The media seems to be brimming with messages of relationship doom. The new book by Paula Paul, “Starter Marriages,” is full of statistics stating that today’s new marriages are often over before they start. Celebrity and high-profile divorces are everywhere. Couples find themselves this year approaching marriage with one statement glaring like a neon sign – “it might not work.”
At The Equality in Marriage Institute, we believe love and romance are the gas for the car, but partners must still build and maintain the vehicle itself. This Valentine’s Day, don’t forgo the chocolate and the roses, but give something more by taking the time to look under your relationship’s hood and make sure everything is running smoothly.
But how does this conversation get brought up without ruining the mood or causing tension? How can a partner bring up areas of concern without being accusatory? People still find honesty, truth and compromise as something that taints a romantic evening.
This shouldn’t be the case. We’ve come up with a way to help couples start the conversations that will help them dig into their relationship and strengthen it’s foundation. We call it “The Relationship Tune-Up.”
- Commit to It: Have your romantic Valentine’s Day date and let yourselves just enjoy each other’s company. End dinner by taking turns mentioning things that you really like or enjoy about the relationship. Then acknowledge that no relationship is perfect and there is always room for improvement and make the mutual commitment to make your relationship even stronger. This isn’t an acknowledgment of doom, but a reality that, like seatbelts in cars, precautions need to be taken to protect your partnership in a landscape where so many seem to be crashing.
- Write It Down: For one full week, be very observant about your relationship and write it down. Each of needs to by a notebook and create two sections “Things that Work” and “Things that Don’t.” Record the parts of the relationship that are very rewarding to you. Also record problem areas. An example might be that you really enjoy discussing your day with your partner over dinner, but maybe the fact that your partner brings up heavy financial issues during the hectic morning is bothersome and starts you out on the wrong foot. Be observant, detailed and capture your honest feelings about the relationship.
- Think About It: You are going to use your “journal” as a way to start a productive discussion with your partner, but first you need to prepare. Look over the problem areas in your relationship that you’ve recorded and jot down some ideas on how these could be solved by compromise/adjustment by one or both of you. You’ll want to enter your conversation with a focus on “action” and solving problems. The best way to ensure the discussion is effective is to come to the table with some possible solutions.
- Talk About It: Make a date to have the important conversation about your relationship. Choose a time and place with little distraction and where you both are comfortable. Then open up your journals and start by sharing the things that work in the relationship. This starts the dialogue out on a good note and can help eliminate some of the tension that may rise in discussing more sensitive issues. Next, move on to the parts of the relationship that aren’t working at maximum efficiency. Take the issues one by one, discuss your mutual feelings about that situation and talk about solutions. Remember, you should leave this conversation with a possible solution to all the issues raised.