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Three Tips To Help Make Your Relationship Bloom

(This blog post was written by Elisabeth Mandel, LMFT. Elisabeth is an Associate Therapist at our practice and specializes in working with couples.)

As a couples therapist, I often get asked the million dollar question, “What is the key to a happy and healthy relationship?” I will base my answer on my previous three blog posts:

1)    1) Know Thy Anger

2)    2) Reassure the Insecure

3)    3) Play as Teammates

Know Thy Anger

Relationships aren’t always so easy breezy. They may start off smoothly and effortlessly, which feels wonderful and promotes the development of an attachment bond. But things will come up, as they inevitably do, that will challenge the idealized image you have of your partner. It’s what you do next that matters most.

Confronting a conflict or disagreement isn’t what most couples would consider a cause for celebration. It often brings up repressed negative feelings about past experiences, and before you know it you are angry and it doesn’t feel good. Learning anger management skills is one of the most important ways in which you can contribute to the health of your relationship.

After all, couples don’t break up because they are madly in love and perfectly compatible in every way. Relationships dissolve when there is chronic unresolved conflict or acute crisis. Once you truly know your anger—identify your triggers, take responsibility for your behavioral responses, and learn to control it before it controls you—then you will provide your relationship with tools for resolving conflict both within yourself and with your partner.

Reassure the Insecure

Partners may feel insecure when facing a disagreement in their relationship. The strength of their attachment depends on the ratio between reassurance and division. Reassurance pulls partners together whereas division pushes them apart. If the relationship presents more togetherness than distance for both partners, then security outweighs insecurity. Likewise, more distance than togetherness creates insecurity which, if left untreated, will eventually destroy the attachment bond.

If partners are getting less out their relationship than they want, they become rightfully insecure about their faith in the bond. This insecurity is difficult to communicate especially because of the effect insecurity has on a person’s willingness to be vulnerable with their partner. If your relationship feels unbalanced in a way that is not in your favor, it makes sense why you may be reluctant to confront your partner about the way you are feeling.

On the one hand, telling your partner how you feel may lead to positive change that could potentially rebalance the relationship and increase your security. However, if you are skeptical of your partner’s investment in the relationship, then saying something concerning about the relationship may enhance the divergence and tip the scale even more towards insecurity.

Reassurance provides a buffer for dealing with conflict by insulating the attachment just enough to encourage productive confrontation without the impending fear of detachment and abandonment. Gestures of reassurance send messages to partners that allow them to view conflicts or disagreements as non-threatening opportunities to further secure the bond between them.

Play as Teammates

Did you hear? Hugging is the new foreplay. Physical affection causes physiological reactions in the brain and body, leading to a relaxation of the nervous system similar to the feeling of security with an attachment figure. Partners are more likely to start taking each other for granted when the relationship is sailing smoothly. Therefore, it is that much more important to pay attention to positive interactions and celebrate them with physical affection.

When partners feel like they are drifting apart and their sense of division outweighs the togetherness, this can become a minefield for competition and power struggles. Hugging till relaxed is an effective exercise for reconnecting with your loved one by evening out the playing field and re-establishing the relationship’s natural balance and harmony.

Remember that you and your partner are on the same team working towards the common goal of love, support and fulfillment. Engaging in activities that bring you closer together remind you that love can be a beautiful game of fun surprises rather than a routine fraught with monotony and bland convenience.

***Relationships are like plants that bloom in the most nurturing conditions. Knowing Thy Anger is like cleansing the water you and your partner use to feed the plant. Reassuring the Insecure is analogous to monitoring the sunlight exposure and adjusting the position of the plant in order to enhance. And finally, Playing as Teammates serves as a replenishing of the soil that stations and stabilizes the plant. Work with your partner to nurture your plant to its fullest potential, and you will make sure to keep it healthy and blooming all year round. 


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