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Bring out the best in your relationship

Note: Ideally, these guidelines work best when both partners follow them; however, a change in one partner's way of responding often encourages a change in the other partner. 

Relationships bring out the best and the worst in us. Here are some ways to bring out the best in yours: 

1. Focus on yourself. Do things to increase your self-awareness, like how you behave in relationships. It can help to stay aware of patterns, reactions, feelings, beliefs, and triggers (from your childhood and previous relationships) that arise in your relationship.

It is often true that how you feel may have little to do with your partner, and is more about you and your past experiences. 

2. Take responsibility for your own feelings, thoughts, needs, and behavior. Use "I" statements ("I feel..." vs. "You make me feel...") Check out assumptions, interpretations, and fears.

State your feelings and thoughts clearly and without blame. Make requests. Ask for what you need. She/he may not know what you need. Know that you may not get exactly what you need. Find ways to meet your own needs.  

3. Take care of yourself. Treat yourself as you would a good friend. 

4. Be present with yourself. This is important not only for your own well-being, but also for your relationship. Being present with yourself can be achieved in different ways, such as meditation, yoga, relaxation, rest, exercise, body awareness, dance, being in nature, and prayer.

Anything that helps you to be in the moment will help you to do that with your partner, as well. Many people find that being in the moment while they are with their partner is a lot harder than when they are alone or with other people. 

Some couples work on this together. You can: Lie down with your partner in a spoon position (one person's front side hugs the other person's back side) and then breathe in unison for five to ten minutes. Generally it is better if the larger partner follows the breath of the smaller partner. If your mind wanders, bring your focus back to breathing together. 

Variations of this are standing up and breathing in unison while hugging, and sitting down facing each other, holding eye contact while breathing in unison. This can also be helpful to do when you feel upset or angry with each other. Sit facing each other. 

At first, look down or close your eyes. Become aware of your breath. Follow the natural rhythm of your breath, and let your mind be clear of thoughts and worries. When you have done this for a while, open your eyes and look at your partner.

S/he may not have opened her/his eyes yet. If not, look at your partner from this meditative place and see what you notice, while you continue to follow your breath. When your partner opens her/his eyes, hold eye contact, while continuing to follow your breath.

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