When was your last relationship audit?

It’s important to check in with your partner in a deliberate manner, reassess goals, ensure that you’re on the same page, says Simran Mangharam, in this week’s With Love column.
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Updated on Jan 08, 2022 06:36 PM IST
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BySimran Mangharam

What makes a good life? The Harvard Grant Study, one of the longest studies of its kind, tracked the mental and physical well-being of 268 young adults from 1938 through the next 75 years, with the aim of answering just this question.

The study concluded in 2014, with some surprising results. More than wealth, social class, fame or IQ, strong relationships were found to be far and away the strongest predictor of life satisfaction, and better predictors of long and happy lives. Strong relationships also correlated with physical health, longevity and financial success.

Over the last two years, we have all been forced to recalibrate how we live our lives. Nearly two years into this new normal, this is also a good opportunity to evaluate how we conduct our relationships. All it takes to hit reset is a few practical steps. Here are four to get you started.

Be honest and share your feelings, whether of love, dissatisfaction or discomfort. Decide to approach all such conversations from a place of love. Especially when sharing feelings of discomfort, choose words that are kind and constructive and serve to communicate your feelings or fears.

It’s not only what you say, but how you say it that’s important. Allow your partner time to understand and absorb what is being said. If such conversations seem scary, remember that everyone in a relationship of any kind accommodates and makes exceptions for those they love, even when they might not completely see the rationale behind the ask.

Realign as a couple, ideally every quarter. Evaluate the course of the relationship and share thoughts on where you think you’re going as a couple and individually. It might feel like an effort, but it allows for opportunities to course-correct. You can’t know the effect your environment is having until you sit down to evaluate and talk about it. It’s also hard to know another person’s perspective, no matter how intimately you know them, without these periodic check-ins.

It could be that you sit down with your partner and discover that work, extended family, children, finances, a new ambition for the future, were taking a toll that perhaps even they had not recognised. This, then, becomes an opportunity to get perspective and decide on a course of action or a new course of action that works best for your relationship and your family.

Spend time by yourself. This is helpful, particularly in an intimate relationship, to keep from losing sight of who you are, what you want and how you plan to get it. Time alone could mean an hour a day to do something non-stressful that you enjoy (a walk; wine and some music; doodling; painting; or just writing down your thoughts). This is essentially time to free-associate. Time alone scheduled weekly, monthly or even yearly is better than none at all. It’s an effective rejuvenation tool too.

Celebrate anytime you can. Birthdays, anniversaries, achievements big and small, use them all to acknowledge a win, make your partner feel seen and celebrate the life you have built together. Belgian psychotherapist Esther Perel says practising and honouring celebrations and rituals, even if they are ones we have created, helps fully experience, appreciate and “harvest” joy, in a largely unpredictable and often-challenging world. The act of coming together mindfully around a positive activity that requires your full attention also acts as a break from the stress of daily life, and can recharge you and your relationship.

It’s a good idea to commit to these foundational efforts, because nothing can tend to itself or operate on autopilot indefinitely. This way, it’s hands on the tiller to keep your relationship healthy and strong. Remember, this is a form of self-care too.

Here’s wishing you a love-filled, happy and healthy 2022.

(Simran Mangharam is a dating and relationship coach and can be reached on simran@floh.in)

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Tuesday, January 18, 2022