Recognizing When Your Partner Is Reaching Out Is The Key To A Successful Relationship

Fights with your partner are inevitable. No matter how in love you are with each other, you're bound to disagree. Sometimes fights can strengthen a relationship, and sometimes they can break them. As a new study suggests, how you communicate during a fight affects your relationship — especially because conflicts in a relationship can hinder a person’s ability to recognize that their partner is trying to reach out. In other words, if your partner has negative feelings toward you, no matter how many times you say “I’m sorry,” will get through to them.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Family Psychology, researchers from the University of Illinois took 98 same-sex couples and had them keep a 14-day diary where they recorded their fights and answered questions on how they responded to them. Did you withdraw? Did you lash out? Did you blame the other person? Did your partner threaten to leave?

The answers to the questions were able to help researchers predict whether people were able to recognize the efforts put forth by their partners to mend the relationship. Brian Ogolsky, professor of human development and family studies said in a press release:

"When we evaluate relationship maintenance in couples, the important measure is not what's actually happening in the relationship but how those persons perceive their partner's efforts. That perception creates the climate in which attempts at reconciliation will either be accepted or rebuffed. When conflict occurred, it influenced the way persons rated their partner's general efforts to work on their relationship. If partners withdrew or become contemptuous or critical, the bad feelings lingered, and that negative emotion dampened people's ability to process or perceive their partner's attempts to repair what was wrong between them." 

When you’re in a fight with your partner and have negative feelings toward them, you’re likely to miss the attempts they make at repairing the relationship. However, as the study found, some couples were able to use “conflict resolution strategies,” which enabled bad feelings to go away. Other good problem solvers were able to engage with their partners in “the moment of conflict” or shortly after.

"Communication is just one aspect of relationship maintenance, but it's an important one," Ogolsky said. “It's important because when you feel negative toward your partner, you're not paying attention to the efforts he or she is making. That's a problem for you because you feel like your partner's not investing in the relationship, but it's also a problem for your partner because they may actually be doing positive things that you're not noticing.”

Because recognizing that your partner is reaching out is one of many keys to having a successful relationships, here are four other tips for strengthening your relationship from Sarah Patt, relationship expert and matchmaker for busy professionals at It's Just Lunch Houston.

1. Communicate Trust

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"The key to any relationship is open communication. But take it a step further," Patt says. "It's okay if your partner knows your phone or personal email passwords or even follows you on social media. If everyone else knows what going on in your life, shouldn't your partner? Trust is the foundation of a healthy relationship, and when a partner knows having access to your life doesn't bother you, it creates a sense of mental security and trust."

2. Always Be Dating Each Other

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"No matter how many days, months or years you have been together, you both must make sure to carve out time to spend with each other," Patt says. "Putting work and social events with friends aside, it is important to have one-on-one time to stay on the same page, communicate and just have some fun! Being best friends as well as partners allow relationships to withstand whatever life may throw your way."

3. Be Spontaneous And Create Surprises

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As Patt says, "To avoid becoming too comfortable in your relationship, make an effort to be spontaneous. By doing something your partner normally wouldn't expect, like secretly whisking them away on a stay-cation or organizing a get together with their closest friends, your partner will realize that even after all these years, you can still surprise them. Spontaneity will remind your partner how much you still care about them, a part of any strong relationship."

4. Tackle The Tough Times Together

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"When things are great, it's easy to be in a relationship, but it's the hard times that determine whether or not your relationship is built to last," Patt says. "When problems arise, face them together. Sharing these hardships - whether it's just listening to your partner vent or simply offering a new perspective - this will ensure that you're an indispensable part of each other's lives."

Want more of Bustle's Sex and Relationships coverage? Check out our new podcast, I Want It That Way, which delves into the difficult and downright dirty parts of a relationship, and find more on our Soundcloud page.

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Images: Tiko Aramyan/Fotolia; Giphy(6)

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