Behind door 19 on the Build a Better You Advent Calendar is 8 tips for staying connected and close to your partner during and after disagreements. Staying connected and feeling loving towards each other is especially important to attend to during the stressful holiday season.
Arguments are inevitable during the holiday season. Inevitable or not, sharp words and actions can hurt. The fights we have with our partners can be particularly devastating. What can we do to minimize the destructive potential of these fights?
Better yet let’s ask how we can foster closer connection with our partner.
Tip #1: Fight respectfully
According to relationship researcher Dr. John Gottman, fighting is natural, but it’s important to “fight fair.” What does a fair fight look like to you?
When you fight, imagine you will have to squeeze all your not-so-nice words back into a toothpaste tube once the dust settles. You will be less likely to squeeze out some of those negative words so freely. One way to prevent this is to speak for your parts, not from those upset and hurt parts.
And, only fight about what matters: your kids, your future and each other. Everything else is irrelevant and not worth fighting about. If you stick to what matters, the fights will be rarer.
Tip #2: Forgive and move on
After a fight: forgive, and move on. More relationship ‘accidents’ are caused by “rear view mirror driving” than anything else. Clinging to the past robs you of the opportunities in the present that are real and waiting for you to jump in and explore. Ask to have amnesia and move on.
Embrace change and encourage it when you are stuck in something old and familiar.
Tip #3: Give and take
I like to think of relationships as a three-legged race: you and your partner are a connected team. Working together benefits everyone, but you cannot effectively move forward without communicating what you need and want.
Maintaining a “give and take” attitude during a fight will allow you to negotiate to a middle ground. Doing good for each other doesn’t just benefit your partner, it also feels good for you!
Tip #4: Remember why you love your partner, every day
What do you love about your partner? Make a list. My list looks like this:
- Sense of humor
- Willingness to help out
- Calming presence
- Caring and caretaking
- Good listening
- Seriousness and hard working
Tip #5: Always hold hands
Why? Because it feels good! Not only that, it is one of the simplest ways to promote better health and well-being. According to a study published in Psychological Science, social contact such as holding hands enhanced health and well-being and lowered stress. “We found that holding the hand of really anyone, it made your brain work a little less hard in coping,” Dr. Coan said, adding that any sort of hand-holding relaxes the body.
Tip #6: Respect
See your partner as an extension of yourself in this regard. Name calling, shaming and belittling are forms of emotional violence, and if you hurt your partner in this way, you also hurt yourself.
Show respect towards your partner and appreciate, out loud, those things that feel good and work for you. When they feel good, the relationship will feel good.
Tip #7: Passion and Compassion
Be sexual the way you two decide.
Sometimes our passion is blocked by parts of our Self that don’t let us go out on a limb and be vulnerable. We have parts that are cautious and/or introverted or some that help us be patient with the excuse that we are giving the other space to step in and be affectionate or loving.
Reach down deep and find your courage to step out with your needs or wants sexually with your intimate partner. Remember you get what you need or want when you can be clear and speak for this need. Nothing is personal towards you it is usually about the other person. So if you feel you have been blocked then get curious and see what you can find out. One thing that is always true is that connecting in love feels good and people do want to move towards that.
Sometimes they just don’t know how.
Extend compassion towards yourself and your partner if you find yourself stuck in any old familiar pattern here where you are not in connection. Through your extended compassion connection will grow.
Tip #8: Decide how to ebb and flow with each other
Longer relationships have a natural rhythm where you come in close at some times and move out and feel more distance at others. Respect both the ebb and the flow within your relationship.
Making time to be together shows your partner that you want to be with them, and they matter to you. But it’s also important to make time for yourself. The experiences you have on your own time are ones you can share when you get back together.
Bonus Tips from Francine Mirro Finer
On a recent podcast, I interviewed my friend Francine Mirro Finer. She’s been married for more than 40 years! I figured, who better to ask about sustaining intimacy over a long term relationship?
I encourage you to listen to Francine. She is frank and funny and generous in sharing how she and her partner navigated the ups and downs of their marriage.