Relationships Really Matter: 2. Things to Do
Here you'll find some practical tools that can help you think about your relationships with your partner or parent of your child. If you prefer a digital resource then go to the Further Resources Section of this page
Here’s what a Nottinghamshire parent thought about the tools…
Being able to visually see how your relationship is on the different steps in a relationship chart, shows you clearly the steps you need to take, and can make, to ensure you're both more 'together' and 'unite'
Do you want to get on with one another better? Have a go at these activities and quizzes ……….
Conflict between parents, rather than the event of parental separation or divorce, is a key factor in explaining why some children fare better than others when their parent's relationship breaks down.
The Stages of Relationship Staircase
. Image showing a staircase to represent how relationships develop over time, in ascending order. 1 romance. 2. reality. 3. power struggle. 4. finding yourself. 5. acceptance. 6. respect and understanding.
Ask yourselves the following questions….
- Where do you see your relationship on the staircase above, and why?
- Where would your partner see themselves on the relationship staircase above and why?
- Are you both at the same stage?
- Are you happy where you are on the staircase?
- What could you do to help you to get to the next step?
- How will you know that you have reached this?
- Do you need help to achieve this?
What do we argue about?
Money, finances. Parenting Style. Division of household tasks. Extended family relationships (n laws). Work or unemployment. Sex and intimacy. Infidelity. Sibling rivalry. Housing. Shared responsibilities. Social media. Babies.
Have a think about the things that the two of you argue about regularly. Can you talk about this and work out a way to approach these “triggers” in a more positive way?
Let's have a look at how arguments work....
When you know how arguments work, you can learn to keep them under control. The logs. What issues do you argue the most about? The match. What usually starts an argument? The fuel. What makes it worse? Are you fuelling the fire? The water. What helps calm things down?
1. You can think of arguments like a fire. The logs are the things you argue about the most. Even when you're getting on well, the logs are still there. Some common ones are. Money. Friends. Housework. Sex. Children. 2. The match can be anything that starts an argument. It's oftner something small. The wrong tone of voice. Feeling stressed. Not listening to each other. 3. Once the argument has started, we can make things worse by the way we respond. This can add fuel to the fire. Snapping back. Walking out. Bottling things up. Saying hurtful things. Bringing up old arguments.
And what you can do to stop them getting out of control....
4. There are also things we can do to stop the argument getting worse. This is like putting water on the fire. Taking a break. Listening. Saying sorry. Having a hug.
Here's a few things to try. A. Can you think of what your logs are? B. The next time you argue, see if you can tell when you're pouring fuel. C. Think about ways you could pour water, and try them out.
How does arguing make you and your child feel?
When you have an argument with your partner, how do you feel? So. How might your child feel?
Think about how this makes you and your child feel? You could jot down a few words or draw a picture that shows how you feel when you and your partner/ex-partner argue. Then draw another one or jot down a few words about how this might make your child feel.
This picture shows how many children feel when their parents are arguing. Think about your own children – is this how they are when you’ve been arguing?
How does this manifest in children? Internalising. Sad, withdrawn, anxious, depressed. Externalising. Aggression, behaviour problems, acting out. Parent - Child. Provides emotional support, excuses, care for siblings.
What does the evidence say?
This table shows how important it is for a child that parents are able to argue in a positive way. Take a few minutes to think about this, it’s powerful stuff!
Destructive Conflict. Presents as freequent, intense and poorly resolved. Can occur in all family structures and when parents are together or separated. Children exposed are at risk of poor social, emotional and educational outcomes as well as physical, emotional and mental health. Can impact on a child's ability to form and sustain positive, healthy relationships as well as future romantic relationships
Constructive Conflict. Is less intense, is resolved and is less frequent. Children can benefit from seeing thie parents resolve their differences and disagreements. Teaches valuable lessons about compromise, negotiation, resolving differences and reaching agreements.
Conflict and Separation. Research shows us that the levels of conflict before and during the breakdown in a relationship is more impactful to the child than the separation itself.
Top Tips - what to try for and what to avoid
Arguments and disagreements are a natural part of life, but here are some top tips to help you argue better.
Conflict between parents is normal. Tips for helpful constructive conflict. Can be relationship enhacing. Try to compromise. Demonstrate warmth. Use humour and negotiation. Resolve their differences. Agree to differ. Not trying to put the other person down.
Tips to avoid hamful conflict. Can be relationship damaging. Intense arguments. Hostile verbal exchanges. The 'silent treatment'. The need to win. Personal attacks. Arguments that are about or involve the children.
