Do we need to have skills to be in a happy relationship?
When infatuation and lust fade in our romantic relationships, all we have left is our partner—who, only a few months back, was a complete stranger. When we met that stranger, we had no skills whatsoever—only stories that were probably filled with heartbreak and trauma.
However, the longer we stay with our partner, the more skills we gain. The more skills we gain, the happier we become.
Relationships don’t come with a manual, so learning how to build—and maintain—a happy relationship takes time. Have I mastered all the skills we need for a long-term relationship? Probably not. I still have a long way to go before I can get the hang of love, but luckily, there is one skill that saves my relationship whenever I feel helpless.
“Respond, don’t react” is my new mantra.
When my husband and I have a disagreement, our knee-jerk reaction is to react. When we react, we don’t think; we “vomit” our emotions and thoughts instead. The things we say in the heat of the moment may hurt. Our thoughts may sting. And yes, we may feel better momentarily, but afterward we feel like sh*t.
This is what happens in most relationships. When our reactions take over, both partners get hurt, and I get it. It’s hard to stay collected when our buttons are being pushed. How can we remain mindful when we’re triggered and offended?
Maybe we can’t, and maybe what I’m suggesting is far from the truth. But, from my own experience, responding instead of reacting has taken my relationship to the next level.
Responding is a much slower process than reacting. It’s not fueled by anger or resentment. When we respond, we pause. We wait. We assess. We stop ourselves from speaking unintentionally.
Don’t hesitate to tell your partner that you need a moment to think about what’s happening; encourage them to do the same. When you have the urge to instantly respond, breathe. Stop. Remember that your instant, unconscious reaction is coming from previous wounds. Your response, however, is coming from the version of you that wants to make things better.
Do you want to make things better? Do you want to save your relationship? Do you genuinely believe that your partner isn’t inflicting the same previous wounds on you?
If your answer is a resounding yes, it’s time to use that skill.