By Jolly Gwari
Have you ever looked around and compared yourself to other super cute couples and wondered what it is they know that you don’t? Of course, there is no such thing as a perfect relationship since literally, every couple has its challenges. And yet, it’s true that some couples flourish while others flounder. What’s the key to their success? Relationship happiness does not occur by accident. Healthy couples work wisely at building and maintaining their love.
Every couple disagrees, argues, and runs into challenges. Sometimes this happens more often than we want it to. But a relationship that has regular disagreements is not necessarily an unhealthy one. It’s how challenges are handled that determines the health of the relationship. Fighting fair means that you stay away from four Horseman of the Apocalypse that is criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Engaging in any of these behaviors is clinically proven to diminish the sustainability of a relationship. Healthy couples understand these self-protecting impulses but rarely engage with them.
Many people think that they have to be actively doing something with their partner in order to maintain their relationship, but the quiet times matter too. Even just sitting on the couch and watching television together is enough. If they’re on the bed reading, grab a book and read by their side. Do chores together and help each other out from time to time. Sometimes, it’s just doing the normal things together that matter.
Express appreciation daily
A healthy relationship is based on a pattern of positive expression, intimacy, and connection. Healthy couples aim to acknowledge and recognize the other daily. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it does have to be sincere. For example, you could leave a note for your partner expressing gratitude; send a sweet text message to let them know you are thinking about them, or do an act of service you know they would appreciate.
Speak your partners’ love language every day
We all give and receive love in our own unique way. It’s not about what’s right vs. what’s wrong. It’s about what works for you and your partner. Your needs will likely be different and that’s normal. The five languages are gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch. Healthy couples are adept in how their partners give and receive love. Having this awareness helps support reciprocity, affection, and warmth in their relationship.
Giving without expecting anything
In a relationship that’s not healthy, someone uses giving as a tool to get something in return. That makes the connection very one-sided and dishonest. Happy relationships, on the other hand, involve giving without expecting compensation of any kind.
Ask for what you want
Your partner is not a mind reader. They see the world differently; have different expectations, and different experiences. It’s your job to communicate your thoughts, needs, and feelings. And yes, sometimes you will have to do this multiple times. Healthy couples stay away from assumptions.
Boundaries are what set the space between where you end and another person begins. Healthy couples openly talk about and respect each other’s boundaries as a way to ensure that their needs are being met and to feel safe in their relationship. Topics might include emotional boundaries (i.e., how much time to spend together vs. apart), physical boundaries (i.e., physical touch, sex) and even digital boundaries (i.e., how often to check in, posting about the relationship, following each other’s friends on social media, etc.).
Spend time apart
Healthy couples have both closeness and independence. They take space to pursue a life outside their partner. How well partners succeed in honoring each other’s needs for togetherness vs. separateness greatly impacts their relationship satisfaction. The ability to separate from your partner and enjoy time on your own signifies a relationship that has trust and a healthy attachment system.
Finding common ground, not competition
Those in a healthy relationship work towards a common goal rather than fighting to be on top. Actions are taken to bring the partnership to the forefront towards success. Any individual success is one for the team as a whole.
Seeing the best, not the worst
Appreciating what’s good about the other person will create positive energy between the two of you. Moreover, they’ll come to understand what’s good about you too. Nitpicking on bad points is an excellent way for the relationship to spiral towards disaster and come to an end more quickly than you imagine.