Those of us in long term relationships understand the levels of growth required in order for us to be able to stay together harmoniously. We need to be able to listen without agenda, and discuss conflict rather than actively fight. This can be really challenging. Really Challenging. Many of us did not have good role models in our parents or families, and those that did still need to grow into ways of being with a partner when life gets tough and challenging.
If you find yourself regularly fighting with your partner, it's a good indicator that warmth and trust in the relationship are low. If you consider your relationship like a bank account, how healthy is your balance? Our relationships flourish with care and attention, and it's easy to neglect them when life gets busy with work, kids, responsibilities etc. When we don't invest enough time, energy and care into our relationship you will find that fractures happen more easily. You will feel misunderstood, not cared for and not prioritised. When this happens you switch to a negative perception of the relationship such that your lens picks up only the negative events and focuses on them. We are prone to doing this as humans anyway. But, interestingly, within a relationship, we can hold a positive sentiment as our lens, so long as we have a healthy relationship bank account.
Here are 3 simple ways to hold positive sentiment in your relationships:
- Prioritise your relationship - when your partner makes a 'bid' for your attention, turn towards them, not away. For example, when sitting outside on the deck reading books together and your partner says 'look at that beautiful bird', that's a bid for connection. Setting your book aside to connect for a moment on the bird together adds to your relationship bank account and builds positive sentiment. Turning away from the bid by grunting or ignoring leads to negative sentiment and a decline in your relationship bank account.
- Be thoughtful about resolving conflict - Approach a conflict with an intent to fully understand what the person is telling you. Listen without interruption and ask thoughtful probing questions. At the end of the discussion, summarise back what you heard and check for clarity and understanding. When your partner tells you that you have it, respond with empathy. Now it's your turn to explain what it felt like for you, and what's important to you. When we feel understood and validated we are more likely to make positive steps to repair the fracture and build that bank balance.
- Physically connect - 20 seconds of kissing 4 times a day can change your overall sentiment to being more positive, through the feeling of connectedness. Holding a hug for an equal amount of time does a very similar thing. When we physically connect, it builds our relationship bank balance.
How do you hold positive sentiment in your relationships?