Remember that old tune, Love Will Keep Us Together? Many people go into a relationship or a marriage thinking that love will see them through anything the future may hold. The reality is … relationships don’t just happen. They require work to develop, commitment to endure, and time to grow in ways that keep both partners happy and fulfilled.
I would like to share with you some keys to success for making relationships work.
1) Build a Solid Foundation.
A good relationship is built on mutual respect. You should treat your partner as an equal, and expect the same. With mutual respect and support for each other, disagreements can occur without the threat of the relationship falling apart.
2) Don’t over-romanticize the relationship.
Forget what you have read in books or seen in the movies. Your relationship will not be perfect.
3) Never stop communicating.
The more that remains unspoken, the greater the risk for problems in the relationship.
4) Have patience and humor.
We all have irritating habits. Maintain your perspective on what really matters. It is harder to be argumentative or defensive when we can laugh at what makes us or our partner unique.
5) Spend time together and apart.
It’s a balance. Commitment to both sustains the health of a relationship.
6) Make your relationship a priority.
A good relationship requires an investment of time and energy. Be very conscious about how you prioritize the relationship amongst your other activities—such as spending time with friends or working long hours.
7) Keep it real.
Don’t over dramatize or over react to small problems. A long-term relationship includes all that life has to offer—good and bad. Sharing that rollercoaster ride is a big part of maintaining a relationship.
8) Avoid blaming or judging.
There’s usually plenty for both parties in a relationship. Assigning blame is not a positive step forward in resolving a conflict.
9) Create fair rules for arguing.
Agree in advance that verbal abuse, and certainly physical abuse, is out of bounds when tough conflicts arise.
10) Use a simple system to resolve conflict.
Calmly state your concerns, stick to a single topic, keep history out of it, and actively listen to each other to move towards understanding and compromise. When each partner truly understands the other’s opinions or feelings, a resolution usually emerges.
Remember, finances can cause friction and exacerbate seemingly unrelated disagreements. Budget for the big and the small. Work together on planning for the expected bills, the splurges, and how you’re going to handle the unexpected.
Where to Turn For Help
If you and your partner are unable to resolve conflicts and your relationship is in trouble, it’s time to talk with a psychologist who can help. To find a licensed psychologist in your area who specializes in working with couples, go to www.Findapsychologist.org. This consumer resource can direct you to many qualified psychologists. Remember, healthcare is for the mind and the body.
Judy E. Hall, PhD
Executive Officer, National Register of Health Service Psychologists Fellow, American Psychological Association