Let's face it -- long term relationships are hard. Whether married or not, being with someone for the long haul while trying to juggle family, career and friendships can be tricky, and relationships need work.
The comforting news is that fighting is normal and all couples can expect to argue from time to time.
"The most common issues I come across while working with my clients are usually centered around parenting, finance, lack of time (for each other and for themselves) and intimacy," Debbi Carberry, Psychotherapist and Clinical Social Worker told The Huffington Post Australia.
Even better news is that there are ways we can work on our 'fighting style' to effectively change the way we consciously or subconsciously negotiate during conflict. Many of us don't know that the way we argue is actually ingrained in us from a very young age.
"We are all hardwired to connect. However we are taught during infancy how to get our need met by our caregivers. These nonverbal interactions between mother and child are then used throughout our lifetime to connect with other people. As we go through childhood we experience attachment wounds (where our needs were not or could not be met), these wounds are transferred to our adult intimate relationships," Carberry said.
"This can be problematic for couples as we usually have no language or possibly real memory of the wounds we experience early in life. Our partners can trigger our unmet needs and this causes conflict and distress to both parties."
"These can manifest as what may feel like unresolvable issues for couples.By identifying the wound and working on all aspects of the relationship we are able to heal these old wounds."
"There is no one size fits all as we are all unique – working with a professional or doing my course will significantly assist couples in recognizing and changing their attachment wounds," Carberry said.
Carberry suggests some of the following techniques for 'rewiring our brains' and in term having better relationships:
The fast pace at which we all live can often mean we pass our partner by. Making time to meaningfully connect with the people we love is critically important in a relationship. Many people feel disconnected from their partner for one reason or another. The important thing to remember is that it is possible to reconnect again. Make this a priority.
Increasing or improving intimacy
Every relationship goes through ebbs and flows with intimacy. If you are feeling that you and partner have lost the intimacy take comfort in the fact that many couples will experience a dry patch. Set your intention and book some quiet time together. The passion will usually return when you do.
Have fun and be more playful
Joy is often the first casualty in a busy, stressful life. It is important to resolve to have fun and enjoy your relationship. Put a few dates and activities in your diary. No matter what else is going on in your life, do not remove these. Making time to be playful can be a real boost to your relationship.
Remember why you got together in the first place
We all change. But the unique characteristics you first noticed in your partner, the very essence of what you fell in love with, is most likely still there, unchanged. Sometimes it just lays forgotten, covered up by money stress, parenting responsibilities, career focus, household chores and just plain exhaustion. Spend some time remembering why you both fell in love and some of your most connected happy memories.
All human beings need to be touched. However we all have different levels of affection that we are comfortable with. Public displays of affection can include hand holding or touching your partners back or shoulder. Letting them know that you are there for them. In private giving a hug at the end of a difficult day or greeting each other with a kiss really can make a huge difference and of course let’s not forget intimate moments.
Make each other a priority
This can be challenging if you have children. My advice is to carve out a little time each day. Also aim for at least one time a month where the focus is just the two of you. Making time to prioritise your relationship pays off big time.
Work on self-care, self-acceptance and self-compassion
All successful relationships start with how you treat yourself. Before you look outward for the reasons you’re struggling in your relationship, look inward. Ask yourself whether you accept yourself as you are. Do you have compassion for yourself? Do you spend time caring for yourself? The answers to these three questions are at the heart of rewiring your brain for better relationships.
A person who makes a conscious effort to practice gratitude is immeasurably happier than one who does not. Gratitude is a decision, as is Joy. Choose to be grateful. Make a concerted effort to mentally list just 3 things you are grateful for every morning, and again every evening. The discipline of deliberately practicing gratitude, of taking a few minutes to really think about the things you are grateful for, will improve all aspects of your life, including your relationship.
Make space for a date night -- get creative if you have kids or money is tight
Date night is an excellent way to prioritise your partner. It can be customised to suite your circumstances and budget. Date night doesn’t need to be difficult, or even outside of your home if that’s not possible. It could be going out to the local bar, having breakfast together on a Sunday morning, getting a babysitter, arranging a babysitting swap with another couple, or just hiring a movie you’ve both wanted to see and holding hands on the couch while you watch it. The fact is that the date itself is not important; it’s the intention behind dating.