The 7 best tips from relationship therapists we’ve learned in 2022

WIRL dating is finally back on the table after months of being alone (or almost alone) during the beginning of the pandemic, many of us have approached dating and relationships to a degree. new intentions in 2022. At Well+Good, we sought the expert advice of many relationship therapists to work through all the new concerns and questions that arise.

Which of the more in-depth topics these experts have helped us tackle this year? How to Actually build all different types of intimacy with your partner and strengthen your emotional connection; how to navigate any modern dating trend from “pocket” to “fexting” to “unghosting;” as well as how to detect and deal with alarming types of behavior and conditions indiscriminately spread on social media such as narcissism, love bombing and yes, sarcasm.

Across nearly all of the dating and relationship advice we’ve received this year is a common theme: the importance of understanding and communicating your needs openly and honestly. at all stages of a relationship. But when it comes to navigating the unique vicissitudes of interpersonal conflict and sharing space with a romantic partner, the relationship therapists we’ve tapped into also have some unusual tips. more surprise to share with us.

Below, we’ve rounded up the best, most surprising tips we’ve heard from relationship therapists over the past year. Read on and head into 2023 with creative strategies for achieving or maintaining a happy, healthy partnership.

1. Focus on yourself to respect more than being liked

It’s natural to want to be liked, especially by your significant other. But letting the goal of likability dictate most or all of your actions can leave you feeling both personally unfulfilled (you’re too focused on other people’s needs to deal with them). own needs) both resenting others, leaving unspoken disagreements deep beneath the surface. .

To avoid that fate, relationship therapist Lia Avellino, LCSW, suggests Not She previously told Well + Good, seeking the affirmation of others and their respect, “this comes from living in alignment with your values ​​and from being an authentic person. live. By acting in harmony with your personal values—rather than simply acting to please others—you will actually lay the groundwork for more authentic relationships later on.

2. If conflict arises, accept it (yes, really)

Here’s a real curve in a relationship: If you’re someone who tends to avoid conflict at all costs, you can… it is in source of conflict, according to therapist Minaa B., LMSW. If you have any passive-aggressive people in your life, you probably already know why: Failing to talk about your feelings outright in an attempt to keep the peace only creates confusion. The person on the other end of the line won’t be able to tell what’s bothering you or how you’re really feeling, which takes away any opportunity for real connection.

It is much more effective to talk about how you feel (and welcome the opportunity to disagree and discuss) than to keep your concerns private, where they are only likely to create tension and create tension. damage. In the same way, instead of immediately agreeing to requests just to keep things steady, try to pause before replying, “and give yourself time to make sure the ‘yes’ ‘ is valid and not coerced,” Minaa previously wrote for Well+Good.

3. Connect with your partner’s feelings, even if you can’t understand their situation

One popular relationship advice says to put yourself in the other person’s shoes whenever there is a conflict. But while visualizing yourself in your partner’s shoes can help build empathy, that alone isn’t always a sufficient practice to get on the same wavelength—because that’s not always the case. what will happen if you will not Did they feel or act the same way in their shoes?

“What often happens is, a partner shares something that upsets them, but that is Not something can upset the other person, so it’s hard for the second person to find compassion, patience, or empathy for what the first person is going through,” says relationship psychology Ph. relationship Abby Medcalf, previously told Well+Good. To avoid leading to a dead end conversation (“But I just won’t react that way”), suggests focusing on how your partner is feeling rather than on the specific situation.

For example, if they report that they are feeling stressed because of a situation at work will not caused you stress (if you were in their situation), instead, consider a time when you felt stressed before another situation. This way, you can still empathize with their stress and validate it, no matter how they got there.

4. Go to bed angry if you argue late into the night

It’s time to let go of the old adage. Relationship therapist Genesis Games, LMHC, actually recommends going to bed upset and having a conversation some other time, rather than continuing to argue until midnight, sacrificing sleep for the sake of the future. tackle something that you may be too tired to deal with effectively. .

“Try to follow what your partner is saying and give coherent answers [late at night] can get you to just say ‘yes’ or agree to something to appease them or close the conversation,” Games previously told Well+Good. That just makes the argument more likely to reappear. Conversely, if you have just gone to bed and set a mutually agreed upon time (during the day) to end the discussion, the win-win is a good night’s sleep and a better chance for conflict resolution. .

5. Resist the temptation to “loyalty test” your relationship

If you feel even the slightest bit insecure about your relationship, it seems like a good idea—even wise—to test or “test” your partner’s loyalty. . For the uninitiated, the idea of ​​a “loyalty test” popped up on TikTok this year as some users suggested that anyone questioning the integrity of their relationship should Ask a friend to visit your partner’s DM and flirt with them. If their partner stops the advance quickly, then they will rest assured that their partner is truly loyal to them.

According to couple therapist Lee Phillips, LCSW, the main problem with this is the manipulation it entails – which can make even a person who “passes” the test feel embarrassed for their partner. their relationship took such a long time to “verify” their relationship. , EdD. “[A loyalty check] can be toxic in a relationship because it can create a power struggle or rift between two people that one cannot trust and the other wants to be trusted,” he previously told Well. +Good.

It’s better to openly discuss any trust issues you may have with your partner rather than going behind their backs to prove or disprove them.

6. Use the idea of ​​“threshold” to avoid conflict in household chores

Daily chores can be a source of great conflict if your partner is more messy or organized than you. In that case, the neater partner is likely to do more housework, leaving them feeling resentful of the messy partner — who will then only resent it for asking them to be neater. Instead of debating in vain about the respective merits of clutter and tidiness, try focusing on the core reason one person is more cluttered than another: Their threshold for clutter is higher (yes). meaning they can tolerate clutter more before it bothers them).

According to communication expert Sarah Riforgiate, PhD, using this framework removes accusations and value judgments from conversations about household chores. For example, it’s not that your messy partner is lazy or trying to ruin your life, it’s just that their mess level is high and yours is low.

With that basic in mind, you can ask your partner a question (“Did you notice crumbs on the counter after you left the kitchen last night?”) to better understand the threshold of confusion. where their mess falls and get their attention. it. Dr Medcalf previously told Well + Good: “When you enter the conversation to try to learn something rather than prove something, you both get out of a power struggle. can lead to fights.

7. Remember to be gentle

Many good relationships are built on a foundation of kindness. But turning a relationship from good to great often requires a certain level of tenderness, what trauma therapist Kobe Campbell, LCMHC, says is “deeply personalized tenderness. “

Understanding what this form of care might look like to your partner—whether it’s a back rub before bed or texting “good morning” or something else entirely—requires a different style of care. intimacy and certain vulnerability. And taking the time to get to that level with a partner is part of why tenderness can be so beneficial. “We all have less anxiety knowing our very specific needs will be met,” Campbell previously told Well + Good. “We feel even better knowing that our needs will be met by someone willing to love us.”


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