When a new relationship kicks off, it can feel like everything’s wonderful. You don’t want to spend a minute without them, everything they do is adorable, and the way they slurp their tea is an endearing quirk. But, gradually, you awake from your love-induced coma and find yourself saying things like “you weren’t listening just then, were you?” This isn’t to say it’s all going downhill, but when you first start arguing, it may strike you that now you have to work at it.
People connect in different ways. The key is in understanding how your partner likes to connect, as well as how you like to connect. For example, some people feel connected with their partner through words of affirmation (“I love you”, or “I appreciate you” being the classics), meaning they like to be told how much they you are valued. Others feel special and valued by being shown physical affection, or by sharing quality time with their partner, or receiving thoughtful gifts. Everyone connects differently, so if you can learn how your partner connects, and they focus on how you connect, you’re both onto a winner.
The golden ticket here is the word ‘demonstrate’. You may well be very committed and loyal to your new partner, but if you don’t show that commitment, the other person might not be able to feel it. And if they can’t feel it, they may not know your commitment is even there. It might be just as simple as saying the words, or involving them in other aspects of your life. Just let them know you’re keen to share your life with them.
The art of conversation is not so much about the eloquent and intelligent back and forth between people, but about being able to listen. One of the biggest blockages to modern conversation and communication is a mobile device with a wi-fi signal. If you cast aside technology, physically face one another and listen as much as you talk, this will boost your communication no end. Do activities together that allow you to talk, such as playing a game, baking a cake or going for a walk. Communication in front of a TV, a computer screen or a tablet can dry up faster than a puddle in the Sahara.
You might be surprised at how easy it is to show care. It’s often the small things that you can do for each other day-to-day that tend to make a big difference.
OnePlusOne, the relationship research charity behind Click, ran a campaign called Love Nuggets, where people submitted their favourite gestures of care from their partner. In pole position was “A hug and an ‘I love you’”, followed by “making a cup of tea for them in the morning”, and thirdly, “the other person cancels what they were doing so we could spend some time together”. So, nothing mind-blowing, just some loving, consistent day-to-day gestures that go a long way.
Every couple faces conflicts. What matters is how you deal with them. If handled correctly, they can even strengthen a relationship. Whatever the conflict, it might be helpful to take a moment before you react to it. It’s quite easy to fire from the hip during stressful situations and say things you might regret. Five minutes can be enough to get your mind and feelings straight. Part of healthy conflict is avoiding the temptation to try and win. Try to work together and tackle the conflict as a pair.
Remember that arguments are not necessarily the sign of a poor relationship - any long term relationship needs maintenance.