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Practical Tips For Nourishing Friendship With Your Partner

Practical Tips For Nourishing Friendship With Your Partner

Practical Tips For Nourishing Friendship With Your Partner

Be Friends, First

Over time in a long term committed relationship it can be easy for couples to lose sight of the underlying friendship aspects of their relationship. Research has found that being friends with your partner is actually fundamental to a couples’ overall success and satisfaction with the relationship. Unfortunately, it’s easy lose sight of that over time.

Creating A Strong Foundation

When thinking about how to strengthen your friendship with your partner, it might be helpful to think of the qualities you admire in your closest friendships. These friendship “ingredients” may include fostering underlying trust, respect, teamwork and a sense that the other person is on your side or “has your back” at the end of the day. These qualities can also include sharing simple connecting moments like having inside jokes with one another or talking about how your day went in the evening with your significant other. 

As a couples counselor and marriage therapist I have had the opportunity to work with many couples who desire to not only build this foundation of friendship with their partner, but also maintain it. Here are a few practical tips that you can use in your own relationship today! 

Three Practical Tips For Restoring and Maintaining Friendship With Your Partner

Intentionality is Key 

As previously mentioned, with the busyness and demands of life, it can be easy for couples to lose sight of these necessary friendship qualities to a relationship (balancing a Career and Relationship sound familiar?). Couples may also find it difficult to set aside intentional time for maintaining a friendship. Phone conversations, for example, may become limited to shorthand speak about what time dinner will be and did you remember to pick the kids up from soccer practice today?   

Even setting an intentional date night can sometimes miss the mark in maintaining friendship between couples. For example, there may be a lot of pressure to make date night grand and romantic or spending the majority of time together finding activities to do rather than simply connecting with one another. While doing fun things together is also important, it may not provide couples with the opportunity to connect in a way that fosters true intimacy and sharing with one another the way you might when having coffee with a close friend, for example.

One suggestion to avoid this pitfall is rather than setting a routine “date night” couples might focus on one time during the week that they set aside for connecting or “checking-in” with one another. Maybe you meet at your favorite coffee shop or simply have “couch time” one evening a week where you talk about how you’ve been feeling individually in addition to how you’re feeling about the relationship. This can be a great opportunity to share things that feel really great about the relationship or ways that you wish things might be going differently between you. [For more ideas on how you can set aside time with your partner, read: “How To Fall In Love Again”]

Honest Communication 

Another important component to maintaining friendship between couples is honest communication about what’s going well in the relationship and what isn’t. Part of this communication means giving honest feedback to one another on a regular basis. It can be easy to jump into defense mode when receiving feedback from your partner. Additionally, giving feedback to your partner can feel anxiety provoking and built-up resentment can make delivering feedback to your partner in a caring way difficult. 

One way couples might reduce anxiety around giving and receiving feedback to one another is imagining what it would be like to give or receive the same feedback to a close friend. How would you want the feedback delivered? What would be most important to communicate to the other person? What do you ultimately need from this person in the relationship? Sometimes imagining the conversation in this way can take some of the pressure and steam off the conversation with a romantic partner when the stakes often feel much higher and more emotionally loaded than in a platonic friendship. 

Mutual Respect 

The importance of mutual respect in a couple relationship cannot be underestimated. Mutual respect also means that there is a shared sense of equality in the partnership; that both members of the couple know that the other takes their needs seriously and cares about making the other feel cared for and important. In a friendship, this component is often easy because without it, you wouldn’t have much of a foundation upon which to build a friendship. 

One big way that couples lose a sense of mutual respect for one another is the way that conflict gets resolved in the relationship. An example of how this might play out is with grand romantic gestures. For example, a couple gets into a fight and one member of the couple buys the other a bouquet of flowers that gets delivered to the office the next day as an apology. Often times, while well-intentioned, grand romantic gestures disclude the fundamental component of mutual respect which is talking and communicating about what happened during the fight in a meaningful way. 

This involves a conversation where both members of the couple take responsibility for and convey understanding of any hurt feelings to one another. These conversations allow couples the opportunity to truly move on from an argument in addition to turning conflict into an opportunity to foster intimacy, honesty and connection in the relationship while grand romantic gestures tend to sweep things under the rug temporarily.

Most couples in long-term, committed relationships struggle to maintain these aspects of the relationship that are so important to overall relationship satisfaction. So know that you are not alone. I do hope you found this article has a helpful jumping off point to thinking about overarching ways friendship might be maintained within the context of a romantic relationship. Share with me your thoughts in the comments below!

Warmly, 

Dr. Chelsea Twiss, PhD, LP-C

 

Dr. Chelsea Twiss is a couples counselor, individual therapist, life coach and creativity coach. She specializes in helping couples restore emotional and sexual intimacy, individuals move past heartbreak and into healthy relationships, and creatives find their voice.

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Managing The Late-Winter Blues

Managing The Late-Winter Blues

Managing The Late-Winter Blues

Dr. Chelsea Twiss is an individual therapist, life coach, couples counselor and creativity coach. She specializes in helping couples restore emotional and sexual intimacy, individuals heal and grow, and creatives find their voice.

Taking Care of You

 

As a therapist and life coach (and person with my own life going on) I’m well aware that we live in a fast-paced culture with copious demands that cause us to become used to high levels of stress. Human beings are adaptable creatures and we are particularly adept at meeting the demands of our environment, even in today’s world where multi-tasking and juggling multiple responsibilities is the norm.

