Have you waited too long?

I was talking with Corey from Simple Marriage the other day on the topic of investing in family and ourselves. As a family therapist Corey sees all sorts of people and families, all at varying stages of happiness and contentment. A comment that Corey made struck me and has stuck with me for several days. It was to this effect:

“If people invested in themselves when things were good, things could be even better!”

I love this. Sure it may seem obvious but only after he said it did it actually resonate with me.

Too often we wait until we’re at the brink of destruction before we seek help or decide to work on our relationships. Sometimes we wait until things are so terrible that we don’t know what else to do but ask for help. While seeking help is a great alternative to throwing in the towel – think about how different things could be if we worked on our relationships while times were great?

It’s no secret that relationships require work and are definite works in progress. So what can we do to work on relationships while times are good?

1. Keep making time for each other. This isn’t always easy especially if you both have demanding and hectic careers, a family, pets and other responsibilities. It isn’t always easy but it is important. When things are good we may not feel the need to set time aside specifically to work on our relationship or to connect with each other … we already feel pretty good and pretty connected. We take each other for granted but slowly over time the distance can grow and before long the need is there to feel connected again.

2. Improve the way you talk to each other. Communication is a vital part of any relationship. Some couples can get in a rut of disrespect and insults. While it may be funny initially and be a bit of an inside joke it can get old and is disrespectful and abrasive. Take a look at how you speak to the people that matter the most to you. Would say the same thing to your colleagues or in the presence of your neighbours? If not, consider cleaning up your act a bit. Speak to each other with respect and kindness – make this a habit.

3. Make an effort. Since I became a stay at home mom I’ve come to realize how easy it is to choose comfort over style when it comes to getting dressed in the morning. For a very extended period of time yoga pants and my husbands sweatshirts were my daily attire. I personally got tired of feeling frumpy and not looking my best. Making an effort when it comes to your appearance shows respect for yourself and for your partner. Now, I’m not saying you need to have black tie dinners each night and scrub toilets donning heels and your Sunday best. What I’m saying is to take a bit of pride in how you present yourself – brush your hair, put on a bit of make-up, change out of work clothes for dinner- simple things. It does wonders for you self-esteem and shows that you’re making an effort for your own sake as well as your partners.

4. Don’t keep score. Keeping score is one of the most damaging things you can do to your relationship. I did the dishes last night, I took the garbage out last week, it’s his turn to do the laundry, it’s her turn to clean the bathroom etc. Keeping score leads to resentment, hard feelings and a whole lot of stuff not getting done around the house. If you find yourself starting to keep score -STOP- get together and talk. Talk about joint responsibilities, set realistic expectations, and talk openly about how you may feel you’re being taken for granted and where the other person could pitch in. Having this conversation when times are good may be a lot easier and a little less hostile than if you addressed these issue during tense times.

When things in a relationship are going poorly it’s imperative that each person tries to understand what’s going wrong and how to work to fix it. The same thing goes for working on a relationship when times are great. Care, connect and be kind even when you don’t feel the need to.

How do you work on your relationship when things are moving along swimmingly?