October 2011

Your Parenting/Leadership TOOLKIT… [since 2003]
HOW TO STRENGTHEN YOUR RELATIONSHIP

– parents who get on = children who get on –

Dear parents-2-b, moms, dads, caregivers, social workers, grandparents & educators of children between the ages of 0 to 18 years old.

Being happy in your marriage shouldn`t be hard work! Ouch…not that easy on the ears, hey?

That is one of the upbeat findings on recent research on marriage, which has been following 373 married couples since 1986. And there is more good news: If you are in a happy partnership, married or not, you can keep it that way or make it even better by introducing a few new behaviours and small changes into the relationship. Many relationship experts say you need to focus on fixing what is wrong, the recent research shows that adding positive behaviours to the relationship has a much greater impact on couples` happiness.

CHILDREN SEE, CHILDREN DO. Parents who have good relationships will raise children that will be able to have good relationships. Scroll down to this parenting/leadership toolkit where I share 10 tips on HOW TO STRENGTHEN YOUR RELATIONSHIP.

1. Accept Your Partner`s Uniqueness

We all have moments when we wish our partner was more passionate or more of a leader, more romantic, thinner, sportier, wealthier and so on. Now stand still in that head of yours for a moment and take a look at your expectations and ask yourself how realistic they are. Unrealistic expectations lead to chronic frustration which I call the big resentment. Resentment is the relationship cancer, it eats up all the good and it does so from the inside without you taking notice. Make a quick note and write down the 3 reasons that comes to you first on `why you married him/her.` Those are the things that makes him or her unique to you.

 2. Fall in love all over again – every week

Spontaneous dates are great, but the truth is that we`re busy and we often don`t make time for our lover. Keep your love relationship healthy with a once-a-week date–a movie, dancing, picnic on the beach/in the park, couples massage, dinner out–whatever. Take turns planning it. Men take note: studies show that women are more passionate and their libido is stronger when they are out of their home setting–away from the kids and chores. Watch what happens if you book a night at the local B&B or HOTEL, and get a friend or relative to watch the kids.

3. Get To Know Each Others Friends & Family

Research found that men, in particular, are happier when the female has a good relationship with his family. Also, couples who accept–not necessarily love–each other`s friends and make an effort to know them report being happier than couple who have separate friends and seperate family lives.

4. Find A Healthy Way To Communicate

The happy couples from the research that was done on marriage said that good communication skills were what kept them together and thriving. This means not only asking your partner what he or she needs, but telling your partner what you need. It means checking in regularly to find out what stressors are rearing their ugly head in your partner`s life, and it means learning how to fight fair – no naming, shaming and blaming, or kitchen sinking–bringing up everything that`s bothered you for the last year.

5. Do Random Acts Of Kindness Often

Small gestures that say “I am thinking of you” are essential to keep the relationship bond strong–i.e., a quick sms to say you appreciate him/her, he fills up her tank with petrol, the PS chocolates work wonders. Hand holding, touching or a midday love-you e-mail or sms are all small ways of showing affection. Research shows that the accumulation of small gestures has a bigger impact on couple happiness than grand, less frequent gestures. You do not have to be a rich couple to be a happy couple.

6. Change And Grow, Together

Our love relationships are living things that needs nourishment to grow and develop. The best way to nurutre it is to infuse it with change. Much like fertilizer for a plant, introducing change into relationships has been shown to be a key ingredient to couple happiness. The changes can be small, but they have to upset the routine enough to make him or her sit up and take notice. Switch roles: If she always makes the dinner reservation, let him do it. Or interrupt routines: Play hooky from work and do something fun together, like visiting a museum or tourist spot nearby. Or try something new: Take a yoga class or cooking class together. Try new things or positions when making love and talk about it.

7. Devote 10 Minutes A Day To Connecting

Most couples think that they talk to each other all the time. But how often do you talk about things that really deepen your understanding of your partner? The happy couples in the research talk to each other frequently–not about their relationship, but about other things–and felt they knew a lot about their spouse in four key areas: [1]friends, [2] stressors, [3] life dreams and [4] values. Set aside 10 minutes a day–call it the 10-Minute Rule–to talk to your partner about anything other than work, family, the household, or the relationship. This simple change infuses relationships with new spirit and life.

8. Keep It Light And Full Of Light

In marriage laughter acts as happiness medicine. To keep your relationship from slipping into a rut, you need to balance the rational aspects of your partnership with the fun parts. Yes, you need to do certain things to keep your life orderly and your partnership secure. But don`t forget to play. Try to rediscover the pure delight of playing a game, watching a silly movie, dragging each other on the dance floor, trying something different when making love and so on.

9. Be A Caregiver And Supporter

One of the 3 things couples need for a happy relationship is support. [The other two needs are reassurance and intimacy]. The happy couples in the research uniformly said that having a partner who was “there for them” was one of the most important aspects of their relationship. Men often like to give instrumental support–the kind of support that fixes or solves a problem. Women often like to give emotional support–empathetic listening and constructive feedback. Find out what type of help your partner really wants first, and then give it to him or her–often and consistently. I make a point of asking my partner if he wants me to just listen or if he wants constructive feedback.

10. Choose Your Battles

When you have a disagreement, sometimes it is best to just let it go. Instead of bickering or getting angry, see if you can let the small thing go by. Every partnership has conflict. Conflict is not what makes couples unhappy, but it is the way they deal with it that brings stress into the relationship. Figure out what issues are really important to deal with–for example, those involving kids, money, and division of roles are usually the top three–and let some of the smaller stuff go. Choose your battle – you don`t have to attend every argument you are invited too.

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