Relationships aren’t easy to begin with. Add to that, around every corner lurks another obstacle or pressure ready to test our partnerships. But like any other thing in life, a good relationship is worth fighting for.
Mrs Jean Chen Xiao Ming, Director and Psychotherapist at Relationship Matters, speaks to The Weekly about the most common relationship hurdles and how to deal with them the right way.
What is the most important thing in a relationship?
Aside from basic compatibility, communication is key. It is the key to emotional connection.
There are couples who share just about everything in their life. Is it healthy to do so?
As Jeff Daly says “Two monologues do not make a dialogue.”
Constantly talking without tuning in to the other person’s world may not be healthy. If the open sharing makes the other feel that he/ she has to be more careful about your feelings, feels judged or neglected, it doesn’t build a strong bond.
For example, you may feel better telling him about the challenges you face with his mother. However, he may feel distressed about you being unhappy and distancing from his mother.
When there is no tuning into his distress, continuous sharing then becomes unhealthy.
At such times, it may be helpful to tune into his distress and reassure him that you hope to have a good relationship with his mother and that you only hope for him to be a listening ear and cheerleader for you. Such sharing will be healthy.
It is okay for couples to argue?
“Reconciliation after the argument is more crucial than whether the couple argues of not or whether the argument is heated or not.
A reconciliation is one that addresses what both need from each other and a reaffirmation of the care that they have for each other.”
At what point is it detrimental?
The communication breakdown becomes detrimental when the couple becomes stuck in a pursue – withdraw pattern with no reconciliation, where one party is constantly “pursuing” the other with angry criticism or blaming statements and the other “withdrawing” by emotionally cutting off and being dismissive.
This eventually causes both to feel uncared for and hopeless about the relationship.
What’s the best way to settle an argument?
The most effective way is to speak with our hearts. To bring our messages across is to talk about how we feel inside beneath the anger, such as saying “I feel misunderstood” or “I feel hurt”.
To allow ourselves to connect to our underlying vulnerable feelings and allow the other party to see our hurt.
This might require us to pause first to understand why we are feeling upset and decipher what the other is trying to say.
It looks something like, “I hear you. You think this cartoon is unhealthy for our son because it has violence in it. At the same time, when you shout at me about it, it makes me feel like I am not being a good mother and that stings me. I feel hurt and blamed.”
This could be more helpful than the angry outbursts like “You don’t know what it is like to be a mother” or reasonable explanations like “You don’t understand, I chose this cartoon for our son because… ” or blaming statements like, “You don’t take care of the kids, you have no right to choose what cartoon they watch.” or just keeping silent without addressing your need and his.
Do opposites really attract?
Attraction likely happens when a person’s qualities energizes you and stirs admiration.
These qualities could be different or similar. Otherwise, just having strengths that are opposite or different from yours may not amount to attraction. In short, there are times when opposites do attract and there are times when like attracts like.
5 steps to a sucessful relationship:
1. Spend quality time
Prioritise. Schedule time for each other. Do not take your time together for granted.
Communicate about the things that matter and agree on goals for your future together.
3. Do away with the "y" in "yours"
Look out for the other's needs, not just your own. Support each other.
4. Choose your battles
Learn how to resolve disagreements without letting them damage your partnership. This includes negotiating on important things as well as letting some things go.
5. Have fun!
Be playful, be yourself and create that emotional bond with each other.
This article was first published in The Singapore Women's Weekly.