This time of year can be hard: For many people, the holiday season can be particularly stressful. Fulfilling roles and family obligations arise which often lead many of us to a place of anxious distress. But what happens after all the chaos and events of the season end yet the winter months keep dragging on?

Dealing With The Late-Winter Blues

After the burst of holiday energy subsides, it can be easy to fall into a state of feeling low or a general lack of energy and motivation in the coming months of winter. Depending on where you live, the weather is usually gray and the temperature drops, family and friends depart and it can feel lonely.

This experience of feeling low and resistance to the slowness associated with the winter months can also often put strains on our relationships with others as well as our relationships with ourselves. Often times the inclination is to isolate or pretend to be feeling okay when we aren’t. These responses to feeling low, while they make perfect sense, only serve to further distance us from our connections with ourselves and with one another.

As winter drags on you might begin to wonder if you will ever see the sun again. You can help yourself through this experience by returning to some simple practices that allow grounding and slow-moving energy to flow.

Acceptance & Self-Compassion

Exercising self acceptance and self-compassion is imperative during this time and will ultimately help resolve feelings low sooner than fighting the way you’re feeling. I’m sure you’ve heard these buzz words before and maybe you will roll your eyes at them but these are the first things we often forget to do when feeling low.

Usually our inner monologue becomes something like, “What’s wrong with me?” or “Why am I feeling this way?” These statements discourage us from accepting where we are in the present and prevent us from embracing what we are truly needing in the moment. [More about mindfulness strategies here]. Below are some basic ways to practice acceptance and self-compassion when experiencing you’re not feeling great.

1) Check-in With Yourself

The first step to achieving acceptance and self-compassion is to check-in and notice when these thoughts or feelings arise. This first step is very powerful and is a skill that can be used not only to help manage difficult emotional experiences, but also to improve relationships with others.

Usually when we feel something uncomfortable, our first reaction may be to suppress it, deny it or fight it. Learning to roll with the punches and increase self and other acceptance is built on a foundation of emotional awareness. You feel the way you feel for a reason. Sometimes that reason is difficult to ascertain, but for the time being, simply noticing is your number one task.

2) Remind Yourself That It’s Okay To Say No

My mother used to say that nothing is worth doing if you aren’t doing it with a glad heart. This is ironic as my mother is also someone I endearingly refer to as the Queen of Doing Everything – a trait I am afraid I have also inherited. I’m sure many readers can relate that it’s easy to take on numerous tasks, especially when our self-worth is in doubt. Our impulse may be to rev up the engine and force ourselves into overdrive in order to escape feeling worthless or discontent with ourselves, piling on more tasks and responsibilities. But, if we have accomplished step one and have checked in with our feelings, when your friend invites you to their game night and your check-in tells you that your energy just isn’t there right now, it’s not only okay to say no, it’s actually healthy.

While you may worry about missing out, it will ultimately feel so good to give yourself what you’re needing in the moment versus denying yourself time that will, in fact, be restorative and prepare you for the exciting things to come tomorrow. If you’re already a natural no-sayer then keep on with the healthy self-care and boundaries, but this is something many people – especially in today’s busy world – generally struggle with.

3) Be Intentional With Your Quiet Time

 

It can be easy to turn on the TV and binge Netflix when you’re feeling low energy and depressed. While doing this is totally okay and feels good, it’s also very restorative to take some intentional downtime, especially when feeling low.

With the distractions of technology available at our fingertips, it can be easy to miss out on the important time of self-reflection that happens when our minds are quietly not focused on anything in particular. Some people spend lots of time avoiding intentional downtime. I often hear things from my clients like, “I don’t want to be alone with my thoughts.” With a few exceptions, it’s often healthy to be alone with your thoughts.

Our brains generally ramp up on anxiety when we haven’t given ourselves time during the day to be alone with our thoughts and so they keep us from sleeping at night or come up unexpectedly at unwanted times.

Intentional downtime can look different depending on the person; it can be as simple as laying on your bed or sitting on the couch quietly for ten minutes, taking a bath, meditating, taking a walk outside or sitting on a park bench and observing your surroundings. Whatever this might look like for you, it is important to give yourself this time to slow down and be present with you. Doing less and taking things off your plate may sound counterintuitive, but it actually often helps resolve feeling down sooner than trying to stay busy does.

4) Say How You’re Feeling

This last point is one of the key factors in maintaining connections with others while feeling down. A giant contributing factor to feeling down can be believing that we have to pretend we are feeling differently than we actually are to make others comfortable. It is important for your own mental health to say how you’re truly feeling when someone asks.

We may worry about disappointing others or making them uncomfortable, but the price of smiling through pain can be much greater than being honest when others ask how you’re doing. This is also an important part of exercising honesty and vulnerability in relationships that matter to us.

The false belief is that we are protecting those we love from a perceived burden when in fact we are distancing ourselves from them by not communicating how we are truly feeling or what we are truly needing in the moment. There is a significant amount of energy that goes into faking a smile for the imagined expectations we think others have of us.

Give yourself permission to say as much or as little as you feel comfortable about what you’re experiencing when others ask. Assert your needs in that moment around whether you need support from someone else or not. It’s okay to say you need some alone time to work through things. Again, the people who truly care about you will understand.

I hope you’ve found some of these strategies for managing feeling down and restoring energy helpful.

Warmly, 

Dr. Chelsea Twiss

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