1. Good communication
We always talk about communicating well with our partner to build and maintain a good relationship, but what does that really mean?
When you communicate with your partner, be completely involved in the conversation. Listen. Too often we are forming our next statement or argument whilst our partner is still talking. This means you aren’t really listening.
Be silent, listen and really pay attention. If you aren’t sure of the message your partner is trying to send, ask them if you have it right. Then you can respond. This helps to eliminate the arguments that often come from a conversation that crosses over when both parties are trying to be ‘right’ rather than trying to work with their partner.
Remember, relationships are team work. If you work together to communicate well you will get a better result than if you work against each other to win the argument.
2. Quality Time
At the start of a relationship we often try and spend as much time alone with our partner as possible. As the length of the relationship grows and we start to feel safe in the relationship we tend to put in less effort. It’s a bit like servicing a car. Keep up the regular work and it will run well, don’t and chances are it will eventually break down.
Spending time together alone as a couple is a really healthy and important way of maintaining your relationship. This means putting dedicated time aside for each other. It doesn’t need to be extravagant holidays and dinners. Simple time together like a quiet meal alone, an evening drink together after the kids are in bed, a walk in the park. These all count as quality time. Make time for it.
This sounds like a really simple concept and yet so many of us struggle with it. Learn to say sorry. Learn to accept your partner’s apology.
As much as we may believe we are always right, the reality is sometimes we are going to be wrong. If you are wrong, accept it, say sorry to your partner and mean it. This can really go a long way to building a strong partnership.
If your partner makes a mistake and is strong enough to say sorry then accept the apology. If you have really been hurt this can be hard, but accept the apology, talk about how to fix it and once it has been dealt with – leave it. Don’t use it as a weapon in future arguments or you will erode the ability to forgive in your relationship.
4. Realistic Expectations
Every relationship is going to have differences. You aren’t a clone of your partner and so regardless of how well you match on most things, there are going to be areas of difference that may irritate you.
It’s really important in a relationship to consider if it is something that is worth working to change or if it is something that doesn’t matter in the scheme of things. Be realistic. None of us are perfect and so no relationship is going to be perfect.
Make sure that the expectations you have in your relationship and of your partner are valid, real and achievable.
Often we get so busy with daily tasks that we let the little things slide. These things may not mean much on their own but over time they can build up to form negative patterns that cause problems.
An effective way of maintaining a healthy relationship is to have regular ‘debriefing’ sessions. Choose a place that is quiet and where you aren’t going to be interrupted. Don’t pick a time when you are tired or had a bad day. A dinner out is a great option as you are focused on each other and with the atmosphere of other people around, arguments are less likely to occur.
Make sure you both know it is ‘relationship’ time and use this time to discuss exactly where you both feel the relationship is at the moment. Take turns, be nice and don’t use it as a blame or point scoring exercise.
Talk about the good things in the relationship. Tell your partner the things they have been doing that you like and what it means to you. Often we don’t take the time to do this and it can be a surprise to your partner to know what has made you happy.
Once you have talked about the nice things, you need to point out the things that have been an issue for you. Be specific and as objective as possible. Offer your partner solutions as to what you would have preferred if possible and again explain what it means to you. Be nice about it. The point is to give each other information to help make each other happy, not put your partner down.
Try and do this about every three months. If you do it well it can really help to improve your relationship and iron out the small problems before they become unmanageable.
6. Appreciate your Partner
We all know exactly what irritates us in our partner but we often ignore the things they do that make us happy. We all thrive on praise but probably don’t give it as much as we should.
Notice your partner. Tell them what they have done that you like. Thank them. Appreciate it. The more you praise someone the more likely they are to repeat the behaviour. Be real about it but really try and look at the good things in your partner.
7. Aim to Please
Think back to the start of your relationship. What were you doing to try and make your partner like you and be happy? Are you still doing it?
Team work means both of you working together to try and make a healthy relationship. If you both put in the effort to please the other then chances are you will both come out on top.
It’s the small things that count. Do nice things for your partner. Offer to help out, buy a small gift for no reason, send a loving text, plan some time together or give them a back rub. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to do nice things, you just need to remember to do it.
It’s important to make sure this doesn’t become a point scoring exercise whereby you do something nice and expect something in return. You both need to be genuine and give freely.
8. Be Supportive
Accept your partners dreams and goals. Accept the differences. Help them achieve their personal goals if you can and if not, be supportive of them doing it. In a relationship the other person is supposed to be the first person you can turn to for help, for nurturing, for acceptance, for support in the bad times.
If your partner has had a bad day at work, you may not be able to fix it but you can listen and be supportive. Often when people talk to their partner about their problems they don’t want them to fix it, they just need to talk it through and feel accepted and supported. If you aren’t sure how to help, ask you partner, “How can I help”?
9. Be responsible for your own happiness
Relationships are their own entity. A relationship consists of two individuals who have come together to make life even more enjoyable and fulfilling. It is important to remember that you are still individuals.
While working as a team means trying to make each other happy, ultimately you need to be happy on your own before you can be happy in a relationship. Take responsibility for this. Do things that make you happy. Have your own interests, hobbies and goals. You can share many things with your partner but it is really important to maintain your own interests and be happy on your own too.
If you don’t feel happy it is up to you to do something about it. Your partner can work on the relationship with you but you need to make sure you are happy with the person you are or the relationship ultimately won’t be healthy.
Have a bit of fun with this one and help your partner to learn about you too. Each of you write a wishlist of what you would like from the other. It can be big or small things. Have fun with it and list some things your partner may not think of.
Be realistic with your list. There’s no point in putting down something that is either unachievable or that your partner won’t want to do. Swap lists with your partner and try and do the things on the list at random times to make each other happy.
These are just a few things that are often neglected in a relationship but that can go a really long way to helping maintain a healthy, strong and fulfilling relationship in the long term.
If you’re wanting some help creating a healthy relationship, contact me on 0468 950 420 to discuss how relationship counselling can make a difference or email me.