Advice Column, Health, Parenting

Cultivating Healthy Relationships

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Many of my clients ask me “How do other couples manage to have happy relationships?” thinking that they are the only ones in this world that are at loggerheads with their partner.

My answer is simple:

There is no such thing as the perfect person or perfect relationship. Rather, it’s how perfect can you be for each other and for the benefit of your relationship?

Those couples that you think have it all together or have the fairytale relationship have learnt how to deal with the ups and downs, or what I call ‘speed bumps’, in a healthy constructive way.

No two individuals are the same. We have different upbringings which influence and shape us into the person we become as an adult and determine the type of relationships we forge with others. This includes elements such as culture, spirituality, beliefs, emotional awareness, values and outlooks on life and more.

Couples need to have real honest discussions up front at the beginning of their relationship in order to avoid surprises later. These discussions need to include topics such as: values, beliefs, spirituality, parenting, financial matters, household chores, career aspirations and life goals.

This helps to manage the expectations we have from our partners in that they need to take care of our every need and desire and make us happy. They do not. Happiness comes from within. Yes we can help others grow and learn but ultimately we are responsible for our own happiness.

If couples do not keep the connection going through communication, spending quality time together, establishing relationship boundaries, working towards common goals and having respect for each other and their relationship, over time there will be no relationship.

Every couple experiences speed bumps, it’s normal as your relationship progresses through the different phases of the relationship cycle. As you settle into your relationship you both grow and evolve as individuals and so too does your relationship.

Emotional intelligence is integral to having healthy relationships. Having the capacity to understand, manage and verbally express your feelings with your partner is invaluable and key to your relationship success. The good news is these skills can be learned, but if the person you’re with has no interest in developing their emotional intelligence, it will be a bumpy road.

Society has stereotyped many of us in to not expressing (let alone acknowledge) our emotions. Particularly men and boys, they are taught to suppress and avoid feelings through labels such as ‘cowboys don’t cry’ and ‘men are supposed to be tough’.

Often men withdraw because they are overwhelmed by emotions and don’t know how to talk about them or how to soothe themselves. They withdraw in order to get away from what they are experiencing and what they are feeling.

It always amazes me how we are prepared to invest so much time, effort, energy and resources into areas of our lives such as the car we drive, the house we live in, our career and material assets. Yet we don’t think much further than our wedding day as to what it takes to sustain a relationship and only grudgingly invest when the divorce courts are looming….

So what are some of the ways that couples succeed at their relationships?

  • They understand that communication is the key to a successful relationship
  • They accept that relationships involve work and are prepared to do what it takes for the benefit of each other and their relationship
  • They are willing to accept another person for who they are; their views and opinions even if they don’t agree with it
  • They accept that some problems will never be resolved and would rather focus on the good stuff
  • They’re willing to put someone else’s interests before their own and see a different perspective
  • They’re willing to work through the challenges and find a win-win outcome
  • They’re not looking for someone else to complete them, they are already comfortable with who they are as an individual
  • They’ve realised that no one is perfect, not even them
  • They are ready to be real and vulnerable with someone else
  • They’re not prepared to quite or give up each time they hit a speed bump

It’s the small steps you take each day that lead to your success in the long term. Everyone can have a happy relationship if they are prepared to do what it takes.

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