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Transform your relationship: Terry Real's 5 Winning Strategies

Relationships are the bedrock of human connection, offering profound joy and, at times, significant challenges. Adopting strategies that nurture love, respect, and mutual understanding is crucial when emotional stakes are high. 

Terry Real's 5 Winning Strategies offer a framework to transform conflict into connection, ensuring relationships thrive. Here is how you can integrate these strategies into your relationship.

1. Go After What You Want – Express Your Needs

Dare to Rock the Boat

Effective relationships require clear communication. Instead of harbouring resentment or expecting your partner to read your mind, openly express your needs. Terry Real emphasizes the importance of "daring to rock the boat" (Real, 2007). This means asserting your desires, even when it feels uncomfortable.

This can be daunting for many, especially those raised to prioritize peace or others' needs. However, it is essential to recognize that a relationship where both partners' needs are voiced and respected leads to deeper intimacy and satisfaction.

Example: Sarah felt overwhelmed with household chores and felt her partner, Tom, was not contributing equally. Instead of silently stewing in resentment, she told Tom, "I feel really stressed trying to manage all the chores alone. Can we create a schedule where we both share the responsibilities?"

Positive Feedback

Once you express your needs, help your partner succeed by offering positive feedback. Celebrate small wins. If your partner moves from a 5% to a 15% effort in meeting your needs, acknowledge this progress. Positive reinforcement encourages continued growth and effort, cultivating a supportive and loving environment.

Example: When Tom started helping out with the dishes more regularly, Sarah acknowledged his effort by saying, "I really appreciate you taking the time to do the dishes tonight. It makes a big difference and helps me feel less stressed."

2. Speak to Make Things Better

Heart-Centered Communication

Before engaging in difficult conversations, centre yourself. Ask whether your words will heal or harm. Speaking from a place of love and respect, even when expressing frustration, can prevent escalation and promote understanding.

Example: When Jake was upset about Emma's habit of being late, he took a moment to calm down before addressing it. He said, "I feel worried when you are late because I care about your safety. Can we find a way to improve our time management?"

Use "I" Statements

Communicate your feelings and needs without casting blame. This approach, inspired by non-violent communication techniques, involves stating observations, feelings, needs, and requests in a way that focuses on your perspective. For instance, instead of saying, "You never help around the house," you could say, "I feel overwhelmed when the chores pile up and need more help to manage them" (Rosenberg, 2003).

Example: Instead of accusing Tina of not caring, Lisa said, "I feel neglected when we don't spend quality time together. Can we plan a date night this week?"

3. Listen to Understand

Deep Listening

Listening is more than hearing words; it's about understanding your partner's experience and emotions. This means putting aside your immediate reactions and truly engaging with what your partner is saying. Terry Real suggests imagining you're at a customer service desk, with the sole aim of addressing your partner's needs (Real, 2007).

Example: When Maria expressed her frustration about work, Sam listened without interrupting or defending himself. He nodded and repeated back what he heard to ensure he understood her feelings, saying, "It sounds like you're really stressed about your deadlines. How can I support you?"

Empathy Over Agreement

You don't have to agree with your partner's perspective, but you do need to acknowledge it. Validating their feelings and showing empathy helps deescalate conflicts and cultivates a deeper connection. Remember, listening with the intent to understand rather than to respond creates a foundation of trust and respect.

Example: When Peter felt unappreciated, rather than arguing, Jane said, "I can see how you'd feel that way. I'm sorry if I haven't shown enough appreciation. Let's talk about how we can change that."

4. Respond with Generosity

Relational Jujitsu

When confronted with conflict, our instinct might be to defend ourselves. Instead, Terry Real recommends a technique he calls "relational jujitsu" – disarming conflict by yielding to your partner's emotional needs. This doesn't mean capitulating; it means acknowledging their feelings and seeking to understand their point of view (Real, 2007).

Example: When Anna was upset that Ben forgot their anniversary, instead of getting defensive, Ben acknowledged her feelings by saying, "I understand why you're hurt. I'm really sorry for forgetting. Let's plan something special this weekend to make up for it."

Sincere Apologies and Acknowledgements

When you've made a mistake, lead with a genuine apology. Acknowledge your partner's experience and take responsibility for your part in the issue. This approach deescalates tension and opens the door to meaningful repairs.

Example: After a heated argument, John apologized to Lisa, saying, "I'm sorry for raising my voice earlier. I was frustrated, but that doesn't excuse my behaviour. Let's talk about what upset me more calmly."

5. Cherish What You Have

Daily Appreciation

Cherishing your partner means actively appreciating their positive qualities and the good things they bring into your life. Terry Real stresses the power of daily affirmations and appreciations. These small acts of gratitude build a reservoir of positive feelings that can buffer against life's inevitable challenges together (Real, 2007).

Example: Every day, Hugo made it a point to tell David something he appreciated about him, whether it was his sense of humour or his supportiveness. This habit strengthened their bond and made both feel valued.

Invest Time and Energy

Sustaining a loving relationship requires ongoing effort. Set aside dedicated time each week for activities that nurture your connection. This could be as simple as a weekly check-in where you share appreciation, new information, puzzles, requests, and dreams. Prioritizing your relationship amidst life's busyness demonstrates its value and importance.

Example: Despite their busy schedules, Jack and Sophie reserved Sunday mornings for a walk in the park followed by coffee, a time dedicated just for them to reconnect and enjoy each other's company.

Practising these strategies isn't about perfection but about making consistent, mindful efforts to improve your relationship. You create a strong, resilient partnership by going after what you want, speaking to make things better, listening with compassion, responding with generosity, and cherishing what you have. Terry Real's strategies offer a roadmap to deeper intimacy and lasting happiness in your relationship.


Real, T. (2007). The New Rules of Marriage: What You Need to Know to Make Love Work. New York: Ballantine Books.

Rosenberg, M. B. (2003). Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. Encinitas, CA: PuddleDancer Press.

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