There are two separate times in the year when divorce lawyers ready themselves for an influx of new clients; one of those is the post-Christmas fallout and the other is post-holidays. Both are times when people have typically been hot-housed together with the pressure and anticipation of fun, relaxation and shared jollity.
The reality is often very different, with the intense mix of other people, children, conflicting wishes, excessive expenditure and even the weather causing well-intentioned plans to go awry. Good humour can start to fade, tempers can begin to flare and any flaws in the relationship can become highlighted.
Let's consider some ways to take the pressure off and look at the best way to have a great relationship.
- Be prepared to communicate. Communication is not just about instructing what time the children need picking up or requesting that some milk be collected on the way home. Share news, thoughts, feelings, fears, concerns. I've come across several relationships where one person is not involved in what's happening at home, has no idea what their partner or children are doing. Keep up-to-date, be interested in each other's lives and make time to talk about the personal stuff too.
- Be happy to listen and ask questions. Remember what's been said and follow-up on it afterwards. This demonstrates that you're interested and are keen to know more. Build an ongoing conversation and involvement in each other's lives. That way you can both feel supported.
- Make time for each other and demonstrate that it's important to be with each other. Have fun, enjoy each other's company. Dress up, make an effort and show you care, even if it's just for a simple dinner date at home.
- Be loyal. When one person is criticized or not supported by their partner in public, even as a 'joke' it can cause tension. They may feel ridiculed, mocked, disrespected. Other people may notice, pick up on the comment and it can influence their future opinion of that person. Being loyal means standing together even if time needs to be set aside at a later date for a private conversation on a serious or contentious matter.
- Empathise. It can be tough accepting that the other person has a valid point of view, especially if we can't understand why they feel the way they do. Respect them enough to agree to disagree rather than nag, bludgeon or try to force them to change their mind. There is a saying 'you may win the battle but lose the war'. Pick your battles and allow them to have their own opinions unless you feel it's too important to ignore.
Equally, accept that sometimes your partner may feel they have a valid issue with you and your behaviour, just as you may have with them. Try to empathise and see how it is for them rather than become defensive or hostile. Part of establishing a great relationship means accepting that sometimes our partner may need to say if they're unhappy with us. It's important to be calm and receptive, prepared to discuss this in an adult fashion, whilst being aware of how often they 'try to improve' us or 'remedy our failings'.
- Keep your own identity. A great relationship provides companionship, allows you to share closeness and intimacy, enjoy pleasing each other and do things together. But it's also important to keep your own identity and not lose yourself in the relationship. Enjoy the opportunity to improve your confidence and grow and develop as a person, becoming stronger over the years.
- Be generous and do things you don't want to do sometimes. There may be an event with the in-laws or something to do with work where your partner would value your support. You may not need to attend everything but being supportive means turning up when it's important, with a good grace and a ready smile.
- Allow each other quiet time occasionally. It's not disloyal for your partner to sometimes want to be alone and have some private, personal time. Don't take it as rejection. Accept that not everything's about you. Appreciate that sometimes your other half may be stressed, have had a tough day or simply be feeling the need for a little space. A great relationship is about being prepared to understand and accommodate each other whenever possible.
A sense of humour, sensitivity and respect all help towards finding the best way to have a great relationship.