Most of us are in relationships – here are some basics on making things work.
1 Like yourself
If you don’t like yourself, you won’t believe that others do either. In other words, everyone requires self-esteem to be in a successful relationship.
Having self-esteem is easy for people who were brought up by loving, balanced parents, but it can be harder for others. If your family background or subsequent experience has left you lacking confidence, it is well worth getting professional counselling so that you can understand how this has affected you and may be, in turn, affecting your relationships.
Having self-esteem means not leaning too hard on your partner and relying too much on them for reassurance – the stronger you are as an individual, the stronger and more equal your relationship will be.
2 Like your partner
Love – and being in love – comes and goes, but if you really like your partner then you’ve got a sound basis for a relationship. Friendship is the key to a successful partnership – you need to enjoy being together, agree (by and large) with how each other thinks and behaves, and share roughly the same goals. If you don’t, your differences will pull you apart, no matter how much you love each other.
3 Be nice
Let your partner know that you like and love them. Be encouraging and supportive – and complimentary when you can. That will increase their trust and respect for you, and also boost their self-esteem, which makes people easier to live with. With any luck, they’ll come right back at you, but if they don’t, take it on the chin – loving someone only exactly as much as they love you back only leads to less love overall.
4 Be grateful
Gratitude, according to studies by psychologist Martin Seligman and others, is the absolute KEY to being happy. Grateful people are happy people – their glass is always half full. When it comes to relationships, count your blessings, and be grateful you’ve found someone in life that you’re even half-way compatible with.
5 Make time for one another
In a busy life, especially if you work and have children, spending time alone together can slip down your list of priorities, but the amount of time we give to things is a measure of how important we think they are. Making time for each other is an investment in your future happiness, even if it means sacrificing other things, such as time off with the girls. For many couples, setting aside one night a week is plenty – make this an evening where you go out (if you can) or eat a nice meal together (if you’re stuck at home). And don’t talk about the kids – this is about the two of you as people, not as parents.
Good communication is essential in a healthy relationship – telling your partner honestly and openly how you feel about things, and listening in return. It is the only way to really get to know one another. Don’t assume you know how your partner is feeling about something – ask. And don’t assume he knows how you’re feeling – tell him. Men are notoriously rubbish at empathy, compared with women – don’t expect him to read your mind.
Arguments are a normal part of a relationship and arguing well means not worrying about it. You don’t have to always agree with one another – having differences is to be expected , as you are not clones of one another. Arguing is really just way of flexing your individual personalities.
But arguing well means setting certain boundaries, such as: don’t get physical, don’t stomp out and slam the door, and don’t burst into tears at the first harsh word – that’s passive-aggressive behaviour. Show respect for your partner, even during a slanging match.
Human beings die without touch – it’s absolutely critical to our happiness. Being caressed also lowers blood pressure and releases oxytocin – the bonding chemical that helps people stay together.
Sexual desire comes and goes but our need for physical affection remains the same, so whether your sex life is red hot or moribund, make the time to hug, stroke and cuddle every day.
9 Roll with the punches
Everyone and everything changes over a period of time, and that is something you have to learn to deal with. Sometimes change is good, and then it’s easy, but sometimes life changes in ways we don’t want – we lose a job or become sick or make a move that was a mistake, and that’s when we need to learn to adjust.
In successful relationships, couples face challenges like this together, not separately. They accept that change is an inevitable part of human life and support each other, for better for worse.
10 Accept that you can’t solve everything
You cannot solve every problem in a partnership. Some things are not solvable – one partner’s disability that places a burden on the other partner; one partner’s hopeless inability to handle money; differing levels of sociability that leave you wanting to go out while your other half wants to stay at home. Realising that there are some things that you can’t change is key to being an adult, never mind being in successful relationship.