Learn the basic behaviours you and your partner should be practicing for relationship success
A romantic relationship can be a joyful, rewarding experience. If you’re in this type of relationship, you want it to be fun, loving, and satisfying. Intimate relationships are going to look and feel different for everyone. There aren’t universal rules that will promise a “good” relationship. But there are behaviours and habits that will be present in most healthy relationships – behaviours that will set a relationship up for success.
Communication is key
No matter what stage of a relationship you are in, whether it’s getting to know your partner’s favourite meal to deciding to have children or not, communicating well and respectfully might be the most important way to ensure your relationship will go the distance.
Openness and honesty with each other will make sure that both of your needs and wants are being met. Unmet and uncommunicated expectations can lead to arguments and resentment. You should feel comfortable to voice what you want and need from your relationship and also be open to hearing and respecting your partner’s wants and needs.
Regardless of how much you and your partner love each other, disagreements will inevitably arise. If you’re not seeing eye-to-eye, it doesn’t mean that you and your partner are not a good fit – disagreements are natural, and if handled respectfully, can be moments of growth for your relationship. When working with couples at Calgary Counselling Centre, many of our counsellors recommend these tips to arguing respectfully:
- Don’t put each other down or use insults
- No cross-complaining – if your partner has a complaint, try not to come back at them with a different complaint
- Don’t bring up past arguments
- Timeout is okay – it’s alright to take some time away and cool down
- Stick to the issue
- Don’t play psychologist and try to tell the other person what they are thinking or why they are doing something
- Don’t make speeches – try to be succinct with what your concern is and allow your partner to respond
- Negotiate solutions
- Own your own problem, feelings and behaviors
- Be accepting of you and your partner’s differences
- Don’t interrupt
- Paraphrase what your partner has said and make sure you understand them
- Be willing to listen
- No emotional blackmail. Don’t use love as a weapon or punishment
The word “boundaries” often comes up when discussing all types of healthy relationships, but what does it mean?
Setting boundaries is deciding what is acceptable or not acceptable within a relationship. Boundaries are going to vary significantly depending on the person and the relationship. What will be acceptable to one person may be completely unacceptable for another.
It’s important to let your partner know your boundaries, learn theirs early on in a relationship, and be consistent with these boundaries. It can be confusing when a behaviour or action is acceptable one day and not okay the next.
If a boundary is crossed, talk to your partner – express how it made you feel. Approaching the subject shows respect for yourself and will have a much better result than if the topic was ignored. The conversation could be as simple as: “It makes me feel _____ when you do ______. Could you try ______ instead?
Although boundaries will be different for each couple, abuse in any form should not be tolerated. Abuse can appear in many different ways. The most common are physical, emotional and financial. Abuse is a form of control over another person, and is a crime.
If abusive behaviour manifests at any point in your relationship it should be addressed right away. Speak to a friend, call the police, talk to your counsellor if you have one, or contact a women’s shelter. It’s okay to ask for help.
Your needs, desires, and emotions are important, and if you’re in a healthy relationship they should be important to your partner as well.
The give and the take
You and your partner are not always going to agree on everything. This is completely normal. There needs to be an understanding between the two of you that sometimes you will have your way, sometimes your partner will have theirs, and sometimes the two of you will need to compromise.
Talk out the situations that are difficult to agree on and try to come up with alternatives. The goal should be finding a solution that works for the relationship, not winning or being right. Be willing to meet your partner halfway.
Your relationship is unique – the way you communicate with your partner and address your differences will be unlike anyone else. As long as you are making the emotional, mental, and physical well-being of yourself as well as your partner a priority, healthy relationship behaviours should flow naturally.
If you would like to learn more ways to improve your relationship, our counsellors would be happy to meet with you. You can register for counselling over the phone at 403.691.5991 Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM, or you can register online at any time.
Watch Chris Berry, counsellor at CCC, discuss the difference between healthy relationships, unhealthy relationships, and abusive relationships.