative speech and action largely involves a process of healing, as we often act out when we are hurting subconsciously.


4. How to cut out external influences

In my practice, I have seen that external influences are often the hidden reason for conflict. We unknowingly invite all sorts of energies into our relationship: family, friends and even enemies all play a role in the fluctuating dynamic between us and our partner. Even worse, we can sometimes mis-perceive the intentions of others and think that they wish us well when they might not.

As a rule of thumb, keep most secrets strictly between you and your significant other. Your love relationship is an deeply intimate bond and its details are best left between only its two members.

5. How to regain trust

Trust is more easily broken than rebuilt, and once trust is lost, it can become particularly tricky to recover.

Regaining trust in someone else requires that you first establish trust in yourself. Once you understand that you will never fail yourself, put your partner to the test. Give your partner a mental point for each trustworthy deed: being on time, doing as they promise, being honest, and so on. In time, your trust will be built up once more to a healthy degree.


couple budgeting

6. How to make progress

Progress is a two-person endeavour. Both partners have to be in accord and must want to move in the same direction. Progress also necessitates a conscious desire to change. The most powerful way to facilitate change in another person is to change yourself. If your partner simply won’t budge, consider modifying your own behaviour. Assess the situation and understand what needs to be tweaked to improve your relationship. For instance, if you find yourself doing all the work, take a step back and see how your partner responds to the sudden decrease in effort from your part. Their subsequent actions will show you where they stand in the situation.

7. How to keep love alive

Maintaining that ‘spark’ over the years is difficult to do. For many, love fizzles out and habit creeps in. But that fleeting feeling of newfound love can be re-enacted through a medley of new and old activities. Push your partner and yourself out of your comfort zones. To start, go back to the beginning and do something you loved to do in the first few months of your relationship. Leave the cell phones at home and communicate throughout the activity. Then, try something completely new, something you’ve always wanted to try but perhaps haven’t had time for.

There are no excuses for not doing whatever it takes to keep love alive.


8. How to make your partner happy

There is no simple answer when it comes to making another person happy because there is no guarantee that your partner will be satisfied, even if he or she is given what they want. The only infallible act to keep someone content is to show them your unconditional love. Our partner will do things which will downright upset us, but unconditional love should step in as a little voice that reassures, “It’s okay, we can work through this.” Small reminders of love – such as a short sweet message or a hot meal after a long day – work wonders to help your significant other understand that they are cherished.

All relationships will experience bumps in the road, but most problems can be resolved through a combination of compromise and simple, pure love. The more effort both partners put into crafting their connection, the more loving rewards they will reap.

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