Expert's five top tips for keeping your relationship strong at the end of a terrible year

man and woman fighting
Has your relationship seen more wobbles and fights this year than ever? You're not alone. Photo credit: Getty.

Most of us would agree 2020 has been one of the toughest years we've ever faced, with the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns leading to fear, uncertainty and illness around the world. 

It's no surprise then that a toll has been taken on many relationships, especially romantic ones. 

Divorce lawyers reported their employment skyrocketed after lockdown, and anecdotally we've all heard tales of bizarre fights and confrontations throughout. 

Relationship expert and founder of Equal Exes Bridgette Jackson has seen it all. The former lawyer and entrepreneur is now a divorce coach, but she's equally skilled in coaching couples through sticking it out. 

She's put together some of her top tips on keeping your relationship strong if you're feeling some wobbles at the end of a shitty year. 

Never be afraid to say what you feel 

Communication is key when it comes to your relationship. If you do not communicate, your relationship will not grow stronger. There needs to be a willingness to communicate without blame and stick to the point. You must feel like you can express your anger assertively (aka "good fighting"), rather than taking an aggressive or passive approach. There should be no blame or making your partner feel like it is all their fault. Your relationship must feel safe for you both, so you can respect each other's differences without expressing judgement. If you can't be assertive with each other take time out, give each other space and talk things out when it is a better time. 

Jackson has given her top tips for getting through the end of the year unscathed, including to "not sweat the small stuff".
Jackson has given her top tips for getting through the end of the year unscathed, including to "not sweat the small stuff". Photo credit: Supplied.

Make love and prioritise intimacy 

Sex and intimacy are fundamental to keeping and getting your relationship back on track after a prolonged period of stress, uncertainty and chaos. Don't think of your relationship as two individuals co-existing. Your relationship is a living entity so think of it as a pot plant. If you give your pot plant no attention, never feed or water it, it will wilt or even die. On the other hand, if you lovingly look after and nourish your pot plant, it will flourish. Nurturing the connection between the two of you and sharing yourself at the most intimate level will ensure your relationship flourishes. If you need help to get this aspect of your relationship back on track reach out to psychologists who specialise in couples' therapy, in particular, sex therapy. 

Laugh and don't take yourself too seriously 

Don't sweat the small stuff! Not everything is always a 10/10. Life is complicated enough and it's not worth getting upset or stressed about minor issues. Breathe. Accept that your partner may have different preferences than you and that is what makes them unique. Being happy together means making concessions and expressing your appreciation for what your loved one does for you. It works both ways. Focus on the positives - what brings richness and rewards in your lives? If you can step back and reflect on some of the strange reasons you have argued in the past you will laugh. As a friend said to me recently: "After 25 years of marriage, you learn not to sweat the small stuff".

Balance the needs of the relationship with your own self-care

This is imperative for both of you because when you look after you, your relationship will stay healthy and balanced. You both can be your individual selves without giving your whole self to the relationship. Taking care of you will ensure that you are prioritizing your spiritual, emotional, physical and mental needs. Curl up in the corner on a Saturday reading your favourite book, have a massage or spend time with a friend who values you. Do not let your relationship define who you are. You must love yourself before you can love someone else and make that relationship stronger. 

Don't wait to seek external help 

Relationships go through ebbs and flows. You are not alone! Timing is important when it comes to marriage/relationship counselling or coaching. If you are struggling don't wait to reach out to professionals for the help you need. Relationship and Marriage expert, Dr John Gottman, maintains that couples wait on average for six years before they seek help in their marriages/de facto relationships. Don't let this be you!