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There’s a folksy adage I grew up with, in the rural Midwest, perhaps you did too in your neck of the woods, of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Like a lot of folksy sayings from back home, there are certainly times that it’s good advice: home or car improvement projects you aren’t qualified for, cutting your own hair (not that I’d know anything about that), “improving” on mom’s excellent crockpot recipe, etc.

It may bear saying, though, that relationships are different. While it can be normal to fall into a steady rhythm with your partner(s), healthy long-term relationships and marriages don’t happen by accident. They require ongoing strategic maintenance and fine-tuning. In my experience, a lot of couples, throuples, and polycules are only having talks about the relationship at turning points, like moves or proposals or at points of relational conflict.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, having these State of the Relationship discussions regularly can boost satisfaction in relationships, bring partners closer together, and diffuse conflict before it escalates. While not an exhaustive list, I wanted to provide y’all with some tips on how to do this. Remember, it can always be a great idea to enlist a Baltimore relationship therapist to help you out. 

1. Use Protected Time and Space

Marriage Counseling Therapist | New Connections Counseling Center at Baltimore, MDAs tempting as it can be to have these discussions on a whim, I encourage folks to pick a time and a place to check in on the relationship. To be clear though, have check-ins whenever you can but be sure to make formal time for them too. If there are more than two partners in the relationship it, hopefully, goes without saying that all partners need to be present.

Try to pick a time when no one is decompressing from work and consider a rule about whether or not phones, or other devices, can be on during this time. I encourage you to forego any electronic distractions, even a television in the background, if at all possible. Additionally, try to find a space where you won’t be interrupted. 

2. Talk about Needs and Feelings, not Criticisms

This one can be tricky. Now, what I don’t want you to take from this blog is: “Baltimore therapist, Brandon, says never complain.” No. Definitely not what I’m saying. Complaining can help you bear situations you can’t change, but it’s usually the wrong tool for healthy relationships. What I am saying is that discussing what you need is much more likely to keep the discussion going and lead to a better outcome than accusations or criticisms. Let’s try a thought experiment to illustrate. Take a moment and truly consider your mental and physiological reaction to both of these statements. 

“You’re always busy and never spend time with me.”


“It feels like we haven’t had as much time as I’d like with each other. I’d like to be more connected to you.” 

Notice the difference. The first, while an understandable knee-jerk reaction, sets the stage for a confrontation. It’s laden with overt and subtler accusations. The second still conveys that something needs to change, but in a way that protects your connection. 

3. Talk About Appreciations and What’s Going Well

Couples Therapist Baltimore Therapist to Relationship | New Connections Counseling Center at Baltimore, MDFor a lot of people, talking about the relationship may be something that they’ve only done when something is wrong. Emphatically, I encourage you to toss aside this framework. These discussions can be just as vital when things are going well. In fact, they can help y’all identify and enhance the elements of your relationship that you enjoy.

Something that can provide powerful, corrective, experiences for people is to let them know what they are doing well. What do you enjoy about your partner? This is something I encourage partners to consider before these discussions regardless of what will be covered in the check-in. Genuine positive feedback can help difficult dialogues with your partner(s) be more productive, it can also help you subdue a subtle relationship destroyer called negative sentiment override — a thought distortion in which we view our partner and their behaviors through an unrealistically negative lens. 

Remember, these are ongoing discussions and it’s important that they be a regular occurrence even if nothing is “broken” in the relationship.  They can be tricky to get the hang of if you’re new to them and bringing in a therapist, in this case, a Baltimore one, to help out can be an excellent way to get going. 

Looking for a Relationship Therapist in Baltimore, MD?

Relationship Counseling Therapist | New Connections Counseling Center at Baltimore, MDHave you been feeling insecure about the direction of your relationship? Have you wondered if couples therapy can help? At New Connections Counseling Center, our therapists can help you and your partner(s) reconnect and rediscover the intimacy and romance you’ve been craving for. We provide online or in-person couples therapy, according to your convenience.

Keep in mind that checking in on your relationship, with the help of a mental health professional, can help you prevent bigger issues down the road and work towards a happy and healthier relationship.

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About the Author:

Brandon Muncy

Therapist (LCPC)

Brandon specializes in gender affirmation care for trans, non-binary, and gender nonconforming clients. He’s also experienced in LGBTQ+ identity development, men’s issues, and relationship/marriage counseling.

In his free time, he enjoys archery, running, learning ASL, and playing the violin (poorly).

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