Elizabeth Bernstein of the Wall Street Journal did a great piece in her Bonds column last week on “The Year’s Best Relationship Advice.” She includes a selection of great advice from non-experts who have someone gotten it really right in their own relationships. They have shared this with her through the thousands of letters she gets from readers—and the ones featured really stuck out for Ms. Bernstein.
The first one is about breathing deeply and listening—yes, I said breathing and listening. Nothing special or complicated—just breathing and listening while you partner speaks—especially if what they are saying has the potential to make you defensive or angry. No interruptions, comments, smirks or other conversation killers. Simple, right?
Another is to jump to a positive assumption/conclusion, rather than a negative one. How often we assume the worst, based on either past experience or just our own defenses working against us? When you assume something positive it keeps you in a calm and open state—and very often it turns out that jumping to a negative conclusion would have been incorrect and would have taken away from the good will and trust in your relationship. If it turns out that assuming the best was incorrectly, you can shift gears and address the problem—in a better and more productive state of mind.
A third suggestion is that you spoil one another. You know, do nice things for one another just because. This reader said that it’s important not to draw attention to any helpful deed or kind gesture, as that would take away from it because it would make it about you, the doer, instead of just because.
A fourth idea that I especially like is to be easy to love. Now you may be thinking that you already are and what does that mean… Think about it, do you make an issue of things you could just let go? Do you jump to criticism because your partner doesn’t do things just the way you would like and you assume he or she does this on purpose? Maybe their love language is very different and you could try to learn to speak it, while gently demonstrating what rocks your world and how to do it. Be a low maintenance partner—this will make you so much easier to love and appreciate.
Lastly is the suggestion that you prioritize and have a f_ _ _ it bucket. Do you really have to get upset or agitated over the little stuff? What about saying f _ _ _ it and moving on? This is definitely a “pick your battles” kind of thing and it makes great sense—especially in relationships. Who wants to be around someone who reacts to everything as though it all has the same weight and importance? Geez, exhausting to be sure.
Great stuff to think about as you consider your relationship resolutions for 2018.