Wednesday 21 February 2018

5 ways to stop your relationship from falling apart

A young professional couple hugging playfully in their home they are surrounded by packing boxes.
A young professional couple hugging playfully in their home they are surrounded by packing boxes.

Kashmira Gander

It's easy to get so caught up in the trials of looking for love that you forget keeping it going can be just as tricky.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the number of people in the UK who feel extremely or faily unhappy in their relationship has doubled since data was first collected in 2009. And the vague old adages that you need to ‘talk more’ or ‘communicate’ hardly help.

If a partner is abusive, it's always best to leave as quickly and safely as possible. But for those who are just experiencing a rocky patch, psychologists and scientists have found certain techniques that make addressing your issues easier, and could save your relationship from the brink.

Netflix and chill (sort of)

Get cosy, stick on a film and actually watch it from start to finish. Research into 174 couples at the University of Rochester in the US found that watching and discussing five films about relationships over a month can cut divorce rates between newlyweds by half. That’s because it allows you to pinpoint and understand what your partner expects in a relationship.

Use emojis

Who knew the dancing lady in a red dress or the smiley poop could change your life? The cute images are the fastest growing form of communication in the UK, according to research at Bangor University. Their researchers found that using the little yellow faces can actually help us better express our emotions. Can't find the words to talk to your partner? Let the sad face break the ice.

Stand by your man, literally

How we value our personal space is a concept known as “framing” in psychiatry. Research suggests that communicating emotions while making eye contact can be challenging for men. So, sitting side by side or taking a walk can make sharing feelings easier.

“Some men in particular can be prone to feeling shame or frustration when partners want to talk about relationships, fearing that their replies will be inadequate or that they are missing the point,” Barbara Bloomfield, the author of Couple Therapy: Dramas of Love and Sex, and counselling supervisor at the relationships charity Relate, told The Independent.

Argue and complain more

Bear with us on this one. Never arguing or disagreeing about the ‘small stuff’ after three years suggests a relationship is doomed. Work by John Gottman, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Washington, and the man behind the Gottman Method of Couples Therapy, shows that arguing is part of a committed relationship. If you’re not complaining about small things like putting out the bin, how can you tackle the tougher stuff? 

Hit the gym together

A recent study on 64 couples where intimacy problems were acute found that exercise helped them restore physical contact. Couples who worked out twice a week for an hour together for six months showed more affection towards each other than those who didn't.

Still, it’s important to remember that every couple is different. What links these fixes is a focus on introducing emotional talking, observes Bloomfield.

“In Relate we sometimes talk about the 'good news sandwich,' which is a compliment, a request, and then another compliment. This is a good way to create a positive framework for a conversation about your relationship. It also helps to be balanced in the same way when you come to a break up, not forgetting the positive times you have enjoyed. There is a lot of research about the wellbeing benefits of a positive and balanced mindset. We just need to work hard sometimes at keeping that balance.”

Independent News Service

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