Relationships are hard but they don’t have to be as hard as most of us make them. In marriage there really are two kinds of problems: those we can’t fix (like the histories we brought to the relationship, our gene pool or chronic health conditions we suffer with), and those we can fix (like everything else). So whether it’s finding a way of making time to spend together, or learning to talk through our toughest challenges, our toughest relationship issues all have solutions whether we can see them or not. Here are 5 rules that will increase your odds of building love instead of walls.

 Motivate With Honey, Not Vinegar

  • I’ve never seen a marriage improve by knowing that they have problems. Marriages improve when we begin to act differently on the problems we have.
  • Every problem has solutions so would it make more sense talking about what would make the situation better (solutions) rather than what makes it worse (problems).
  • In the end, whatever you focus on will grow.
  • A study of college students trying solve a problem showed that when they focused on all possible solutions, they were 17 times more likely to solve the problem than if they only focused on solving the problem.
  • This isn’t about positivity, it’s about productivity. In order for a problem to be solved, it has to be solved. So the sooner you move to solutions, the better. And the more solutions you have, the better. Solutions prime our optimism and positivity, while problems prime our hopelessness and negativity.
  • David Niven, author of the book “It’s Not about the Shark: How to Solve Unsolvable Problems.”
    • Story about Director Stephen Spielberg focusing on the shark in the movie of Jaws. But when the shark could no longer work and looked bloated, he focused on how to make an incredible movie without the shark. (Music, acting, special effects, shark half in and out of water, shots at night, screaming kids, etc).

Lose the “My Way Or The Highway” Mentality

  • Don’t give ultimatum because they just make this all harder to overcome.
  • People are inherently negative and self-protective so don’t try to amp your partner by threatening that if these things can’t be fixed now, you’re moving on.
  • Assume that you and your thinking, feeling and behaving is easily half of the reason this problem has been so difficult to solve.
  • Make sure that you are both part of the conversation or you both won’t end up being part of the implementation of the solution.
  • Either/ors only limit our thinking. Keep the discussion open by thinking “and”.

 Dig Through The Pile of What Used To Work

  • Instead of telling your spouse, “We never do anything fun anymore…”, think back and make a list of everything you used to do together.
  • Notice the what, when, where and how of what you used to do together.
  • Look for where it used to be different, where the problem didn’t exist.
  • Think about what has changed and figure out why you couldn’t go back and do many of the things you used to do.
  • Remember that it used to work back then so why couldn’t it work again now.
  • Look for as many solutions as you possibly can and now try to find ways to take those “old” ideas and refurbish them into new solutions for today.

Open Your Eyes For What’s Working

  • There are always good things going on around us and most of us don’t pay much attention to them because we’re more worried about the problems.
  • Humans are hardwired to look for negative things (problems), so we aren’t surprised.
  • Don’t do what you’ve always done because it makes you miss everything else you could be doing. Every day there are things that are going positively in every relationship. By seeing the good in your partner, you will open up your mind to finding other good solutions that will work on the problem you’re trying to solve.
    • Stay humble and open to new ideas. Check your confidence about what will work and what won’t. Openness is more valuable than confidence in solving problems.
    • Talk to others about how they handle the same problem.
    • Find new ideas online.
    • Get in a chatroom and discuss options with others.
    • Seek professional help.

Imagine What It Would Look Like If The Problem Were Solved

  • Nothing is more powerful than our imagination, and sadly, when it comes to problems, yours might tend to shut down. The future is filled with endless solutions to all of the problems that plague us, and finding those solutions would demand more of our imagination.
  • ACTIVITY- Engage your imagination and imagine a fairy came into your bedroom at night and actually fixed the very problem that plagues you and your spouse the most. The problem was solved! Now on a piece of paper make a list of 30 things that would be different in your marriage regarding the issue you were trying to solve. So if the issue was trying to make more time to be together.
  • IF YOU ACTUALLY DID MAKE TIME TO BE TOGETHER WHAT WOULD BE DIFFERENT?
  • Go on walks together.
  • Go on dates.
  • Share secrets.
  • Text each other.
  • Laugh more.
    • We would go to bed together.