11 Uncomfortable Things You Can Do With Your Partner To Strengthen Your Bond
Sometimes, in order to truly bond with your partner, you'll need to go through a few awkward experiences together. These might occur all on their own — such as health issues, or other unexpected life events that can throw your relationship through a loop. But they can also be things you seek out and do on purpose, as a way of getting to know each other better.
If you think about it, "seeking discomfort is synonymous with seeking growth," therapist Markie Keelan, MA, LPCC, tells Bustle. "Working on relationships to make them the best they can be will most likely lead you to uncomfortable territory, but no masterpiece was ever a walk in the park for it's creator. It's important to make space for the uncomfortable in relationships if you desire them to grow."
This might include having a few tough conversations, possibly about big topics like having kids, what you want for the future, or what happened in the past. But it can also mean having potentially uncomfortable experiences together, such as deciding to go to couples therapy, or getting outside your comfort zones together.
While these things may not be easy to do or talk about, it doesn't mean they have to be a negative experience. In fact, when you know that they're helping you bond, they can actually be incredibly positive. Here are a few uncomfortable things that will strengthen your relationship, according to experts.
1. Letting Them Know How You Feel
While it can be scary in the early days of a relationship to let your partner know how you feel about them, gathering the courage to be honest — even if it's uncomfortable — will only bring about positive benefits.
"For example, don't tell your partner that you 'don't want to label things' when you actually do but you're afraid of being rejected," Amica Graber, a relationship expert for the background checking site TruthFinder, tells Bustle. "If you keep your emotions to yourself, you risk leaving your partner feeling alienated if they feel the same way."
This will hopefully be the first of many open and honest conversations, that'll help strengthen your bond.
2. Establishing Healthy And Fair Boundaries
Another tricky moment can be the one where you talk about boundaries, and what you'd like your relationship to look like, even if it means having a bit of a disagreement in the process.
As Graber says "Disagreements and boundary-setting are crucial in having a healthy relationship." So the sooner you can hash it all out, the better.
"Practice saying no," she says. "A strong relationship involves two people respecting each other's boundaries."
3. Trying Something New Together
Many couples fall into a groove of doing the same thing day in and day out. And there's definitely a great sense of comfort and stability in that. But it never hurts to shake things up, and get outside your comfort zones from time to time.
And one way to do so is by trying out each other's hobbies. "If your partner has a passion that isn't quite aligned with your interests [...] give it a try — at least once," Graber says. "It may feel uncomfortable to get outside of your comfort zone, but sharing a new experience with a partner can really strengthen your relationship."
4. Going To Couples Therapy
Few couples want to march off to the a therapist's office and hash out problems, but this may be the very thing you need to do to feel closer to your partner — especially if you've been going through a rough patch.
"Therapy is uncomfortable for everyone because you have to be vulnerable, think about questions you’d prefer to avoid, tap into your emotions, identify and state your opinions, and have someone there to challenge you," therapist Brie Shelly, MS, LMHC, RYT, tells Bustle.
And yet, this can open all sorts of doors to better communication, "which is the a huge reason why couples struggle," Shelly says. "A lot of people find that having a mediator allows them to be more open with their partner, state their fears, and most importantly talk out the ways effective communication is not happening." It can be uncomfortable, but it's almost always worth it.
5. Talking About Your Past
While it can sometimes feel uncomfortable to talk about the past — especially if you've had difficult experiences — sharing these stories with your partner when you are comfortable can really make you feel closer.
"Maybe it is something you do not want to share, or you are not sure how your partner will react," Caitlyn Paltsios, a relationship expert from Grapevine Gossip, tells Bustle. "Either way, a great way to bond with your partner is to open up to your past experiences."
If the past situation is triggering, do not feel pressured to divulge it. But if you are ready, opening up about these moments can help you understand each other on a deeper level, while also making it possible to offer more support in the future.
6. Sharing Your Family History
If the moment feels right, "share about your family history and what influenced you both positively and negatively to be the person you are today," life coach and therapist Emily Cosgrove, LMFT, tells Bustle.
You don't have to go into every little detail if you don't feel like it's important, but opening up about your family history can prove to be quite the bonding experience.
7. Letting Them Know When Something's Wrong
If you feel bothered or annoyed by something your partner is doing, you definitely need to let them know — even if approaching them feels weird.
"Maybe your partner isn't spending as much time with you as you'd like or their spending habits make you question their stability. Keeping these thoughts to yourself will not change anything," Keelan says. "If you are worried about your partner's behavior, talk to them about it."
Finding a time to chat about it all may be tough, but ultimately will help you feel closer. "Bringing up the problem means you are [...] willing to work with your partner to support them in this change," Keelan says. "The problem is the problem — not them, you, or the relationship."
8. Chatting About The Future
While not all couples find it uncomfortable to talk about the future, some avoid the topic like the plague. And that can be detrimental to the closeness of your relationship.
"While it’s commonly said that opposites attract, having differing views in terms of what you want life to look like in the future can put serious strain on the relationship," relationship coach Tiffany Toombs, tells Bustle.
You'll want to know so you can either go your separate ways, or work on finding a compromise that'll more closely seal your relationship.
9. Defining What Cheating Looks Like
It's common to make assumptions about what counts as cheating and what doesn't. But in reality, everyone has a different definition, which is why this is one convo you'll want to have.
"It’s important to define what 'cheating' or 'being faithful' means," Toombs says. That way you can create the type of secure, comfortable relationship you both want to be in.
10. Sharing Big Dreams
Major goals, such as going back to school, getting married, raising kids, etc., are all things you'll want to talk about — even if it seems like a heavy topic — because it helps you get on the same page.
Take kids, for example. "When you start to talk about children, it might feel like you are rushing the relationship too quickly or you might fear rejection or the other person pulling away," matchmaker Joann Cohen, tells Bustle.
And yet, avoiding it will only result in a surface-level relationship. While you don't have to talk about children on the first date, creating space to do so within your first year together can bring you closer together.
11. Actually Listening To Each Other
Since it's tough to truly listen to someone speak, without waiting for your turn to talk, this one can feel uncomfortable. And yet it's a habit you and your partner should get into, if you want to feel closer.
"This is a key step to increasing intimacy and unlocking relationship gridlock," psychotherapist Tina B. Tessina, LMFT, PhD, tells Bustle. "It is uncomfortable because it is very challenging to set our reactivity and point of view to the side. It takes some brain training and heavy lifting."
And yet these things, however uncomfortable they may feel in the moment, are all keys to having a healthier and closer relationship. They may be tough to talk about, but it's all about getting to know each other, and taking your relationship to the next level.