Making relationships work can seem like hard work. It does not have to be. There are simple rules that govern all relationships and following those can be very helpful. The reasons of success in the short-term for success of romantic relationships like physical attraction and common interests may be enough to get you off to a running start but may not be enough to sustain the relationship in the long-term. You may have to look beyond them if you want to make your relationship last.
Keeping a positive attitude
Staying positive and saying yes are important parts of a healthy and successful relationship, according to research conducted by Gottman in the Relationship Research lab. This does not mean that you never say no or that you avoid conflict. That would be foolish and dishonest.
Saying yes means taking an interest in finding out how to meet the other person’s needs. Exploring what is important to your partner and helping them achieve that.
It is certainly my experience when working with couples in relationship counselling that paying attention to your partners needs helps them feel valued in the relationship.
Is arguing healthy?
Arguing to agree something about your sex lives, what movie to watch, where to go for dinner or where to spend Christmas are all healthy parts of a relationship. Arguing to belittle, criticise, put someone down or shouting can be unhealthy.
Absence of arguments, on the other hand, might mean either compliance with the needs of the other, inability to express your own needs and have them met, and inability to tolerate or negotiate the difference.
In relationship counselling we tend to explore how a couple argue and help them to express their own needs and understand the needs of their partner. This helps them navigate the difference in a way that strengthens the relationship rather than tear it apart.
What really matters then?
Trust is the fabric against which all relationships take place I believe. How you trust someone and how much you trust them tends to dictate how you will treat them and how much you will allow them into your private thoughts and life.
But trust is dependent on so many other things. Like, do you feel safe with them? Will they hold your secrets? Will you they treat you with respect despite your disagreements? Will you trust them to treat things that you value with respect? And so on. There are other factors like humour, sex, playfulness, value systems, that also play a role. But it tends to be trust that holds them together.
Respect and affection
The two things that turn up again and again in relationships according to Gottman seem to be respect and affection. And this has also been my experience in working with couples in relationship counselling. That feeling wanted, needed, valued and respected are perhaps the most important things in a relationship. And these feelings have an interdependent relationship with trust.
How I can help you?
I offer relationship counselling in my offices in London Waterloo and in Hampton and use different techniques to help improve their relationship.