To conclude our mini-series on ‘Building Blocks for More Healthy Relationships’, it would be helpful to discuss how individuals can better maintain a healthy relationship once the couple have achieved success in their goals for the romantic partnership. As mentioned in previous articles, relationships take work and maintenance; periodical check-ins and tune ups are highly encouraged for couples who wish to have a face lift from time to time. I professionally believe that the more that couples are willing to adapt and grow together the more successful they will be at having a fulfilled and healthy relationship through the years.
Dr. Suzanne Fremont (Building a Healthy Relationship from the Start, The University of Texas at Austin Counseling and Mental Health Center) lists eight easy to follow steps which can help guide a couple to better maintenance for a healthy relationship. I encourage you keep some, if not all, of these steps in mind while you continue your journey towards a more buoyant relationship. Don’t be discouraged if you and your partner need to revisit some of the below mentioned steps. As mentioned, relationships are a working progress and sometimes more time and energy will be needed on certain areas depending on your strengths and shortcomings as a unit.
Remember that negotiation is key to the survival of a relationship. Enter the relationship knowing that might be significant differences in each other’s opinions, values or beliefs. I encourage you to be mindful and loving towards your counterpart when such differences arise. Additionally, keep in mind that the end goal should be the growth of the unit as a whole, not who is right/wrong or better/worse. If such differences are significant enough to cause a disruption in the harmony of the couple, I encourage to seek professional counseling sooner as opposed to later. Do not wait till the relationship is on the brink of breakup before getting assistance from a professional.
- Understand and appreciate that fact that your partner will not be able to meet all of your needs as an individual. No two people are alike and it is unhealthy to assume that your partner should enjoy a particular activity just because you do. I love my boyfriend but that does not mean that I will play video games and talk about motorcycles all day with him. Maintaining and nurturing friendships outside of the relationship is expected and is a healthy way to get your social and bonding needs met. After all, we are social beings.
- It is unfortunate to say but too often I see couples that after some time together get lost in the relationship. In other words, there is no distinction between ‘you’ and ‘me’, instead there is a ‘we’. ‘We’ have goals, ‘we’ make plans, ‘we’ believe…be mindful and respective of what you and your significant other want from the relationship as well as what you want for yourselves. It is important to have both personal and relationship goals as it helps to keep the healthy distinction between the ‘you’, ‘me’ and ‘we’.
- It is safe to assume that your partner will not be able to provide you the things you want as soon as want them; some things might take more time to provide while others not so much. Once again, this is where compromise and negotiation will help the relationship.
- My mother used to tell me ‘Amanda, treat people the way you want to be treated’. I believe that there are more people who would benefit society as well as themselves if they took heed to such advice. Imagine how you want your partner to treat you; I am sure it involves ideas such as love, respect, appreciation and trust. Make sure to practice what you preach and only request things which you would be willing to also provide.
- Communication is vital for any type of relationship. Verbalize your needs to your partner. Make sure to do so in a mindful and respective manner, demanding will get you nowhere.
- There is no such thing as ‘the perfect person’. There will be differences between your idyllic partner and who you actually have a relationship with. On again, demanding will get you nowhere; requesting your partner to change to meet your expectations is unhealthy and ultimately damages the partnership. Work to understand and appreciate the differences between ‘the perfect person’ and reality.
- When disagreements arise, which they will, try to put yourself in your partners shoes for a change. In other words, attempt to understand where they are coming from or their point of view in the matter. I am not saying that you must agree with the other individual 100% of the time, in fact, I discourage that route. However, if you are able to see the other person’s point of view you might be able to respect and better understand their differences. As long as individual differences do not significantly impact the harmony of the relationship, mutual understanding and respect of personal dissimilarities is helpful for maintaining a health relationship.
Until next time--take care of yourself, take care of your mind.
Amanda Burk, MA, LPC-Intern, LMFT-A
Supervised By: Tammy Fischer, MA, LPC-S, LMFT-S
“Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” – Buddha