Very few of us (who have not been totally cut off from civilisation and Dr Phil) who are in relationships have not taken on board that in order for us to live “happily ever after”, a certain amount of ongoing work needs to be done on the relationship.
However, it is often far from clear what this actually entails!
I have seen many unhappy and disenchanted couples who arrive on my doorstep when their relationship is already on life support. How did they get to be this way, I wonder? What happened over the years to totally change the way they now see each other – as adversaries rather than lovers?
So what can couples do to prevent this decline?
Looking after our relationships is quite similar, it seems, to taking care of our finances.
I will use the analogy of the monthly budget. Some individuals, as soon as they get their monthly pay cheque, will spend it as soon as it hits their bank account, while other more mindful and careful spenders, will make sure that they have sufficient money for the month, being constantly aware of how long it will be before the coffers are replenished, and they will never allow themselves to reach the point where their account is bone dry! They will also regularly invest a certain proportion for a rainy day and for their retirement.
How does this relate to couples? Emotional goodwill in relationships is similar to currency. When partners consistently demonstrate to each other that they have their spouses’ back – that they are there for each other emotionally in times of need. John Gottman speaks of the “emotional bank account” in a relationship.
Therefore, from this perspective, to “work on your relationship”, couples need to take the time to really understand what makes their partner “tick” as accurate empathy for your partner is only really possible if you truely know, and “get” your partner.
When you consistently show this support and caring, the goodwill balance in your relationship account will remain in significantly
in the black.
And when inevitable problems and arguements arise between you both, you will be in a much better position to weather the storm ( and economic recessions) with your relationship intact!