Hello everyone, welcome back to the Therapy Spot! I wanted to let you all now that from now on, I’ll be releasing one episode per month. Every month, I’ll bring you information and insights to help you on your path to personal growth and development.
For this month’s episode, I want to bring you some tips on what to do when your relationship feels strained. If you’ve ever had a sports injury, you know this feeling of strain! It hurts, it’s distracting, and it keeps you from doing the things you love. Strain in your relationship has a lot of the same effects. Luckily, just like with muscles, there’s a remedy for your strained, sprained, or inflamed relationship.
How Strain Happens in Relationships
A well-known remedy for strains and sprains is RICE. In the medical healing world, these letters stand for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. In the case of your strained relationship, however, RICE stands for Rest, Interest, Compassion and Engagement.
Have you ever caught yourself gazing enviously at a loving couple — and realized how distant you feel from your partner? Maybe you wonder where you went wrong, or if you can ever get back to that adoring place. Our relationships, no matter how important, are fragile and vulnerable to the pressures of our daily lives. When things get tough, it’s important to understand your relationship isn’t broken: it’s just strained from stress and neglect. Many people get caught up in the clamor of life and forget to tend to their relationships, while others take their partners for granted, not realizing the continuous work a relationship needs in order to thrive. Deep, meaningful bonds take daily effort to forge and maintain. They also require you to look inward and change your behavior and perspective.
Just like it hurts to walk normally on a sprained ankle, the people in an inflamed relationship are overly sensitive to, well, just about everything! Small disagreements quickly flare up into full-blown arguments. You become easily disappointed, or withdraw from your partner. These are typical symptoms of a strained relationship. Ignored, they will worsen, causing a rift between you and your partner. With the proper care, however, you can heal your relationship and become one of those couples who flow together.
Easing Relationship Strain with RICE
Let me take you through RICE for strained relationships in more detail.
Rest: All relationships have distinct patterns that are often invisible to those engaged in them. During the rest phase, you’ll take a break from those patterns, and notice your role in them. If you and your partner are in conflict, you might want to start with a time-out (you can read more about that here). Reflect on how you feel and what you want. This might make your mind start racing, so take notes! Journal from the parts of you that come up during this time out.
Interest: After the rest, or the time-out, engage with your partner from a place of curiosity. Hopefully, you have learned some things about yourself, and the patterns in your relationship. As you and your partner re-engage, stay in that space of calm, centered awareness. Be curious about your partner’s feelings and work to uncover new information about what motivates them.
Compassion and Engagement: During this conversation, genuinely feel how your partner might feel about this situation. As you learn more about their feelings, your sympathy will turn to empathy. You’ll feel more engaged, and more in tune with this person who you love.
Listen, Be Heard, Take a Break
Remember: the goal of this conversation is not to solve the current issue or problem. As you and your partner take turns listening, your goal is simply to understand. As simple as that sounds, listening without emotion can be difficult! I’ll walk you through a template for active listening.
You should stop your discussion when you both feel heard, even if you have not reached an agreement yet. Stopping in a good place, whether you’ve resolved the issue or not, will leave you feeling positive and closer to your partner. You will know that you’ve reached this point when you both feel calmer, more hopeful, and more in control of the situation.
The idea is not to abandon this conversation entirely, but take a break from it until another time. You do not have to feel overwhelmed that you must solve everything at once. You can re-enter the conversation at any time by using RICE.
Finding a Way Forward Together
If your relationship has gotten off track, and you want things to be different with your partner, I hope this episode has been helpful for you. Hold onto the hope that things can get better, and that your partner will join you on this journey. Recall the fond memories of the beginning of your relationship as you move forward along the path to connecting with your partner in a positive way, a way that allows both your needs to be met.
Thank you so much for joining me, and for reviewing and sharing the show. I’ll be back with another episode of the Therapy Spot in October. Until next time!