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Preserving Individuality to Strengthen Your Relationship

  • A healthy relationship requires constant attention.

  • Trust, dependability, realistic expectations, a positive outlook, and deep caring create the bedrock of a healthy relationship.

  • A healthy relationship requires connection on a physical, emotional, and psychological level, while respecting the needs of each person.

It’s pretty safe to say that the vast majority of us want to have a healthy relationship—one that satisfies both partners equally, one that is built on the principles of trust, dependability, realistic expectations, deep caring, and a positive outlook. But, often, we don’t know how to go about getting the kind of relationship we want.

We learn about relationship from those around us—family and friends. We observe how others interact in intimate relationships. We sometimes get ideas about significant relationships from movies and books. The fact is, though, that there is really no formal way to learn what to do to have a healthy relationship. We’re not taught what to do, or how to be. It’s often something we learn by trial and error.

When I talk about relationships I always refer to complexity; and how complicated these intimate relationships can be. Each of us is a unique entity with our depth and complexity. So, imagine how hard it is when two unique, complex individuals get together and try to blend their lives and their psyches. Very difficult. It’s no wonder then that so many relationships don’t work out. But that’s okay. That’s part of the learning curve until you meet the right match. Still, even when people are well-suited to each other and agree on how to live life together, that’s not necessarily enough to sustain a long-term, healthy relationship.

As human nature goes, people settle into life and sometimes forget what it took to be in a relationship in the first place. They may fall on the job of tending to the relationship and their partner. So, here are 10 ways to help you keep your relationship healthy and fulfilling.

Be fully present.

Life has so many parts to it; so many pieces of the puzzle to fit together. There are so many distractions vying for our attention. Oftentimes, we get so caught up in the nitty-gritty of daily life that we forget to be present, especially to our partner. And sometimes, there are events in our life that need more of our time and effort. But barring any of these events that need special attention, it’s essential to be fully present for our partner and to practice presence on an ongoing basis.

Regularly connect.

First of all, take time every day to talk to each other beyond the routine niceties. Check in with each other during the day—it doesn’t take much time or effort on your part to ask someone how they’re doing, or how the day is going. People say they don’t have the time. Make the time.

Openly communicate.

This is very big. When things are going well and we agree, life and love are great. But, there are times when we don’t agree and when certain topics arise where you and your partner are far apart. It’s inevitable this will happen at some point so, it’s important to be prepared for how to deal with it.

Often, we are driven by a reaction to a situation and emotional responses that come up immediately. We get defensive, and protective of our point of view. Things fly out of our mouths, usually what we don’t mean. Knowing each other well means finding a way to talk to each other and address an issue in a respectful and empathic way.

Say what you feel, especially if your emotions are raw, and leave plenty of room to talk your feelings out, without interruption or defensiveness. Over time, you and your partner will develop your short-hand way to address sensitive issues.

Don’t get lazy.

Throughout a relationship, we get comfortable, maybe too comfortable and complacent. We may stop taking care of ourselves the way we used to. We may stop going the extra mile to please our partner. Sometimes people get sloppy, unhealthy, and back to bad habits. If this happens, remember back to when you first got together and what you did to make a good impression. Make that good impression again. it will be appreciated.

Keep your relationship fresh.

There may be a lot you and your partner have in common but adding something new to the mix keeps you discovering new things together. Having something new to look forward to helps you enjoy your time together even more. Adding new interests helps to broaden your horizons as a couple and adds a new dimension to the relationship.

Connect physically.

This is not just about sex. Being intimate is an essential part of a healthy relationship. Connecting physically is also about showing affection—embracing, holding hands, touching, kissing, and looking into each other’s eyes. Hormones of attachment are released when we connect physically. These help to keep love alive and to keep us bonded to one another.

Appreciate each other’s perspective.

This is another big one. Too often when there are opposing views and differences of opinion, it’s all too easy to want to push your position so that you’re the one who's “right." But, rather than needing to be right and have your partner bow to your point of view, wouldn’t it be better for each of you to have your position while accepting that your partner thinks a different way? Sometimes, expressing these different perspectives gives you another avenue to explore and understand your partner in an expanded way.

Argue constructively.

This could be a corollary to openly communicate and appreciate each other’s perspective. Know when you’ve reached a civil limit of discussion. For example, say you’ve discussed a hot topic over and over again and each time it escalates to the boiling point. Take a break and cool down before you proceed. Be specific about how you feel. Try not to project your feelings onto your partner. State your position clearly. Stay away from derogatory and insulting statements. No blaming or shaming. Don’t drag the past into the discussion. Be respectful and keep an open mind.

Have realistic expectations.

Always, always recognize what is great about your relationship, what keeps it together, while also recognizing that even the best relationship may not be the “be all and end all." In other words, you may not get some things you want in even the best relationship. Your relationship may have limitations. That’s fine as long as you and your partner are on the same page about the most important aspects of your life together.


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