The Relationship Scale
Have a go at thinking where you are on the Traffic Lights scale Red, Amber and Green. We’d all like to be in the Green section, wouldn’t we, so have a think about the ideas in the speech bubbles to help move you there.
Relationship scale - how do we change this? it can be useful to think about where you are now and where you would like to be using these questions>
Question. How would things look, if it were better? Question. What would be happening? Question. What would have to change? Question. What would you / your partner be doing differently? Question. What would you be thinking and feeling? Question. What might get in the way? Question. Who has helped you to make up before?
"We just don't understand one another!"
How we interprent things, what we think and feel impact our own behaviours. Example. Behaviour observed. "I see you watching the football and ignoring me. Thoughts. I think this means you don't want to be around me. Feelings. This makes me feel unloved. Behaviour. I slam doors in the kitchen to let you know I am not happy!"
How many times have you thought this about one another? Books have been written about how individuals see things from very different perspectives. Have a go at this Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviours activity – write down your answers to the questions:
I see …
I think …
I feel …
I behave …
Share your answers with your partner – you may be surprised at what they’ve written and this could help you understand them a little better in the future.
The reason you want to get along better
Why is this so important? Children are like sponges, they absorb what is going on around them. The feelings, the noise, the sights etc. That is why they learn so quickly. Resolving your arguments will mean your child will. Be happier. Worry less. Sleep better. Be more resilient. Feel more secure and stable. Have better and more trusting relationships. Learn how to manage conflict. Leanr how to resolve arguments. Have a better focus at nursery, school. Be more confident
What about me?
It’s important for us all to have a little “me time” in our busy lives to re-charge our batteries. When you’ve got children, it’s even more important, but even more tricky to fit in.
Note down what you’d like to do to look after yourself – think about little things that could be achieved, such as having a soak in a warm bubble bath once a week, or getting to play football with your friends on a Saturday afternoon, rather than something big like a weekend at a spa or going to all the away games of your football team. There’s more chance then of being able to do this and your partner supporting you to have this little bit of “me time”.
Make time to spend together
It’s all too easy, isn’t it, to just focus on the challenges of day to day family life – but remember, before you were a family, you were a couple. It’s important to spend a little time on the two of you- think about these questions and have a chat together to plan how you could fit this in.
Family Time is important
Now think about your family time – have a chat with your partner and see if you can come up with a plan. Don’t forget to ask the kids when thinking about what you like to do as a family. Again, make sure to keep it simple and real, not some wonderful wish list, as that’s hard to make happen!
Who can help us?
You can’t always “go it alone” we all need a bit of help sometimes.
FURTHER RESOURCES If you would like further information on how to improve your relationship with your partner, other care giver please see the following links to further useful activities.
Online Family Relationship Courses from One Plus One.
For further information about these courses click on the flyers below:
All you will need is an email address to set up an account on your chosen device, select Central England and then Nottinghamshire and then choose the course that best relates to your circumstances:
- Me, You and Baby Too for New and expectant parents.
- Arguing better for Parents experiencing high levels of stress and couple conflict
- Getting it Right for Children for Separating or separated parents experiencing high levels of conflict.
Link to Resources: https://oneplusone.org.uk/parents
Healthy Relationships Questionnaire
To help you consider your relationship with your partner and the strengths and challenges you may face
With thanks to Essex County Council who produced this questionnaire as part of the healthy relationships project.
Link to Resource: Parent relationship questionnaire (brighton-hove.gov.uk)
With thanks to Brighton and Hove Council who produced this questionnaire as part of the healthy relationships project.
Getting On Better Cards
Designed to help you think about your relationship in a new way, with ideas on how to reduce tension and arguments. Click on each of the eight Getting on Better cards to encourage you (together or separated)to think about your relationship and how you can communicate better or deal with conflict more effectively.
The Amity Little Book of Relationship Care - click to open or download this resource
This self-help workbook is designed to help couples understand why they argue and how they can reconnect and navigate their arguments in a more constructive way.
- Relationships Really Matter:
- Relationships Really Matter: 1. What's This All About?
- Relationships Really Matter: 3. How To Parent Together When Separating and Apart
- Relationships Really Matter: 4. Useful Video Clips
- Relationships Really Matter: 5. What Help Can I Get Locally?
- Relationships Really Matter: 6. More Information and Support
- Relationships Really Matter: 7. Is this the same as Domestic Abuse?
- Relationships Really Matter: 8. Information For Practitioners