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What a Cincinnati couples therapist wants you to know about healthy relationships in 2021

Hello 2021, good-bye 2020!! Did anyone else feel like this past year lasted forever, but looking back it also seems like it flew by? This conflicting feeling truly seems to sum up the year 2020. Over the past year there have been a lot of things out of our control. Starting this new year it would make sense that a lot of people want some control back and resolution to problems 2020 has presented. Like a healthy relationship.

Below are some resolutions for couples who are currently in distress or who are simply wanting to grow in the year 2021 and thrive in a healthy relationship. Over the past year we have had an increase in clients coming into therapy to help improve their relationship with their significant other. If 2020 has taught us anything it’s that being stuck in a house with our partners is not the easiest thing. I want couples to have the best and healthiest relationships in 2021 and here is how…

6 ways to have a healthier relationship:

  1. Validation and Soften Start up: When tough conversations come up this is an important exercise to try. Prior to engaging in a difficult talk, remind your partner why you love them, provide some affirmation, and acknowledge what they have been doing really well recently.

Suggestion: “I want to let you know how proud I am of you. The past year has not been easy and you have responded in the best way you know how. I am lucky to have you as a life partner and look forward to our future. Are you willing to discuss how this past year has felt?”

2. Active Listening: Active listening is more than just “listening” to our partners. Active listening requires you to acknowledge the feelings behind the story being presented. Active listening allows for us and our partners to feel heard and understood. This creates a bond and connection with our partner that we may not have with anyone else. This is the core foundation to a successful healthy relationship.

Suggestion: “Wow, it sounds like you are feeling really frustrated with your requirements at work. Tell me more about that”

3. Physical Touch: Touch provides another opportunity for connection with our partners. Physical touch does not mean sexual touch (but that doesn’t mean that it won’t turn into sexual touch).  Intentional physical touch is meant to provide security and allow our partners to feel comfort. Physical touch can include hand holding, cuddling on the couch, sitting closely at the dinner table, foot/hand massages, or a touch of our partners shoulder as we get up from the table.

Suggestion: Instead of sitting on opposite sides of the couch while watching television or a movie try and sit shoulder to shoulder or hold hands during this time.

Take a minute to digest what you just read. Are these tips resonating with you? Write down what is coming up before moving on.

4. Quality Time: One of the most challenging areas for couples these days is quality time. We are all stuck in our house and are limited to places we can go. Finding quality time with our partners requires us to plan ahead of time and be creative. Re-engage in hobbies or activities that you used to enjoy together.

Suggestion: Cook a meal together. Something neither of you have ever cooked before. Read the directions together and work as a team. Dress up for the night as if you are going out to a nice restaurant. Set the dinner table up with the fancy tableware and have a date night in.

5. Discussion of Values/Beliefs: After this past year this concept is more important than ever. As human beings we are ever evolving. We experience situations in certain stages of our lives that allow us to change our core values and beliefs. After this past year some of your values or beliefs may have changed or have been reinforced. Let’s talk about this with our partner.

Suggestion: Utilize your active listening skills and find a safe and comfortable space to engage in conversation. Reconnect with your partner about your goals for life and what you imagine your future to look like.

6. Acceptance of anger or other negative emotion: As identified earlier, the year 2020 was difficult for us all. It is important to recognize any negative emotion and to process this negative emotion with your partner. Allow yourself to feel angry, and upset, because this past year was not an easy one. Give yourself permission to feel. When we accept anger or other negative emotion we can reduce the power it might hold over us and can help us heal as individuals and as a couple. When used appropriately, expressing those negative emotions is a sign of a healthy relationship.

Suggestion: Set aside a day and time for yourself and your partner to discuss this past year. Find somewhere safe and comfortable to sit where you won’t be interrupted or distracted. This could be in a therapy session or this could be in your living room. Allow each partner to discuss how they feel after this past year and simply listen to one another.

At Emma Schmidt & Associates, Sex and Relationship Therapy we want the best for all of our clients. We are here to support and guide all couples into finding the healthiest version of themselves possible. This year is better than any to start this journey together. Happy 2021.

Follow Danielle Crotty:

Independent Marriage and Family Therapist