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Relationship column: How 5 percent could transform your relationship

Neil Rosenthal
Vail CO, Colorado

One of the sadder experiences I have encountered as a marriage and family therapist is when a couple comes into my office with one person speaking of the relationship being over and wanting to move on, while the other person frantically declares that s/he is willing to do anything to save the relationship and begs for one more chance. This is not a promising scenario because it takes two people to create a relationship, but it takes only one to end it. Relationships require two willing people.

The warning signs all too often are either missed, ignored or not taken seriously, giving the unfortunate message to the person who feels unhappy (and frequently disempowered) that s/he has no real choice but to consider leaving the relationship because their partner is closed to any real receptivity to his or her pain or isn’t willing to make consistent effort to be responsive to his/her needs, wants and wishes.

There are ways to avoid being in this position. One such way is to learn the power of 5 percent:

– “If I were to give 5 percent more to you and to our relationship, I would … “

Here are some of the ways I’ve heard people answer that question: “If I were to give 5 percent more to you and to our relationship, I’d appreciate you more; I’d say something loving to you every day; I would romance you more; I’d attempt to seduce you more; I’d be more understanding of your needs; I’d show more affection to you in front of the kids; I’d come home to be with you and talk and/or play and/or romance you instead of watching TV and unwinding; I would be more consistently affectionate; I’d be a better listener; I’d be a friendlier shoulder for you to lean on.”

No doubt you could think of additional answers to the above question. And that’s the point. By asking yourself how you could be 5 percent more effective as an intimate partner, you’re looking at what you could do single-handedly to improve the relationship, be more responsive to your partner’s needs ” and generally assist your partner in feeling valued, cherished and lucky to have you.

Learn the power of doing 5 percent more. Its value is way, way more than 5 percent. Here are some additional 5 percent questions:

– If I were 5 percent more friendly to you, I would …

– If I were to nurture or spoil you 5 percent more, I would …

– If I were to be 5 percent more romantic, I would …

– If I were to be 5 percent more responsive to your needs, I would …

– If were to offer you 5 percent more approval, appreciation or acknowledgement, I would …

– If I were to be 5 percent more open about hearing your feelings, I would …

– If I were to be 5 percent more committed to you and to our future together, I would …

– If I were to be 5 percent more open about my feelings …

– If I were to be 5 percent more sexually responsive or giving …

– If I were to be 5 percent more affectionate with you, I would …

There is only one thing left after you answer these questions; make sure you hold yourself accountable for doing what you say ” consistently ” over time. Saying or thinking it isn’t enough. You must do it and then continue doing it. That’s what a happy, healthy, committed love relationship requires of all of us. And it sure beats being in a marriage counselor’s office being guided by someone else to do it.

Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Denver and Boulder, specializing in strengthening intimate relationships. He can be reached at 303-758-8777, or e-mail him from his Web site, heartrelationships.com.


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