It’s easy to get caught up in the grand gestures of love and romance to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Couples share romantic dinners, exchange expensive gifts and those who plan to take the next step perform magnificent, YouTube worthy proposals, all in an attempt to express their love and gratitude.
But what is really important, is maintaining a healthy relationship that will last, through life’s ups and downs, twists and turns.
While every relationship is special and unique, there are a few fundamental things every couple can do to create a happy and healthy partnership.
- Relationships take time and effort
Just because you’re now ‘Facebook official,’ engaged or even married doesn’t mean that you can stop putting the effort into your relationship. Healthy, trusting relationships don’t just happen overnight and for some couples they aren’t a given either. Both you and your partner need to be on the same page with your values and expectations to ensure that you are both emotionally and physically satisfied in your partnership.
- Communication is key
It’s not a cliché, effective communication really is the foundation to creating a positive partnership. Have you ever been angry at your partner for doing or saying something you didn’t like, but you never expressed your frustration? It’s important to remember that no matter how long you have been together, your significant other isn’t a mind reader. With that in mind there are healthy habits you should incorporate when communicating with your partner. First and foremost, it is important to share your feelings, whether they be positive or negative. In order to resolve issues and grow your relationships you need to be comfortable talking about anything.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Speak AND Listen – we all know there are two sides to every story. Share how you’re feeling in a calm and honest manner, but also make time to listen to what your partner thinks and feels.
- Be aware of body language – body language and non-verbal cues can say just as much as words. Relax your shoulders, uncross your arms, don’t roll your eyes. Focus on what your partner is saying and really listen.
- Stay on topic – sometimes arguments can take on a life of their own and easily get off topic. Focus on one discussion topic at a time. Once you have both said your peace, assess the situation. If the environment seems calm, ask if you can discuss another issue. Otherwise take some time for things to settle before bringing additional feelings up.
- Pick your battles
The moment you enter into a romantic partnership you suddenly need to be aware of needs that are not just your own. Behind communication, compromising is another key aspect of any relationship. Many couples who are married or have been together for a long time will often tell you to ‘pick your battles’ and it is true. Disagreements happen in every relationship, but starting an argument over every small thing can be detrimental to your relationship. At the same time, compromising doesn’t always necessary involve arguing. By letting your significant other choose a movie or restaurant that you don’t necessarily love, you are showing your partner that you are willing to put their needs before your own. By giving and taking, you can simultaneously show your partner how you want to be treated, and maybe next time they will return the favour.
- Time together and time apart
Not surprisingly, most relationship experts will tell you that spending time together is about quality not quantity. But for married couples or for those who live together, that sometimes isn’t an option. In the early stages of relationships, it can be easy to plan dates outside the house that involve fun and exciting activities, but for couples who live together, or even those who are budget conscious, the ease of having dinner while watching television can become a constant. Ensure that when you are spending time together, you are focused on one another. Have dinner together and turn off the TV, go for a walk outside, or if you are binge watching a TV show or enjoying a movie together, make time to discuss it over coffee afterwards. Making the most of your time together helps to reignite and strengthen your connection.
On the flip side, we all need time to ourselves to decompress and focus on our own mental health. Maintaining your own relationships with friends and family and keeping up with hobbies ensures your independence. Spending too much time together can create a sense of co-dependence and can potentially lead to unhealthy boundaries.
- Speaking of boundaries…
There’s something to be said about finding a balance between intimacy and mystery. Desire requires a little bit of mystery; you don’t have to share every moment of your personal grooming secrets. We can be so intimate in our daily lives that it can sometimes be a little too revealing.
- Physical intimacy
First things first. There is no amount of sex that will make you a ‘normal’ couple. As mentioned, each relationship and each partner within that relationship is unique. Sex has a higher level of importance for some than others. More importantly, you should talk to your partner about their sexual needs. How important is physical intimacy to them in a relationship and how important is it to you? It is not uncommon in some relationships for sexual intimacy to be more frequent at the beginning of a relationship and then fluctuate in frequency over time. The importance of sex morphs as you enter new stages in your relationship, such as when you are trying to start a family. They key thing to consider when it comes to sex in your relationship is finding the level of physical intimacy that is right for you and your partner.
- It’s OK to ask for help
It is not uncommon for couples who are experiencing difficulties in their relationship to wait years before seeking help, but it is important to know that it is never too late. Having a counsellor work with each partner and help mediate feelings and arguments can help you strengthen your relationship. The sooner you seek help, the sooner your problems can be resolves and you can continue your happiness together.
At Calgary Counselling Centre, we offer several programs for couples in all stages of their relationship. Through individual and group counselling we can work with you to get your relationship to a healthy place that works for you.
Click here to register for counselling today.