From my experience as a therapist, I believe a successful relationship requires two essential components… compatibility and respect. I approach these elements in various ways during session with couples depending on their needs and the individual circumstances surrounding their relationship.
Compatibility doesn’t mean you have to enjoy all the same activities or have all the same beliefs, but it does mean your “essentials” must be in sync. In counseling, I call these the “negotiables” and the “non-negotiables”. Negotiables are areas in which you may disagree, but that are not essential. You can compromise without resentment arising. Non-negotiables are often more value based. They are areas where compromise would leave you feeling resentful and unable to follow through with that compromise. Non-negotiables are often red flags that you may not be a suitable match.
Respect is largely conveyed through communication. It entails listening so that your partner feels heard, avoiding criticism, blame, and of course any name calling or yelling. It requires an ability to communicate your frustrations, concerns and needs in a manner that doesn’t feel like an attack.
Once a couple has a basic compatibility and each partner feels respected, the foundation is set and the rest is growth and prevention.
Below are some tips that can help any couple strengthen their relationship.
- Schedule date nights together! Too often couples make time for everything but each other.
- Learn what your “Love Languages” are and take steps to speak that language for your partner. (See my blog post here on the 5 Love Languages)
- Reinforce changes in behavior you requested from your partner by thanking them and point out what you like about him/her on a regular basis.
- Don’t engage in discussions when you’re angry… take a time out. (See blog post here on Time Outs in relationships)
- Keep your friendship alive! Do things you both enjoy and don’t forget to have FUN.
- Set clear boundaries with your partner. It’s important you each know where each other stands to promote understanding (intimacy) and also prevent resentment.
- Accept your partner as they are. If they haven’t changed up to this point, they most likely won’t.
- Learn to forgive and how to say you’re sorry. Because your partner isn’t perfect and neither are you, you will let down and be let down at times.
- Surprise one another!
- Don’t take each other for granted.
- Have friends and interests outside the relationship.