It is inevitable that in every relationship there are going to be differences, and everyone has days when their emotions can get the better of them.
The problem is not that we have differences in our relationship, the problem lies in the way we handle those differences. When our ego gets in the way, we can easily say or do things that threaten the peace of our relationship and increase the level of relationship stress.
Instead of putting the peace of your relationship on the line when there’s a problem, wouldn’t it be better to develop the life skills needed to resolve problems with consideration, awareness and respect?
20 Life skills to help keep the peace in your relationship
1. Awareness. Start by developing more awareness of your own role in your relationship. When a difference arises, try becoming an observer of your thoughts, your emotions, your needs, and your ego. One way to develop this life skill is to ask yourself questions like:
- What is it I really want at this moment?
- Is what I want coming from my heart or my ego?
- Will getting what I want help our relationship or hurt it?
- Will getting what I want strengthen our relationship or weaken it?
- If I keep insisting, what will that do to the peace of our relationship?
2. Don’t suppress thoughts, express them tactfully. Good communication is one of the most important life skills for any relationship. Speak candidly and freely, but tactfully and kindly. Be willing to take responsibility for your words and always be respectful. Trust and honesty are the foundation of a happy relationship and good communication is the glue that holds everything together.
3. Don’t overreact. When your partner slips into an over emotional state of mind, learning not to take what they say too personally can save you a lot grief. Like I said earlier, we all have times when our emotions get the best of us. If you learn to stay calm and not get offended, it will help keep the problem from escalating. Of course, this means keeping your ego in check and focusing on what is good for the relationship. But remember, mastering this life skill means that you choose your response to any situation.
4. Learn how to calm your partner. Knowing what it takes to provide a calming influence when your mate becomes irrational and unreasonable is a life skill that promotes peace when things could easily go the other way. This is something that both partners can learn to do for each other. To accomplish this, you must be willing to sit down with your partner ahead of time and discuss it openly. Your goal is for both of you to discover the best way to help your partner feel better when one of you slips into that unreasonable state. Do they just need someone to listen and sympathize without judging or offering advice? Do you need someone to hold you without saying a word? Whatever it is, make sure you both understand the needs of the other so when things get crazy you can be there to respond appropriately.
5. Pattern Interrupt. When we consistently respond to things in a predictable way, it becomes expected and our partner will develop a programmed response. All too often, that response pattern will trigger another programmed response that leads right into a downward spiral. Instead of letting the conversation slip into a familiar, but nonproductive exchange, interrupt that pattern by doing something totally unexpected. When you recognize the old pattern setting up, jump up and start singing, do a happy dance around the living room, or stand on your head in the corner. Anything that is unexpected, breaks the old pattern, and shifts the energy in a new direction will work.
6. Make loving eye contact. Used correctly, eye contact is one of the most powerful life skills for maintaining peace in your relationship. Here’s how to make this work for you. Ask your mate to look into your eyes and once eye contact is established, feel yourself projecting an infinite amount of love and appreciation from your heart, through your eyes, and directly into their eyes. If you are feeling upset, just surrender to the moment, take some deep breaths, and focus all your loving energy into their eyes. Even thirty seconds of this can shift the whole relationship into a more peaceful and loving state.
7. Focused breathing. There is a timeless piece of advice that says when you are angry, take ten deep breaths before you respond. Following this simple advice has calmed many a relationship storm. All you need to do is close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Inhale positive energy and exhale negative thoughts and feelings. Inhale love and appreciation, exhale anger and tension. Focus on this for several minutes and you will be in a much more resourceful state.
8. See the relationship as more important than the argument. Arguing can easily escalate to the point where we are willing to sacrifice the peace of our relationship so that we can win the argument. Arguing is not an effective way to communicate your point of view, but it is a good way to sabotage the peace of your relationship. We’ve already established that good communication is one of the most important life skills for any relationship. The lesson here is don’t argue. If you disagree, fine. Just respectfully agree to disagree and move on.
9. Figure out if the tension is just a reflection. Without realizing it we often project our own internal conflicts into our relationship. How can we tell if this is the case? Symptoms vary, but some clues to watch for include the tendency to jump to conclusions about someone else’s motives or judge them according to our own personal standards. Likewise, if we are overly defensive or assume that someone is attacking us, it would be a good idea to look inwardly for some unresolved emotional conflicts. By observing our response to others, we can easily expose our own hidden insecurities and other sources of unresolved tension or stress.
