Relationships that Last

Top tips on how to strengthen your relationship with your partner.


4/27/20243 min read

Life can get so busy, and whatever season you find yourself in, you might be finding your relationship to be hard work. 

The reality is, all relationships have conflict, in fact, conflict can be a gateway to further relational intimacy and connection. When we have disagreements with our partners, we can use it as an opportunity to turn towards each other and problem solve together, or turn away and create further disconnection. 

The Gottman’s has spent years studying couples and they found the success of a relationship was determined by how the couple managed conflict, if they presented with what they refer to as the four horseman, it was predicted to fail. So here is what to look out for and the antidotes!

  • Criticism -> Gentle start up 

  • Contempt -> Application 

  • Defensiveness ->take responsibility  

  • Stonewalling -> self- sooth. 

When you do start to see the horseman appear in your relationship it’s important to remember that your relationship isn’t doomed, it’s just time to pivot how you manage conflict. Here are my top tips to help to manage conflict better. 

  1. Don't pick fights, PLAN them. What do I mean by this? So often in the heat of the moment we can have a go at our partner with something like, "AGH! You NEVER take the trash out" or "Would you hurry up, you're making us late!" or "could you open your eyes and have a proper look!". Often we hold frustrations against our partner for little things that build up over time, until one day it explodes and they all come flowing out and then what started with taking out the garbage has turned into issues around the dished, the in-laws, and something that happened three years ago! This is why it can be helpful to notice when you are getting frustrated with your partner, think about what specifically and factually is frustrating you and then PLAN to talk about it. 

    For example: You're feeling undervalued because you're often doing the majority of the domestic duties. You could say to your partner (using the gentle start- up approach). "Hey, I'm feeling very angry, frustrated, hurt (whatever feels right to you), because the garbage is always overflowing, the dishes are always in the sink and there is crap everywhere around the house! I need you to help me out with more of the duties around the home". 

  2. Get good at the repair: Sometimes we say things we don't mean, and lets be honest, we are all human and often the heat of the moment can mean we say and do things we wouldn't normally. This is where we need to take ownership of what we have done that has caused harm to our partner. After an argument you may still disagree on the topic but having a discussion without getting nasty, personal or mean is important. You cannot control your partner, they cannot control you, you can control your behaviour but. It is not your partners fault for you getting angry, they may do things that 'trigger' your anger, but you responding to them in anger is for you to work on. All feelings are okay and valid to experience, however all behaviour is not.  

  3. Remember you are a team: Often we can loose sight of the fact that when you're in a relationship with someone, you are meant to be co-captains. You are meant to work together towards a common goal. When you are having a disagreement try recognising that the 'problem' is the problem, not your partner. What I mean by this is, if someone is feeling neglected in the relationship, the neglect, that is a problem that together you need to both work on, the question should be how can we build intimacy and connection together so that no one person is left feeling neglected, not, "you suck, make be feel better about myself". It is not for one person to fix, but together for you to work on.

Remember a good, healthy, loving relationship takes love and care to foster. The realities and stressors of life can make this challenging, try and find common ground to turn towards each other as opposed to away.