Want to really rev up your relationship? Even your life?
Step it up for our one-week relationship challenge.
As relationship psychotherapists, we’ve seen how making this one major shift can transform your relationship. And we’re confident you’ll see a difference in just one week.
We challenge you to embrace your relationship as the most important thing in your life.
That’s right. You commit to each other that “We come first.” Your partner and his or her needs comes first, even before your own, and vice versa. Your priority is to protect and nurture the relationship, which means caring for your partner in the way he or she needs.
For many, this can seem extreme at first, even radical. What about our independence? Other priorities? Children? My own needs?
The most interesting thing is that if you and your partner meet this challenge, you’ll find your own needs met in a way that doesn’t happen when you’re both optimizing for yourselves. Self-optimization creates a you-versus-me mentality, which causes conflict and leaves you feeling unsupported and alone. And your other priorities — including children, and work, friends and family — will actually benefit from you feeling secure, supported, and strong.
Ready to take action for the next seven days?
1. Accept that you are emotionally dependent. The reason we feel so badly when we fight is because our need to be emotionally attached to our partner is fundamental — it’s a basic need like food or shelter. Dr. Sue Johnson, writes in Hold Me Tight that, “Partners acted like they were fighting for their lives in therapy because they were doing just that. Isolation and the potential loss of loving connection is coded by the human brain into a primal panic response.”
2. Share your vulnerability. Ask your partner “What is the one thing you worry about the most, or find the most difficult to deal with in the relationship? And what do you need from me to make it easier?” Maybe your partner fears being abandoned and needs reassurance. Or maybe he or she finds it difficult to open up and needs you to listen. Keep this in mind and make efforts each day to make it easier for one another.
3. Be there for each other 24/7. Agree to make yourself available to your partner whenever he or she needs you, even the middle of the night. This means that when your partner reaches out, you respond quickly and lovingly. There is no judgment in this arrangement, which means that you can both call, text, email each other whenever and about anything.
4. Tell each other everything. Make a commitment to your partner to be fully transparent and open — not only about what you are doing, but also what you are thinking and feeling. For our challenge, it means that if your partner asks, “What are you thinking?” then you answer candidly, and without censoring. And no, you can’t say “Nothing!”
5. Book-end your days together. Start and end your day together, whether that’s in bed, or over the phone. Launch into your day with encouraging support for your partner, and land at night with reassuring closeness. In the morning tell your partner one thing you admire about him or her, and in the evening express appreciation for one thing your lover did during that day.
6. Protect the twosome. Never make your partner feel like a third wheel, even with your children. See your relationship as the primary foundation upon which everything else will thrive. The stronger that foundation — or the closer and more connected you are — the more secure your children will feel. With in-laws and family, remember that the relationship and your partner comes first. This does not mean pushing your family away, but it does mean that if sides have to be chosen…you choose your partner.
7. Choose “we” over “me”. Pick your partner first, over activities or interests that are just for you. If your partner wants to talk, put down the iPad and listen. If your partner wants to try a new activity — a sport, or a new restaurant, or social event — resist your impulse to say no. Be open-minded, encouraging, and even pro-active. Make plans and ask your partner on a date you know he or she will enjoy.
Good luck and have fun! If your loved one isn’t on board, make the changes yourself — you will still see an impact. And it won’t be only your relationship that changes. Don’t be surprised if your whole life starts to feel easier, less stressful, more hopeful and exciting… and that one week turns into a new way of living.