Modern life puts a great deal of pressure our relationships.
Does this sound like you? You struggle to balance work, family and “me” time. You scramble to keep up with loved ones, friends and colleagues. Maybe you’re juggling childcare, elder care, house care, health concerns or car problems. You wonder when you’ll ever find time for your to-do list.
What about your partner’s wants and needs? How do you let all those emotions in? Do you feel stretched to the breaking point?
Some couples seem to take life’s demands in stride. They seem to draw strength from each other. How do they do it?
A relationship that provides a source strength and support often has a foundation of “us first.”
So what does it mean to “be there for each other” and put the relationship first?
What Putting Your Partner First in a Relationship Means
Making your spouse or partner a priority means your partner’s emotional needs are as important as your own.
You make your partnership a place where each person fully belongs. Putting your partner first means his or her needs, feelings, and wellbeing take priority over other people or things.
A “sense of we” forms as you maintain this priority on purpose each day. You protect your relationship from being destroyed or damaged. You tend to your connection so it feels good to you both.
One helpful idea is the “couple bubble.” Psychologist Stan Tatkin describes it as a zone of emotional protection around a relationship. Having a “sense of we” is one way that more secure couples differ from those with more troubled connections.
7 Signs Your Spouse or Partner Doesn’t Make You a Priority
Tatkin found that partners who do not make their relationship a priority may:
- See themselves as independent individuals first, a couple second
- Think neither partner should have to look after the other, try to understand each other’s thought and feelings
- Leave a partner to face distress alone without offering relief or protection
- Let a competing person, task, or thing take priority over the partner
- Put personal needs first when there’s a conflict with needs as couple
- Act on the idea “You do your thing, I’ll do mine”
- Live by the rule (spoken or unspoken): “If it’s good for me, you need to be okay with it”
7 Signs Your Spouse or Partner Puts You First in a Relationship
In contrast, Tatkin found that partners who make their relationship a priority tend to:
- Make emotional connection a priority
- Take time to know and care about each other’s thoughts and feelings
- Use their knowledge to protect each other (from shame, stress, or other unwanted experience) in public and private
- Talk to each other first, not second third or fourth, when there’s something to tell
- Respect that their partner may think, feel, or experience things differently
- Act on the idea “I will never leave you alone in distress, frighten you or hurt you on purpose”
- Make a pact (spoken or unspoken): “Our relationship comes first before my need to be right, what other people want, or any person, place or thing”
(Summarized from the book Wired For Love, by Stan Tatkin)
We need each other to help us through life’s challenges. Yet I often see couples make this misstep. They think they have to protect each other from their personal struggles.
When couples learn to create an emotional space for the other to fully belong — troubles and all — they create space for secure attachment.
Building your own couple bubble gives you a place to share your struggles, joys, hopes and dreams. It’s a place where you talk through and plan your career moves or your family’s needs or your “me time.” You make sure competing demands or distractions do not hurt your partnership.
Openness makes your relationship a safe haven to help each other see what’s most important, as individuals and together.
Without a doubt, creating a safe space to hold each other’s emotions is hard work. It’s some of the hardest work I know.
But I believe the relationship that you get as a result is well worth it.
Your secure love helps you feel safer, stronger and happier as you build trust and see more of each other’s emotional needs.
Building a healthy relationship may play a bigger role in our wellbeing than we realize. And it probably takes more intention and focus than we think.
When you’re ready, here are 3 ways our practice can help you create a safe space where your relationship comes first:
- Find out about our Creating Connection workshop for couples. You can learn about upcoming workshops by signing up for free information (no obligation). You can get a free couples weekend information sheet here.
- Ask about counseling for yourself or both of you. Sessions are a safe zone for both you and your partner to explore emotions in new, constructive ways. We answer the phone: (703) 768-6240
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