3 Strategies for Improving Strained Relations with Your Partner


Over the last several years, there has been immense stress placed on couples and families

For many, the COVID-19 pandemic and being in constant proximity exacerbated feelings of tension within a partnership. Maybe you are finding that things with your partner have been a bit strained or distant lately, and you are looking for ways to reconnect and strengthen your relationship. In this article, we will discuss strategies that can help you to mend potentially unhealthy patterns that may have developed in your partnership, and move towards enhanced communication and intimacy.

For more articles and information about relationships and relations, visit BetterHelp.

3 Strategies for Improving Strained Relations with Your Partner



1. Identify the presence of the four horsemen. Research conducted by the Gottman Institute found that there are four destructive patterns of communication that can cause damage within a partnership and make it more likely that a relationship will end. The four horsemen include:

Criticism: attacking your partner’s character

Contempt: taking a position of moral superiority over your partner; making mean-spirited and disrespectful remarks.

Defensiveness: may look like blaming your partner or dismissing their concerns

Stonewalling: withdrawing or refusing to engage.

Understanding how these patterns may be at play in your relationship can help you to take ownership of how you may be relating to your partner in ways that are harmful, and choose to replace these communication methods with more productive ones. The antidotes to the four horsemen are using ‘I statements’ to express a positive need, building a culture of appreciation, taking responsibility for your actions within the relationship, and using self-soothing to cope with overwhelm to be able to re-engage.


2. Stop to consider core needs. Many times, ongoing conflicts or tensions are not really about the issue at hand, but about each person’s core beliefs and needs that lie underneath. Spend some time with your partner exploring what emotions, fears and needs are under the surface. Remember that both you and your partner’s perspectives are important and valid. Taking the time to understand each other can lead to moving towards healthy compromise, and assuring that each party is getting their needs met.


3. Take active steps to re-invest in your friendship with your partner. According to John Gottman, deep friendship is at the core of lasting partnership. In order to bridge some of the distance you may feel between you and your partner, take intentional actions to build upon that friendship. This may look like identifying little things that you appreciate about your partner and letting them know, or asking them thoughtful questions to get to know them better. It’s important to remember that just as you are continuing to grow and change, so is your partner. Gottman emphasizes the importance of remaining curious about your partner and their internal world to continue expanding on that sense of deep friendship. All of these strategies that help you to move towards your partner instead of away can foster enhanced intimacy within your partnership.



Seeking Further Support

If you find that you and your partner continue to experience challenges with communication or managing conflict, you might consider seeking professional support. A couples therapist can work with you in order to help you both more effectively process and articulate your emotions and needs, and work together in order to establish healthy patterns of relating and a more fulfilling relationship.

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