How To Protect Your Relationship

Every couple disagrees. And it’s normal for more of those disagreements to turn onto arguments once we have children and have to make so many more joint decisions.

The success of your relationship depends on how you approach those disagreements. If you’re struggling to resolve them – or agree to disagree from a place of genuine respect – please don’t struggle on without support. When we try to ignore issues in our relationships, they tend to grow.

The paperwork might say “irreconcilable differences” but what really happens when relationships break down? And how can you do your best to protect yours?

Research shows there are 4 warning signs that a relationship is in or heading into meltdown:

  1. Overwhelming negativity
  2. Toxic communication
  3. Highly stressful arguments
  4. Olive branches getting rejected

Let’s have a look at what you can do to protect your relationship against each one.

1. How To Protect Your Relationship Against Overwhelming Negativity

Successful relationships have a 5:1 ratio of positive:negative interactions. Struggling ones find themselves hitting something closer to a 1:1 ratio. What’s your ratio been like lately?

If you’re concerned about how many negative interactions you’ve been having, here are some things you can do:

  • Actively look for nice things to say to your partner (expressions of gratitude and compliments work well)
  • Ask your partner open-ended questions every day (you can download my free list of open-ended questions here)
  • Practise responding to your partner every time they speak to you, touch you, look at you, or even just make a random comment

2. How To Protect Your Relationship Against Toxic Communication Styles

Criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling damage and even kill relationships.

Where these communication styles become habits, they lead to declining relationship satisfaction, and they have been found to be the greatest predictors of divorce.

These communication styles are habits which you can change:

  • If you tend to criticise, practise raising issues gently
  • If you get defensive, work on taking responsibility for your actions
  • Look for the positive and express appreciation often
  • Keep an eye out for signs that you’re getting overwhelmed and practice self-soothing (Check out my online course Love In Lockdown for more on this)

3. How To Protect Your Relationship Against Highly Stressful Arguments

“Flooding” happens when we feel overwhelmed by negativity. The body goes into “fight or flight”, which feels awful. And it’s impossible to constructively solve problems or manage conflict when we’re in this state.

To stop these kinds of arguments from destroying your relationship:

  • Develop a strategy for taking breaks whenever either of you feels flooded
  • Always respect your partner’s requests to take a break
  • Practice self-soothing and calming down

You can read more about “flooding” and how to resolve arguments constructively here.

4. How To Protect Your Relationship Against Olive Branches Being Rejected

We all mess up in how we talk to our partners, including getting critical and defensive. When this happens, or you feel the conversation spiralling downwards, the best thing to do is to try to change direction with an apology, a positive statement, or a request to calm things down. (You can download a whole list of examples here).

However, when relationships are in a really bad place, these olive branches sometimes get ignored or ridiculed, which makes things much worse.

Remember either of you can turn a conversation around at any moment when you:

  • Take responsibility for your part in the direction your conversations take and hold yourself always to a high standard of respectful communication
  • Respond to your partner’s repair attempts in a positive way, accepting them as attempt to improve the conversation

Healthy Relationships Need Plenty of Positivity, and Good Management Of Inevitable Negativity

Lasting, satisfying relationships depend on us doing two things:

  1. Investing in our friendships with our partners
  2. Working on the way we handle conflict

To strengthen your friendship and satisfaction with your relationship, you need to:

  • Keep talking to your partner about how you’re feeling and what you need as you and your lives grow and change
  • Ask open-ended questions so you keep getting to know your partner too
  • Give thanks and compliments every day
  • Respond to your partner whenever they seem to want your attention
  • Express yourself clearly, directly, and respectfully
  • Give your partner the benefit of the doubt when things go wrong
  • Create a meaningful life together through family rituals), intimacy, romance, and emotional connection

To manage conflict, you need to:

  • Talk to each other without distractions about how you both are and what you need every day
  • Practice constructive problem-solving skills like raising issues gently, accepting influence from each other, offering olive branches, and compromising
  • Take a break when either of you feels “flooded”
  • Watch out for the signs of relationship meltdown as outlined above, and don’t delay seeking help if you’re concerned

The happiest relationships happen between couples who make small gestures every day to keep the love alive. Life can be stressful, and it’s normal for our values and goals to change as our roles shift over the years. Dedicating time and effort to your relationship is the best way to build a strong, healthy family. Ultimately that’s how to protect your relationship.

Get In Touch

If you would like to join my waiting list for counselling (on your own or with a partner), or book a relationships after kids coaching call, you can contact me here, or hit reply if you’re reading this on email.

You can sign up for Love In Lockdown here, and download the Back In The Sack Workbook here.