Although we all know that relationships take work (though I refer to it as concerted effort), there are several behaviors that are key, which helps couples create a healthy relationship. Although not always perfect in their attempt, healthy couples have a mindset of commitment as they continue to evolve and change as the years go by. They recognize that “good enough” is well, good enough and that there is no such thing as a perfect relationship.
Ways that build healthy relationships..
1. Sex. Sex is a healthy part of their relationship. Though it doesn’t define their relationship, sex is an important part of it. However, that being said and while we are on the topic, let’s debunk the myth of “regular sex” right now. There is no such thing as regular sex. What is that anyway? Who knows. Who cares. Someone, somewhere came up with the theory that two times a week is regular sex. Ah, no. Regular sex is whatever the couple decides is regular sex. That could be once a week. Once a month. Twice a week. Twice a month. You get the gist. Importance is placed on what is good for the couple. What works for them. Not anyone else. Not any other couple.
2. Curiosity. Couples are and remain curious about one another. They ask questions. They remain open to trying new things. They recognize their differences and embrace their similarities, not perfectly by they do. This helps encourage curiosity. Remember the beginning? Remember when we were excited to do new things together and were curious and interested about the other person, their life, interests? That hasn’t changed. We are hard wired for novelty and seek that out. Are you doing things that create the novelty in the relationship?
3. Create the Conversation. Couples discuss, share, argue, and disagree. They talk about things that are important to them. Even the difficult subjects. Having effective communication skills and strategies are vital to having a conversation that doesn’t become circular in nature (though some always will) but are more inclined to have a resolution even if its to agree to disagree with one another. They both can use their voice. Caution should be had for those couples who say they never fight. No such thing! All this means is that someone is deferring all too often and is not being honest or truthful about how they feel.
4. Unplug. Unplug. Decompress. Turn towards one another without technology sitting between them. Although they recognize that connecting via technology is important, it shouldn’t be at the expense of your relationship – meaning there must be time when people connect the old fashion way! Besides, when did the TV, smart phone, or computer become more important than your relationship? This just sounds plain silly to me.
5. Space. They create time together and time apart. Both are vital. And necessary. Too much time together can make a person feel that they are losing their identity, their individuality. Continue to be the person your partner or spouse fell in love with. They recognize their differences and embrace their similarities, not perfectly by they do. Couples are in a search to find time to be a couple yet maintain their sense of self, their individual self. Besides, time apart makes you cherish the time together and creates a “missing you” feeling that enhances intimacy.
6. Cultivate Outside Interests. A key way to encourage and maintain individuality is to continue to seek outside interests. How couples negotiate this varies. However, individual interests keeps the novelty alive and creates the space between couples that is needed to remain curious about one another. Each person is not threatened by their partner’s interests with family and friends that do not always include them. They recognize this is part of who they are. Important!
7. Baggage. Let’s face it – we all have it. Some more than others, others less than some. Some have a carry on (this is good) while others tote a 4 or 6 piece set of luggage (not so good). If you are toting the 4 or 6 piece, this might be a good time to get some outside help. If each person learns how to take care of their individual issues, this will help the couple as a whole. It also prevents a person from holding their current partner hostage to past relationships by not bringing past relationship issues to the present one.
8. One and Done. They know that a slight or falter does not define the person they are (unless this is an ongoing problem). We are all fallible and make mistakes. We say and do dumb things. People learn how to look at the situation in its context, not as a single error that defines the person.
9. Grow. Healthy couples continue to grow and evolve. They put the effort in to being a better person. They bring their best self to the table. Remember the early days when time and care was put into how we look and taking care of ourselves? Although there is an element of minutia in life, they work hard not to settle into a routine that prevents them from growing.
10. Ebb and Flow. Couples recognize that relationships have their own ebb and flow. No two relationships are the same. How each couple manages the ups and downs of life and there will be plenty, is a critical factor in staying healthy. Healthy couples don’t focus on all the negative and understand that to have the good times means you have to recognize that there will be difficult and challenging times.
11. The list. Each person can list many positive things they like/love about their partner. They make their list and can talk openly about their struggles as well as the positive things they like about one another. Yes, there will be challenges and things that drive you crazy! But they are able to look past those things and focus in on the good. John Gottman talks about the 5:1 ratio which is key in maintaining a positive view of your spouse.
12. The Happiness Factor. Each person doesn’t hold their partner/spouse responsible for their happiness. Never works! Sure, its nice to feel validated and hear those words. Its equally reassuring that your partner makes you happy – but the happiness you feel from your partner should be ancillary to how you feel about yourself. Happiness starts at home!
Remember – this list is not inclusive. These are just a handful of the ways that healty couples make it work. Concerted effort and approaching their partner with respect, openness, and a willingness to be introspective enough to examine their mistakes, make necessary changes and improve puts them on the right track.