How to keep your relationship strong under pressure

Talking live on Ticker TV's breakfast show, Matt Lavars shared strategies that work to keep couples together—and honesty is at heart of it all.

One ongoing side effect of COVID-19 has been the huge spike in couples seeking separation advice since the pandemic began—here's how to keep your relationship strong under pressure.

It was good personal timing when I sat down on Ticker TV 's Ticker Jumpstart with hosts Alana McLean and Benjamin Norris on July 6 to talk relationships: days earlier, my girlfriend and I had celebrated our second anniversary.

Ben asked what we did—well, it was on topic!—and I told him how we went to an amazing secluded getaway in Victoria's Dandenong Ranges, where there was understated luxury and rose petals sprinkled on the bed.

It was kind of weird that the rose petals came up in discussion, because while it was such a fun touch, it said more about the hotel owners' attention to romantic detail than what lasting love looks like. (Although every relationship can do with a regular dose of impractical playfulness. That's my first tip.)

One of the things we have to face is many of didn't get told much about how to have great relationships, so we're all trying to learn how to do it.

But relying on picking up best practice tips by osmosis means you're leaving one of the most important, valuable and life changing parts of your life to chance.

We wouldn't build a $100 flatpack bookshelf without instructions, yet we're happy to fly blind when it comes to love, relying on luck, romantic gestures and chemistry.

Each couple looking to know how to keep your relationship strong under pressure needs to have closeness and space. A lot of people don't know how to ask for either.

One of the things we talk about at The Coaching Institute is you have to ask for what you need, but a lot of the time we feel guilty or bad about asking for what we want. People just don't do it, and they expect their partner to mind read them and guess what they need.

And, hands up how many of you can read minds? Yep. So ... there are frustrations, things unsaid and arguments created.

What makes a massive difference is knowing the basics of saying, "I need some time away right now" or "I need some time to be close right now" and being able to communicate those things makes a massive difference.

On the show, Ben described what happens in his own relationship sometimes. When he and his partner had a difference of opinion during the close proximity of COVID-19, it often felt like it escalated fast. He asked if you should try and park conflict and bring it up again at a later time.

He even shared that in the aftermath of a challenging exchange, he sometimes feels depressed.

I respected his honesty and his good question—which is also a big question.

My strategy is to take some time out. Take your hand off the emotional keyboard  when you're angry. Because truth is the real thing we're angry about is usually not the thing that's happening.

There's usually something else underneath and we've got to get good at working out what the other thing or things are.

When you have an argument, one question to ask yourself is, "Is this a pattern for me?" If it is, it's time to start talking about that with your partner.

In working out how to keep your relationship strong under pressure, people may not see it as a priority to become more intimate with who they are as a person.

One way to do that is to get intimate with our own patterns and tell our partner. Say, "Every time you talk about your dad, I get nervous" or "When you keep refusing to talk about a budget, it makes me frustrated."

Most people don't go that deep because they think bringing problems out with their partner will create problems.

But that's the point of the relationship—to bring your problems and have them heard.

One of the most rewarding things we can do in a relationship is be honest about all the little things, and not let them build up. At The Coaching Institute we call it being emotionally reactive and it means reacting to something that's a trigger for you.

Pull the trigger. Get it out there. When you share it with your partner and work through it together, it means you're not left alone with an emotional challenge.

Challenges are there so couples can evolve together. To do that we have to be honest. Yes, it's scary but it's really valuable.

Matt Lavars is one of Australia's leading coaches, trainers and speakers, and head facilitator at The Coaching Institute. In between mentoring thousands of coaches and leaders all around Australasia and helping others build incredible culture, Matt is passionate about fitness and music. His healthy office lunches whipped up in five minutes are the stuff of legend.

Matt Lavars
Matt LavarsThe Coaching Institute