10. See yourself through your mate’s eyes. What insight could you gain by seeing yourself as your partner sees you? How would your relationship benefit if you could understand the ways that your thoughts and actions are being filtered by your partner’s perception? This is one of those life skills that require you to put aside your ego and accept the fact that others rarely see us the way we see ourselves. If you can do that, then start by mirroring your partner’s physiology as close as possible. Stand or sit the way they do, copy their facial expressions and body language, and breathe the way they do. From this vantage point, attempting to experience the conversation the way they would will help you build greater compassion and consideration for their point of view.
11. Explain how it made you feel. When communicating your points of view, always speak in terms of how something made you feel. Example, “When I didn’t hear from you, it made me feel that I was not important.” Expressing how something made you feel instead of what you think they did wrong, reduces the likelihood of a defensive response. When explaining your feelings be careful not to make your feelings their responsibility as in “This is how YOU made me feel.” By keeping the conversation neutral and objective you make it easier for your partner to sympathize with your feelings.
12. Don’t respond out of anger. If you start to lose your composure, excuse yourself for a few minutes so you can calm down, gain some perspective, and clear those unwanted emotions. This might be a good time for the focused breathing exercise we talked about in #7. Once you have composed yourself and you are feeling more centered, remind yourself how much you value peace in your relationship before you continue the conversation. Self control is one of those life skills that can take time to master, but making the effort will save you lots of grief over the long run.
13. Learn how to listen with your heart. Hearing what someone says is not the same as really listening. When we listen to someone who is important to us we should do so with the intention of hearing what they really mean, even if the word choice isn’t perfect. Listening is vital to good communication, but this requires that our motives be sincere. Conversations can easily fall apart if we are looking for an excuse to take offence at what is said or start picking apart the word choices. Listening with your heart means being motivated by a desire to understand the thoughts and feelings of your partner for the good of the relationship. It also means respecting them enough to listen without judging them for their expressions.
14. Be ready to forgive and let go. It has been said that a happy relationship is made up of two good forgivers. Being imperfect and flawed human beings, there are going to be times when we offend or hurt our partner. That’s reality! Knowing that feelings will get ruffled from time to time makes it essential that we be don’t go around looking for reasons to feel offended, and when it happens we don’t want to assume that it was intentional. Forgiveness builds peace, holding a grudge and making someone feel guilty destroys that peace. To maintain peace in your relationship, master these two life skills, forgive, and let it go.
15. Be quick to apologize. The path to forgiveness is easier to find when there is a sincere apology pointing the way. If you blew it, say I’m sorry. Don’t let your pride get in the way. A genuine, heartfelt apology can go a long way toward keeping peace in your relationship. Life is short and an apology costs you nothing. So, be willing to do the right thing for your relationship, instead of propping up your ego.
16. Choose love instead of defensiveness. People who are on the same team, who love and care about each other don’t need to be defensive. Listen compassionately when your partner expresses their feelings. They are not trying to attack you; they are just trying to tell you how they feel. Don’t treat their expressions as criticism. Listen with acceptance and a genuine desire to understand their needs. This is not a power struggle, it is a conversation. When your partner expresses their feelings and needs, it’s about them not you. Accepting that you are both on the same team will help you resist the urge to be defensive.
17. Remember why you love them. When we are upset with our partner, it is easy to focus on what we think they did wrong, or even what we think is wrong with them. How productive is that mindset? What we focus on expands and becomes more noticeable. Wouldn’t it be better to remind yourself what you love about this person and why you fell in love with them in the first place? If you want a happy and peaceful relationship, apply the life skills of positive thinking and positive focus.
18. Don’t play the blame game. Assigning blame will cause the other person to either get defensive or feel worthless. Neither of those feelings promotes peace in a relationship. When blame enters into the conversation then one person becomes the victim and the other becomes the reason why bad things are happening. Does that sound like a platform for a loving and peaceful relationship? You are in this relationship together and assigning blame just creates a separation in your partnership. Resist the temptation to assign blame, band together, and work through the situation like partners.
19. Focus on gratitude – If you find yourself feeling moody and argumentative, focus on the blessings in your life. Focus on the deep value that your partner has added to your life. By shifting your focus, you shift your state away from the negative and toward the positive. Make a mental list of all the things you are grateful for today. Think about how fortunate you are to be in this relationship and all the great moments you’ve had together. Of all the life skills that can transform your reality, gratitude is one of the most powerful. There is tremendous positive power in gratitude. Use it!
20. Build your own sense of self worth. You need to love yourself before you can truly accept love from someone else. Work on your relationship with yourself so that you don’t project your own insecurities into your relationship. Developing a strong sense of self worth will help stabilize your relationship and you will experience greater peace and fewer conflicts. By taking the time to find your true self you will also find it much easier to implement these 20 life skills to keep peace in your relationship.
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