15 Simple RuIes for a Remarkable Couple Relationship

Published by Harriet Lerner, Ph.D. in The Dance of Connection

8. Stop the emotional pursuit. Under stress, don’t press. If you pursue a distancer, he or she will distance more. Consider it a fundamental law of physics. Focus less on your partner, and more on your own life plan. A distant partner is more likely to move toward you when he or she has breathing room and can see you taking good care of yourself.

9. Say it shorter! A distant partner may avoid conversation because it feels awful to him. Sometimes the culprit is the sheer number of sentences and the intensity in our voice. Slow down your speech, turn down the volume, and lower the intensity.

10. Know your bottom line. Be flexible in changing for your partner 84% of the time, but don’t sacrifice your core values, beliefs and priorities under relationship pressures. Your marriage will spiral downward if you have an “anything goes” policy.

11. Exit a conversation when you are on the receiving end of rude or demeaning treatment. You can say, “I’m giving myself a time out from this conversation. I’m here to listen when you can talk to me calmly and with respect.” Keep your actions congruent with these words.

12. Be a mystery. It’s comfortable and cozy when two people know absolutely everything about each other but we’re more likely to be drawn to a partner who has connections and a passion for life outside the relationship. So take a dance class, skiing lessons, or join a book group with friends. The more passion you show for life outside your marriage, the more zest you’ll find within it.

13. Make rules about technology. Agree on “time-out rules” from anything you’re prohibited from using during takeoff and landing in an airplane. For example, cell phones off and out of sight during food preparation and eating meals and no answering land lines. No taking calls in the middle of a conversation or when people are visiting.

14. Initiate sex, even if you don’t feel like it. If you’re the distancer in bed, initiate sex once in a while even though you don’t feel like it. A long-term relationship won’t flourish if your partner is someone for whom sex is an enlivening essential force and you’re too unavailable. To decide you won’t be a physical partner because you don’t feel like it is like his deciding that there will be no more conversation because he’s not a talker. If you have a fair and good partner, there is probably something you can do that wouldn’t be too terribly difficult. (P.S. If you’re the pursuer in bed, back off.)

15. Work on relationships in your first family. Become a good questioner about family history, and observe and change your part in triangles and dysfunctional family patterns. You’ll stand on more solid ground with your partner if you navigate family-of-origin relationships with more creativity and less reactivity.

Start Small. Pick two rules from the above and stick with them. Your relationship thanks you in advance!

 

Published by Harriet Lerner, Ph.D. in The Dance of Connection

8. Stop the emotional pursuit. Under stress, don’t press. If you pursue a distancer, he or she will distance more. Consider it a fundamental law of physics. Focus less on your partner, and more on your own life plan. A distant partner is more likely to move toward you when he or she has breathing room and can see you taking good care of yourself.

9. Say it shorter! A distant partner may avoid conversation because it feels awful to him. Sometimes the culprit is the sheer number of sentences and the intensity in our voice. Slow down your speech, turn down the volume, and lower the intensity.

10. Know your bottom line. Be flexible in changing for your partner 84% of the time, but don’t sacrifice your core values, beliefs and priorities under relationship pressures. Your marriage will spiral downward if you have an “anything goes” policy.

11. Exit a conversation when you are on the receiving end of rude or demeaning treatment. You can say, “I’m giving myself a time out from this conversation. I’m here to listen when you can talk to me calmly and with respect.” Keep your actions congruent with these words.

12. Be a mystery. It’s comfortable and cozy when two people know absolutely everything about each other but we’re more likely to be drawn to a partner who has connections and a passion for life outside the relationship. So take a dance class, skiing lessons, or join a book group with friends. The more passion you show for life outside your marriage, the more zest you’ll find within it.

13. Make rules about technology. Agree on “time-out rules” from anything you’re prohibited from using during takeoff and landing in an airplane. For example, cell phones off and out of sight during food preparation and eating meals and no answering land lines. No taking calls in the middle of a conversation or when people are visiting.

14. Initiate sex, even if you don’t feel like it. If you’re the distancer in bed, initiate sex once in a while even though you don’t feel like it. A long-term relationship won’t flourish if your partner is someone for whom sex is an enlivening essential force and you’re too unavailable. To decide you won’t be a physical partner because you don’t feel like it is like his deciding that there will be no more conversation because he’s not a talker. If you have a fair and good partner, there is probably something you can do that wouldn’t be too terribly difficult. (P.S. If you’re the pursuer in bed, back off.)

15. Work on relationships in your first family. Become a good questioner about family history, and observe and change your part in triangles and dysfunctional family patterns. You’ll stand on more solid ground with your partner if you navigate family-of-origin relationships with more creativity and less reactivity.

Start Small. Pick two rules from the above and stick with them. Your relationship thanks you in advance!

 

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