The 10 Commandments of Harmonious Relationships
by Mark Sichel, LCSW
1. THOU SHALT THINK.
Think before you speak and react, especially if you know the potential for fireworks exists. Sometimes the words will only fan the flames and take you further away from your goal of resolution.
2. THOU SHALT CLEAN YOUR SPLEEN.
Write a brutally honest letter to your wife, husband or lover telling them all the bad feelings and thoughts you’ve ever had about them. Drop the letter into your personal “dead letter box”; and move on with a smile on your face.
3. THOU SHALT NOT ARGUE WITH FEELINGS. THOU SHALT LEARN TO LISTEN, LISTEN TO LEARN.
Sometimes your wife needs to tell you how disappointed and upset she is with you. Sometimes your husband needs to go on a diatribe about how you “neglect” him. Sometimes your partner needs to express his or her resentment about the way you’ve treated them. You can’t argue with feelings. Listen when your mate expresses strong feelings. Rather than argue and try to insist that your partner shouldn’t be feeling what they’re feeling, understand that they ARE feeling that way and simply say, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Try to put yourself in their shoes and give them the empathy that you would want yourself.
4. THOU SHALT UNDERSTAND THAT PRIVACY IS GOLDEN.
While a good relationship involves honesty, saying every single thing that comes into your mind and sharing every feeling is not conducive to true intimacy. Intruding into your partners every thought and feeling is not going to create greater togetherness. Create boundaries and set limits. You know how much contact you can take and how much will ignite your nuclear bomb.
5. THOU SHALT REMEMBER OCCASIONS AND EVENTS.
Remember birthdays and anniversaries. Buy a gift, or make one. This activity is not about spending money. This is a testament that your mate is making you the most important person in their life. Tune in to your partner’s unique likes and dislikes and acknowledge these in an emotionally generous manner. Whatever the occasion, a card and gift makes people feel remembered, and when people feel remembered they feel loved and closer to one another.
6. THOU SHALT NOT OVERREACT. EVER.
When partners feel neglected, they often will create a scenario that invites your overreaction. Overreactions cause all out wars. Don’t do it! If you want to win in your relationship, stay off the battlefield. Assess a dispute with your partner. Is it really worth fighting over? Sometimes couples will get lost in a war of words. Repeat to your self, “They’re only words.”
7. THOU SHALT BE POSITIVE, APPRECIATIVE, AND INTERESTED.
Sometimes people forget to focus on the positives in a relationship. Tell your wife how beautiful she is, tell your husband how good he looks. Express to your mate those things you appreciate about them. Reflect on ways in which you are grateful to be with the person you love. If you have difficulty knowing how to verbalize these attributes and organizing your thinking in this area, try Psybersquare’s “Appreciation List.”
8. THOU SHALT RESPECT THY MATE.
Treat your mate with respect and dignity. Don’t curse. Don’t hit below the belt. Do anything to avoid violence. Do not let familiarity breed contempt. When there’s a lack of harmony, use a polite and cordial stance in order to end the conflict. Learn your mate’s daily rhythms. If your wife is not a morning person, don’t bring up sensitive issues before she’s had her morning coffee. If your husband gets tired and cranky when returning from work, leave him alone to regroup for an hour or so and then tell him your mother’s coming to visit for a month. Respect is the sum total of all the accumulated small and large considerations that you afford your mate. Take them one at a time.
9. THOU SHALT REMEMBER: WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET.
Do not ever try to change your spouse more than they themselves would like to change. Partners are doomed to failure when they try to change each other. Accept your mate for who he or she is and rejoice in the fact that they accept you for who you are.
10. THOU SHALT UNDERSTAND THAT SHARED EXPERIENCES, INTERESTS AND COMPANIONSHIP BUILD RELATIONSHIPS.
When people have difficulty getting close with each other, they often try to talk their way through it. Sometimes all the talking in the world cannot replace having a good time with your partner. Make sure to spend time together. When there are children in your lives, make sure you guard your time together as a couple like a hawk. Get away for weekends together. Plan romantic dinners. Focus on intimacy, sensuality, and physicality. Take an interest in your partner’s interests; if your wife likes ballet get two tickets. If you’re a sports widow, make an effort to watch a game with your spouse. Two hours at the ballet won’t kill you; two hours at a hockey game won’t kill you. Rediscover each other as the friends you started off as.
Mark Sichel is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker practicing individual, couples and family therapy in New York City since 1980. Mark is also on the faculty of the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health and the Doctor of Ministry program at Hebrew Union College. Mark is the author of Healing From Family Rifts published by McGraw-Hill, 2004. And basically Mark is helping couples learn how to make a relationship work .
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