Remember back when the toughest decision you had to make was choosing between the jungle gym and the slide during recess? Fast-forward to your adult years, and chances are you’ve encountered some pretty trying road blocks in life, for some, lots of them.
Your 7-year-old self didn’t have to think about paying bills; about getting along with a boss; about the difficulties of conceiving; about choosing the right parenting techniques; about watching your cholesterol; or about transitioning to a new job or career. You weren’t concerned with any of these things, and you certainly weren’t concerned with overcoming these obstacles with a partner. By now, it’s likely that playground seemed like a much simpler time – you may even kick yourself for ever wanting to grow up too fast.
The truth is these are just a small sampling of life’s road blocks. We’re faced with obstacles every day that not only challenge us as individuals, but also challenge us in our relationships, particularly our romantic ones. If we aren’t careful, our relationships can suffer. We can’t always control the road blocks themselves, but we can (in many cases) control how we deal with them, so that a detour doesn’t become a relationship dead-end.
Amidst the season where we spring forward, here are three simple practices to help you stay ahead of the obstacles without having to spring back in time to that playground.
Simply put, talk to each other! It seems obvious, but sometimes we let life take priority over having a face-to-face conversation with our partner. NOT through emojis; NOT through texts; NOT through email; NOT on their Facebook wall. In person.
I highly encourage you to set aside uninterrupted time with your partner every day to simply talk to them – no TV, no phone, no tablet, no laptop. How are they doing? How are they feeling? If you can’t communicate during the less challenging times, how will you be able to communicate during the really challenging ones?
Acknowledge obstacles head on.
I hear many couples tell me they don’t want to burden their partner with something they are dealing with. However, it’s important to remember that even your personal road blocks can have a great impact on your partner. If it’s burdening you, that burden’s likely to carry over to your partner indirectly. Practice acknowledging these obstacles right away, no matter how small they seem.
Discuss both sides of the situation – how it makes each of you feel, the potential complications and outcomes, and how you can work together to deal with the issue head on. Maybe this is something you’re always going to have to deal with, maybe it’s something that will go away next week. Either way – so long as it’s affecting one of you, you need to communicate about it.
Recognize how you best give love and how you best receive love.
Perhaps most importantly of all, your partner needs to know that you love and support them, and that you appreciate them. To effectively communicate that, you must first know how your partner prefers to receive love and support; and how they prefer to give love and support. Is it through acts of kindness, is it through verbal words, is it physically, is it through all of these things? Your answers to this question might be different – and that’s okay as long as you recognize your communication styles.
Maybe you prefer to receive love through verbal words, in which case your partner should learn how to effectively (and consistently) tell you they love and support you. Maybe you prefer to receive love through acts of thoughtfulness, such as a surprise dinner, tickets to your favorite sports team or singer, or doing the dishes. Whatever the case may be, if your partner isn’t feeling the love, you better fix something, and quick!
We might not be able to go back to a simpler time on that playground – but why would we want to when we can come out even stronger on the other side.