10 Steps to a Healthy Relationship

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Creating Successful Relationships

Our favorite romantic films and fairy tales are packed with images of love and stories of happily ever after. Our society teaches us actions and feelings that are coherent with love, but few sources truly acknowledge the struggle of making a healthy relationship last. In a society fraught with divorce, it can seem like a successful marriage is impossible.

Always remember, love is a conscious choice you make to act in a kind, caring, considerate, and respectful way toward someone to whom you have made a commitment regarding your relationship together. Love is an action of commitment that is preformed or given based on your personal integrity within the boundaries of the “we” relationship that makes your special someone feel loved. It is not a response based upon the actions of the other party. It is not a feeling. It is a commitment of integrity. It is an action that doesn’t just happen; it is one that you must choose to live out in your daily life with your partner if you want a satisfying happy and healthy relationship.

Following these 10 simple tips, can help you and your significant other build and maintain a strong healthy bond.

1.   Make Yourself Happy – The first step is to remember that you are the only person responsible for your own happiness. You must be emotionally responsible for yourself. If you are not happy with yourself, you will not be happy with anyone else. It is simple, you need to be more positive than negative. Take some advice from Margaret Paul about putting yourself first.

Psychcentral’s Margarita Tartakovsky notes that having a healthy relationship with yourself is the foundation of everything. It gives you important insights into your own life. When you learn to be your own best friend, it helps you be connected, and emotionally available; creating that healthy bond we all want in our committed relationship.

2.   Be Realistic – Every relationship will encounter conflict. Love and respect never seeks to hurt the other person, because you are equals, it always requires that you fight fair. Think about what began the fight. Most things are rarely black or white. It is important to review your expectations to ensure you are not holding your partner up to an impossible standard. Choose to be vulnerable, accept that conflict is going to arise, and make the decision to stick through it together. Ask yourself if your relationship is making you happy. In a healthy relationship the answer is always “yes.” Not sure? Check out this resource for additional guidance.

3.   Be Accountable – Admit to your mistakes, and hold yourself accountable for your actions. Don’t try to justify or make excuses. Be honest with yourself. Get rid of any jealousy, and emotional baggage you might have. Change any hurtful behavior(s). Own up to your deeds. Love is an action, it is not words. Words are only one small part of expressing love. Love is lived out every day, it has integrity. You don’t just say it, you have to show it by the way you live out your life. Everyone makes mistakes and hurts their partner. Humbly acknowledge your actions, and sincerely apologize.

4.   Be Honest – Relationships are maintained on trust. It is critical to be honest with your partner, even if the consequences of telling the truth seem severe. If your partner does something to upset you, tell him or her in a non-threatening or accusing way. Always use compassionate confrontation. Holding onto hurt feelings will only cause the problem to fester. Never lie to your partner. Have integrity. Be forgiving. Be empathetic, and put yourself in your loved ones shoes. See how they may feel. Don’t avoid problems; always solve them in constructive ways. Remember, no one is perfect, not even you.

5.   Respect Each Other – Always show each other mutual respect, and trust. Pay attention to your partner. Be a good listener. Let your partner know that there is a safe space for open communication. Always be polite. This is someone you love, admire and respect. Remember, timing matters. When the timing is right, talk, ask questions in non-threatening ways, and then attentively listen for what your partner wants you to know or understand. Good listing skills enhance relationships. If your partner needs alone time to cool off, or wants a night out with his or her friends, respect those needs. Both men and women need to know that they are loved and that their opinions won’t be squandered.

6.   Support Each Other – If your spouse decides to take up a new hobby or pursue a promotion at work, become his or her biggest cheerleader. Love is loyal, it is kind, and doesn’t require any payback in return. It is important to support your partner in every decision he/she makes. That doesn’t mean you must compromise on everything in your relationship. Support does not always mean agreeing with your partner’s decisions, it means remembering that his/her happiness and well-being is a priority.

7.   Be Affectionate – After so much time together it can be easy to know that you are loved, but feeling loved and being loved are very different. Make it a point to show your affection, whether the gesture is small or large. Often the smallest of favors make a big impact. Be devoted, spend time together. Waking up early to make breakfast or offering to take the children to soccer practice are good ways to show your affection. Never forget the power of physical attention. Make it a goal to be intimate more than once a week. Remind each other that you still find your partner attractive with a caress or a sweet kiss on the neck. Touching reinforces affection, and trust.

8.   Be Adventurous – Try new things in your relationship. Choose to make time for each other. Often people in long committed relationships complain about feeling stale or bored. Don’t allow your relationship to get stuck in an ordinariness rut. Try new things together. Sign up for a dance class, kickball league or wine-tasting club. Explore a new country, eat at that fancy French restaurant or sing a duet at the new karaoke bar. Check out this list of things couples who are madly in love do. Some examples are listening, forgiving, laughing, showing kindness, flirting, and protecting and defending their committed “we” relationship.

9.   Communicate Effectively – Be open with your partner. Talk. Explore, ask questions. Learn how to communicate with your partner effectively. Most importantly, listen to your partner’s cues, both verbal and physical. Accept that your partner may need time to cool off before tackling the subject of your latest disagreement. Never use directive language. Choose to be vulnerable. Focus on resolving the problems in the present situation. Always use compassionate confrontation. Have integrity. Be forgiving. Be empathetic, and put yourself in your loved ones shoes.

10.   Make Your Relationship a Priority – With the hustle and bustle of daily life, it can be challenging to fit in alone time with your partner. Between eight-hour work days, taking the kids to various activities and finding time to exercise, it can be hard to squeeze in time together. Make it happen. Take time out. Revive date night, even if it is only once a month. Laugh together. Take a vacation. Sneak in ten minutes at the end of the night with a glass of wine and a few kisses. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you are doing it together. Elliott Connie author of “The Solution-Focused Marriage” says couples need to “function as a true partnership.”  That “high-functioning relationships … bring the best out in both people.”

These concepts seem simple enough, but in the heat of passionate arguments over the long-haul of a 25 year marriage, it can be easy to forget them. Make a constant effort to remember these helpful tips. Hara Estroff Marano talks about more basic rules of healthy relationships. Among her many tips she says to “choose a partner wisely”and “know their beliefs about relationships” and to always take the “long-range view .. view yourselves as a team” and to think about “changing yourself before you change your relationship.”

If you feel that you have stuck to all of the above recommendations and are still struggling to maintain a healthy relationship, or find yourself in an abusive unhealthy relationship, be sure to reach out to someone for help. You can reach out to your partner, a counselor, a pastor or a friend. Just always be sure your relationship is making you a better person, and improving your well-being.

Ancient Wisdom says: “Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”1 Corinthian 13KJV

When you practice these principles that all good committed “we” relationships have in common on a daily basis, you can meet the up’s, and downs of life in stride. This kind of investment in your relationship will help to improve all areas of your life. You get what you give. So give your very best to the one you love, it will help lead you to healthy, and happily ever after even if there are some bumps in the road.

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