What can we do to help our own relationship? I was asked this question recently.
Well, there's lot of things that can be done but some things are more effective and will have a faster and bigger pay-off than other things. Not all things you might do to improve your relationship are of equal value.
It may be easy for you to buy a gift, bring flowers, or make a special dinner. Those things can show your partner you are making an effort and that you're thinking of them. Making an effort and letting your partner know they are important to you and they are on your mind are good messages!
When couples get into a negative cycle there are specific needs that each partner has that aren't being met. Unmet needs lead to feeling insecure, unimportant or unheard. Doing things to meet your partners deepest needs will make more of an impact on changing your relationship than most anything else you can do. After all, that's what relationships are about, being there for each other.
So, what are some things that you might try to reach out and help your partner feel (to know it at the experience level) that you are trying to meet their needs?
If your spouse complains that it's like you're behind a wall, or they want more closeness from you then one thing you can do is work to COMFORT them. Let the complaint be a cue to you that your partner is lonely for you and wants you closer. It may not make sense to you that your partner feels unimportant or lonely underneath all that complaining and needs your comfort and reassurance because you probably experience the complaining as making it harder for you to be close. Still, give it try. One thing you can work on doing is learning how to comfort your partner - ask them what you could do that would be comforting, what it looks like, you might be pleasantly surprised how simple it can be.
If your spouse seems unreachable, like they are in their own world and you want to be a bigger part of that world stop complaining or nagging and start asking. Really work on being sure you ask kindly and directly. When you're worried you probably come across tense and critical when you don't even know you are. Susan Johnson (world acclaimed marital expert) said at a training event last week that when it comes to being successful in our most important attachment relationships we have to ask for what we want. She said "no askey askey, no gettie, gettie!" It make take a few weeks of asking kindly, without getting upset if your requests aren't filled right off, for your partner to trust that they aren't going to get an impatient (critical) response from you but if you stick with it you will be pleasantly surprised.
So, remember, let your partner know that you are trying and you want to please them, that you do want for both of you to be safe and happy together. Then try doing things that really matter!