Making your relationship work takes time and commitment. The three main keys to a strong and healthy relationship are respect, trust and good communication. Whether you’ve been in a relationship for two months or two years, it’s a constant learning curve. In the early days, when we are first with someone, we are usually on our best behaviour and so are they. We call it the honeymoon period and of course it can’t last. After all, its too much like hard work to constantly be watching everything we say or do. At some point, we will start to relax and behave normally. This period is often the first test in a relationship, because it’s when we start to notice each other’s little habits, which might have seemed quite sweet at first, but after a while can begin to irritate us.
Building Solid Foundations
These little irritations may not matter too much if the relationship has solid foundations. So what do I mean by that? A good place to start, is to ask yourself why you chose your partner in the first place and what attracted you to them? Then ask yourself if they tick most of the boxes which are important to you. Let me give you an example. If you want someone who is ambitious, shares your views on the world, but also makes you feel cared for and who is totally dependable, then choosing someone who is go-head and shares your views, but who is also very impulsive and doesn’t talk about their feelings, may not be a recipe for a successful relationship.
Sometimes we tell ourselves that we can change the other person, given time and that if they care about us enough, then they’ll want to change. Of course, our partner may be thinking exactly the same thing. Or they may realise that we want them to change and resent it. If we can learn to accept that the only person we can change is ourselves, then it can make a huge difference to our expectations of a relationship.
What we all sometimes forget is that communication is key to any relationship. It’s no use expecting our partner to understand what’s going on in our head – we need to talk to them.The only way any of us can get our needs met, is by making time to sit down and talk with our partners face to face. This last bit is so important. Today’s technology allows us to communicate with each other in so many different ways, but it also has its disadvantages. Take Texting. This is fine for making arrangements or letting someone know where you are, but for deep and meaningful conversations, you need to be in the same room. How many mis-understandings have you had, because you or your partner misinterpreted what was said in a text? So why do we do it? Maybe its partly because it’s very useful, in distancing ourselves from potentially emotional and painful conversations.
So how is it that some relationships seem to last and others don’t? Well, I guess one of the main reasons for a successful relationship is compromise on both sides. Very few of us will ever meet the perfect partner, so compromise at some level is inevitable if you want the relationship to work. That doesn’t mean sacrificing all our needs, so that our partner gets their way in everything, but negotiating to find a balance between what we want and what they want.
Listening to each other
Are you a good listener? If we’re really honest with ourselves, when we’re having conversation with a partner, especially when unhappy with something they’ve done or said, we often don’t really listen to what they are saying. That’s because we’re too busy thinking about what we are going to say next in order to get our point across. After all, we’ve heard it all before haven’t we? And that’s the problem! We may have heard, but we haven’t actually listened and there is a difference. Sometimes, it’s really important to listen to the other person, in order to at least try to understand and accept how they feel.
What happens if you have tried to talk to your partner, but feel you’ve hit a brick wall? One course of action could be to ask them to go to counselling with you. A word of warning here, relationship counselling is not likely to work, if one partner has been dragged, “kicking and screaming” into the counselling room. I’m exaggerating of course, but to get the most out of the sessions, both partners need to be willing and ready to make changes in their relationship. Counselling can be a way of learning to communicate with each other in a more constructive way. Couples often say that they find it easier to talk to each other in a neutral environment, with someone who is not going to take sides.
If you want to look for a counsellor in your area, you can check out The Counselling Directory or It’s Good to Talk, which is the Directory of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and look for Couples or Relationship Counsellors.