What makes a good relationship?
Well the answer to that may depend on what you are looking for. What works for one couple will not be right for another. We are all different, and that’s what makes life so interesting.
But these tips that I’ve come up with are, I believe, pretty universal. They are not just for the times when it all seems to be going pear-shaped, but also to help a good relationship to become even better.
So whether you are in a relationship that is fabulous and you’d like to keep it that way, or are going through some challenges and could do with some help, these tips are for you.
If you are single at the moment, hopefully they will be helpful if you are hoping to meet someone special anytime soon.
1. Think about what you need to change rather than what you want your partner to change
2. If you both feel like you are drowning, help each other out
If we feel like we are sinking fast, the tendency is to lose sight completely of what the other person in the relationship needs, and clamber all over them in a vain attempt to save ourselves. Our needs are not being met and we desperately cry out for help, at the expense of the other. The problem is that the other person is likely to be doing the same thing. You are both ignoring what the other is saying and shouting your needs all the louder. The result is that you pull each other even further into the murky waters.If you can stop floundering for a while and listen – really listen – enough to give your partner a life-line, then they will be a position to help you out too.
Consider what they need right now in order to feel safer and stronger in the relationship, and whether there is anything you can do in order to help them.
Then you can ask, without demanding, for help with whatever it is that you need.
3. Make time for each other to communicate honestly and openly
We all live busy lives, and it’s easy to let things slip. Resentment can build up and we can lose sight of what we really want in the relationship. An evening in together without the TV, a walk together, or just sitting down with a cup of coffee can be a good opportunity to check in with each other. By talking often and openly, rather than burying our issues, we can keep the relationship running more smoothly.
It is important, however, that when you talk openly, you do so without being critical or defensive. If one of you has something that needs to be discussed, say it in a way that is not going to lead to the issue being escalated. Try to respond with compassion and with a view to helping your partner get what they need at this time.
If you both have issues that need to be discussed, take time to listen to each other, making sure you both have adequate time to express what your concerns are, and to feel heard and understood.
4. Tolerance and compromise are not dirty words
When you are starting out in a new relationship, compromise on what is fundamentally important to you should never be an option. However, if you are in an established and committed relationship, then compromise on the things that really don’t matter that much, is what the give and take of a good relationship is all about.
Likewise, tolerance of one another can lead to a much happier and more loving relationship. If it’s a big issue, then talk about it. If not, then tolerance with kindness is by far the better way, on the whole. Take a deep breath and let it go.
5. Be true to yourself and be true to your partner
6. Focus on what is good
If things are not going too well in your relationship, it is easy to focus on the bad. We can become fixated on everything that is not the way we want it to be. But it’s a universal law of nature that what we focus on, increases. Consequently, the more energy we give to what we don’t like about our relationship (or anything else for that matter), the more likely we are to get stuck in that very thing we hate.We need to break out of that cycle of negative thinking and start to focus on what is good. Consider what you do like about your partner or about the relationship in general, and tell them – often!
For every time you are drawing attention to what you don’t like, make sure you are thanking your partner for something they did which was good, or helpful or kind.
In other words, don’t take the good bits for granted. Focus on them and watch as they become more important to you than the bits that aren’t exactly as you would like them to be.
7. Embrace what you have, rather than mourning what you had
It’s a fact of life that we change. It’s important that we do, otherwise we wouldn’t learn or grow and develop. So if you have been with your partner for a number of years, it is quite likely that they – and you – are quite different to the people you were when you first met.
Sometimes those changes can be too much and we find we are no longer compatible. But it doesn’t always have to be like that. Change can be cause for celebration.
We can’t bring back the past. Neither should we try. If you can embrace and welcome the change in both of you, then you can move on together, allowing room for your relationship to grow and develop too.
8. Allow and encourage your partner to shine
It is important in any relationship, that each person feels able to develop, be successful, and to simply shine. If your partner lights up a room when he or she walks into it, then celebrate that fact. It they are progressing well in business, encourage them. If they are trying their hand at something new, offer your support.
If you feel threatened by your partner’s success, then that is to do with your own insecurities and you need to address those issues.
In any relationship there should be balance, in which both partners feel able to grow and develop in ways that are meaningful for them. At times, one of you may need to step back for a while, to make room for the other. At other times, it may be the other person who is in the limelight. It is important to give you both opportunity to really be the person you long to be. And to support one another throughout.
9. Recognise and address your biggest relationship challenges
Don’t avoid the elephant that is in the room. If there are big issues in your relationship, face up to them, and address them together. By and large the challenges won’t go away by themselves.
If you need help, get it. But not from someone who is just going to take your side.
10. Think the best
It is easy to get into the mindset of believing your partner is being awkward, or deliberately causing trouble. The truth might be that there is a misunderstanding between you or that they have something on their mind that is affecting the way they show up in the relationship.
If your relationship is generally a good one and you both love one another and want the best for each other, then assume that your partner is doing the best that they can in the circumstances. They want what you want, which is for you both to be happy.
11. Resist the urge to sling mud at each other
When an argument breaks out, by and large, neither partner is really listening to the other. We both repeatedly make our own point because we feel we are not being heard. Our partner may have heard the words we are saying, but we don’t feel heard, so we just keep saying the same things over and over, often getting louder and louder. Our partner has similar issues and does the same thing, repeating the same point, with increasing aggression, because they don’t feel heard either.
It is as if both partners are slinging mud at each other and nothing gets resolved.
In order to break this pattern, at least one of the partners needs to stop and try to climb inside the shoes of the other person. Even if you don’t agree with what is being said, try to understand, and let your partner know that you ‘get it’.
You don’t have to come up with a solution by yourself, just ensure that your partner knows you have heard and understood. That might be by simply reflecting back what you have heard in a calm, non-judgmental way.
Once your partner feels understood, they are more likely to be able to do the same for you.