Relationships have their ups and downs: their ecstatic highs and their abysmal lows. Navigating your way along this proverbial Freeway of Love, however, can be a tough nut to crack. For inspiration, I’ve turned to seven soulful songbirds for their sassy attitude and kick-ass advice…
–> 1. Get “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” (Aretha Franklin).
It’s no surprise that any healthy, mutually gratifying relationship is based on a solid foundation of love, trust and – sing it, Aretha! – respect. After all, it’s that feeling of being held in high regard by your significant other (SO) that makes you feel truly loved, appreciated, desired and cared for.
If, however, you’re lacking the r-e-s-p-e-c-t you need to sustain the
r-e-l-a-t-i-o-n-s-h-i-p, it’s vital that you speak up. Otherwise, resentment and anger can build until you’re feeling more PO’d than loving toward your SO. For tips on how to say what’s on your mind and in your heart, read on…
–> 2. “Express Yourself” (Madonna).
If speaking your mind seems about as appealing as marching through K-Mart naked, then whom best to turn to than the self-appointed queen of “telling it like it is”? Sure, having a heart-to-heart conversation with your partner can be hard, especially if he isn’t amenable to hearing what you have to say. But isn’t it harder to bottle up anger and resentment than to let it out, openly and honestly?
When you do decide to talk to your partner about what’s going on, make sure to use “I” statements (“I feel…”; “I want…”; “I need…”) as opposed to “You” statements (“You never…”; “You always…”; “You shouldn’t…”, etc.). That way, your better half won’t feel belittled, intimidated or falsely accused. He’ll be more open to what you have to say.
At the same time, it’s important to note that men and women have different or “asymmetrical” communication styles. Women talk to share feelings and intimate experiences; men talk to acquire or impart information (sound familiar?). Therefore, having a better understanding of how women communicate with men will undoubtedly help you out.
One of the best sources of info on this topic is Deborah Tannen’s groundbreaking book, You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation (HarperCollins, 2001). Another book that will shed light on male-female interactions is John Gray’s classic self-help book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: How to Get What You Want in Your Relationships (HarperCollins, 2002).
Once you have a better handle on how to communicate with your partner, chances are that trying to Express Yourself will be that much easier – now, and in the future.
–> 3. “You Can’t Hurry Love” (Diana Ross and the Supremes)
In a society where everything is expected to happen yesterday, it’s easy to forget that some things can’t be rushed. Take love, for instance. Falling in love is a heady, mind-boggling experience, and sometimes a person’s hopes and expectations can be profoundly, and often disturbingly, unrealistic.
Case in point: You’ve met the guy of your dreams, fallen for him hard, and your expectations are higher than the Empire State Building. But while you may be hoping for a square-cut solitaire, he may be trying to figure out what he wants and needs from life.
The moral of this story? It’s unwise to wait indefinitely for a guy to get off the fence, but there’s equally no sense in pushing him off it. Some things – like love, and even commitment – need time to grow and flourish.
–> 4. Forgive, and be “Forgiven” (Alanis Morrissette).
Screwing up is unavoidable at times. We’re all human, and stuff happens – even if we wish it didn’t, or hadn’t. That’s not to excuse major relationship no-nos, such as infidelity, lying, stealing and cheating. But if your otherwise lovable partner leaves a wet towel on the bed for the gazillionth time and you feel like strangling him with it, you might be wiser to just let it go. Try to think of the annoying stuff you do (los angeles dodgers thanksgiving pregnancy announcement shirts for couples in the hallway, anyone?). Or, better yet: think of the good stuff your partner does for you, like making your coffee in the morning; putting the kids to bed; chatting on the phone with your mother, and so on.
Concentrating on a person’s faults is akin to eating a pint of Chunky Monkey ice cream in one sitting: it’s easy to do, but counterproductive in the long run. By not sweating the small stuff, you’re bound to feel less stressed out and more fulfilled.
–> 5. “Believe” (Cher).
Just as respect, understanding and clear communication are essential ingredients in a good relationship, so is the belief that the relationship will endure – even in trying times.
Yes, the divorce rate in this country has been hovering at 50 percent for more than a decade now. But that doesn’t mean that you have to throw up your hands and let pessimism take control. Not only is negative thinking a slippery slope, allowing problems to go unheeded and unnoticed is a surefire path to relationship meltdown.
So, in addition to talking to your partner about the difficulties in the relationship, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Excellent go-to sources include: a trusted friend, relative or clergy member; a marriage/couples counselor or therapist; a coach. Once the problems in your relationship are out in the open, the possibility of improvement is increased exponentially.
–> 6. “Don’t Let it Bring You Down” (Annie Lennox)
When things aren’t going well in a relationship, it’s easy to focus on the problem – and nothing but the problem. Unfortunately, dwelling on the negative can take a serious toll on your health, happiness and general well-being. It also makes things worse. After all, negativity breeds more negativity.
That’s why, in addition to getting the necessary help needed to try and get things back on track, it’s vital that you take care of your own wants and needs when you feel as if the ship is sinking. Don’t neglect yourself: get out there, and find some distraction.
–> 7. And if all else fails, remember… “I Will Survive” (Gloria Gaynor).
As one wise diva once said (or was it Betty Friedan?): “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.” As clichéd as this may be, it’s true. You don’t need to be part of a twosome to tango. You can march to the beat of your own drummer and come out ahead. Way ahead. And once you’re out on your own, you might be surprised to find that “It’s Raining Men.” Hallelujah!
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write by Michael Riemann