The 3-Step Plan to Building a Better RelationshipBy Homaira Kabir
In an earlier piece, I spoke about three unhealthy dynamics that can play out in intimate relationships. These dynamics are often based on the beliefs we developed in our early years and inhibit our ability to form relationships of trust and genuine connection.
But here's the great news: We can, with the help of our romantic partners, change any negative patterns we may have fallen into due to events from our early years. By building trust and forming a healthy bond, we can not only enhance our relationship but also our own growth and well‑being. Here’s how.
Step 1: Be Present with Your Partner
It may sound trite, but take a moment to think about how often you're truly present with your partner. Being truly present means not having your eyes glued to your phone throughout dinner or spending a date night worrying over a work problem. When your partner talks to you, are you tuned in to their emotions, or simply waiting your turn to offer a solution or share your own story? In her book Ambiguous Loss, Pauline Boss, Ph.D., says that these seemingly mindless habits create a gap between physical and psychological presence and make our partners feel unseen and unwanted. And that's perhaps the worst feeling of all.
Luckily, building connection doesn't mean we have to engage in Herculean efforts to prove our love. John Gottman, Ph.D.'s research on intimate relationships has found that trust is built in those small moments when we put our concerns aside and show up with empathy. You can begin with tiny changes, like looking at your partner when they talk to you. This one act helps you read their body cues and thus tune in to what they really want from the conversation (and it’s often just your emotional presence).
Inner work: Are you present with yourself and connected to your own needs? Can you tell when you're tired? Are you able to name the emotions you're feeling? If not, a regular practice of body scans and/or mindfulness can help. (You can start by trying a mindfulness meditation track on Happify.)
Step 2: Judge Less