There is a lot of information available about what can damage a relationship, but very little on what to do to have a good relationship. These are some of the things I have noticed about couples in good relationships.
- They have open communication – they take time to talk about their relationship and ask what part they can play to make the other happier. They take turns to find out what the other needs. They have the courage to be open and truthful. Avoiding issues often leads to frustration and estrangement. They practice constructive discussions. If you can’t discuss these issues without getting into arguments, have a one off session with a counsellor. Inform him/her what the agenda is.
- They commit to the basic values underlying the relationship or the “relationship rules“. These mutual agreements are the foundation on which any relationship is built. They reach agreement on what is “kind” and “respectful” and update these “rules” when new issues arise. Think win = win. I often have couples that come to counselling within the first year or two of getting married. Most of their issues arise because of a lack of discussion on basic values and how each sees the way forward.
- They try to feel their partner’s pain. They care about what hurts each other. Put yourself on the back burner and offer empathy, compassion and caring, even if it does not particularly resonate with you. Hopefully they will return the empathy when you need it.
- They try not to be selfish and endeavour to put their partner’s needs before their own. This can be a difficult one. After all, whose needs should come first? Sometimes we have to sacrifice our needs for what the other needs at the time. Partners who love each other deeply constantly keep their mate’s needs in mind. Unselfish emotional chivalry usually is rewarded in kind.
- They keep an emotional hotline open at all times. They are emotionally receptive and in times of trouble, offer emotional support and compassion, without expecting anything back.
- They are courageous and strong when needed. Let your partner know that you have got their back. Capitalize on each other’s strengths and your relationship will feel emotionally safe.
- They believe that their partner is committed to doing his/her best, even if sometimes it does not feel like it. Great couples believe that their partner is doing the best that they can under the circumstances. Trust each other’s good intentions instead of being critical.
- They do not kick the other when they are down. Be tuned into their failings and self-criticism and do your best to lift them up. Tell him/her what you love about them.
- They appreciate each other and keep in mind that the “now” is all there is. True security is often an illusion. Treasure each other and be thankful for their presence in your life. Tell them!
- They keep confidentiality and honour individual boundaries to build trust. Keep your partner’s secrets for a lasting relationship. No one likes to feel betrayed. If you are unsure about what can be shared, ask permission. That is respectful.
- They validate their partner’s desires. You may have different needs at different times, and commit to being fair. Whether it is sexual frequency, external shared interests, family obligations, etc. Give in sometimes and give them the space that they need – when they need it.
- They practice resilience and commit to the relationship for the long haul. People in great relationships literally don’t want to lose each other. All relationships have some heartbreaks and ruptures, but the winners are those who navigate the speed bumps and let their partners know that they will not shut each other out. They commit their energy to trying harder to work out their problems and keep the emotional connection alive. Remember, change starts with you.[i]
[i][i] Thanks to Randi Gunther for her excellent article on the 14 secrets to having a great relationships – it inspired this blog.