That’s what we’re all looking for.

And so when we get into a relationship, and it’s NOT so happy, we start to wonder…

Is this really it?

Surely, if this were the right relationship, with the right person, we’d feel happy all the time!

But, in fact, negative feelings serve a useful purpose in relationships.

Anger helps us stand up for ourselves. Guilt motivates us to apologize and do better. Loneliness encourages us to reach out.

We don’t have to be afraid of those negative feelings. We don’t have to push them away.

We can embrace the uncomfortable parts of relationships as opportunities for growth and change.

So how can you balance the good times with the bad times in your relationship?

How can you make sure the bad times help your relationship grow rather than bring it down?

These 3 tips will help.

Tip #1. Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener is known as the “Indiana Jones of positive psychology.”

His research on happiness, empathy, and courage has taken him all around the world.

What he’s discovered is that having a comfortable, easy life where nothing bad happens does NOT make us happy.

Wealth and material comforts don’t protect against anxiety and depression.

And yet we often believe that if only life were easier—if only we had more money, or more vacation time, or a more luxurious home—we’d be happier. We want to get rid of anything that makes us uncomfortable.

Yet Dr. Biswas-Diener believes that it’s our relationship with discomfort that determines how happy our lives are overall.

When we can sit with discomfort, and not run from it, we have a greater ability to stick with our goals and commit to our relationships.

We’re less likely to avoid issues, bury our head in the sand, or distract ourselves with mindless scrolling or screen time.

We’re more likely to work through it when we get confused, frustrated, or irritated, rather than giving up.

When you’re choosing the right man to spend your life with, make sure he’s comfortable with getting uncomfortable. If he expects your relationship to be easy all the time, he may not have what it takes.

Tip #2. Take Action

Pleasure invites us to stop and savor the moment.

Pain invites us to stop and reassess the situation.

When you experience painful emotions, don’t just wait until they pass. Ask yourself what they’re inviting you to do.

Anger can motivate you to fight back against injustice.

Anxiety can motivate you to take action to prevent a future problem.

Fear can motivate you to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Frustration or resentment can motivate you to have tough conversations and make necessary changes in your relationship.

So don’t just wait for negative feelings to go away. Use them to think about what’s not working and how you can make it better.

Tip #3. Use the 80:20 Rule

You want to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, but you don’t want to stay stuck there.

Comfort, pleasure, and fun make life worth living.

That’s where the 80:20 Rule comes in.

Your relationship should be a source of positive experiences and emotions 80% of the time.

As long as being together is mostly good, it’s okay if things aren’t so great 20% of the time.

As we learned, stress, irritation, and discomfort motivate us to make changes. For some of us, life has to get pretty bad before we’ll do anything about something that’s been bothering us.

Embracing the negative actually feeds the positive. Things feel so much better after you’ve addressed something that’s been bothering you.

Dr. Biswas-Diener sums it up like this:

“The trick … is not to avoid negative emotions, but to take the negative out of them.”[1]

So don’t worry about those ups and downs, as long as you’re up 80% of the time. Rough patches are a normal part of relationships. They won’t harm your relationship as long as you use them for positive action.

[1] The Upside of Your Dark Side (New York: Plume, 2014).

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