Good relationships involve two people who respect each other can communicate and have equal rights, opportunities and responsibilities. Even a good relationship means different things to different people, the most adult would expect their relationship with their partner to include love, intimacy, sexual expression, commitment, compatibility and companionship.
Most couples want to have a successful and rewarding relationship, yet it is normal for couples to have difficulties. To meet these challenges, and to keep your relationship healthy and happy, you need to work at it.
To improve your relationship and be better prepared to meet the challenges along the way:
- Talk to each other and communicate your needs – do not wait for your partner to guess what is going on with you.
- Listen to each other – let your partner know that you have heard them before you give them your response.
- Remember the positives about your partner – one critical the comment needs five positive comments to counteract its effect, so think carefully before criticizing.
- Make repair attempts – saying sorry or touching your partner in a caring manner shows you care, even though you disagree.
- Spend time together – make your relationship a priority and make time for each other, even if you have to book it in.
- Accept and value differences in others, including your partner. We often choose people who have qualities and abilities we would like more of.
- Be supportive – try not to judge, criticize or blame each other; we are all human. Remind yourself that you are a team, and in order for the team to be successful, you each have to cheer the other on.
- Learn from arguments – accept that arguments will happen and try to resolve them with respect. In arguments, we sometimes become overwhelmed and this often leads to behaviors that harm our relationship.
- Stay calm during disagreements – or if this is not possible, take time out. Relationships fall into difficulty when partners think ‘here we go again’ and this negative cycle is associated with loneliness, hurt and disappointment.
- Be sexually considerate – be affectionate (sometimes a lingering kiss or a warm hug are just as important). Accept that individuals have different sex drives and to sustain a healthy and happy sex life requires negotiation. A reduction in a couple’s physical connection is often a warning sign of problems in a relationship.
- Be attentive – show your commitment to the relationship. It is what you do for someone that tells them you love them. Do they like gifts, quality time with you, a note or a cooked meal? Once you know what they like, make an effort to provide it.
- Be flexible – let your relationship grow and adapt as you both change.
- Share power – ensure that each of you feels that your opinion counts. Research shows that relationships where the female partner feels that she can influence her partner are the most successful.
If there is something in your relationship that is difficult or painful to talk about to each other, consider seeing a counselor.