by Nancy Travers,LCSW

Relationships can be the greatest and hardest things in life. They can be fun, exciting and romantic but can cause great distress if they are not healthy and well-maintained equally by both parties.

If you’re in the market for a relationship, start by defining the traits you’re seeking in a partner. Traits you value in your friends are one place to begin. See how they match up with the qualities in your partner and work on them in yourself at the same time. If you’re already one-half of a couple, be sure that the relationship emphasizes the best in you both.

Here are five ingredients for a healthy relationship:

  • Communicate-Open communication is an essential component of all healthy relationships. Without good communication, couples cannot maintain good relationships and any challenges or stresses can introduce problems that may be insurmountable. Good communication enables a couple to work through any problem they face.

Don’t assume that your partner knows what you’re thinking. Regardless of how long you have been a couple, neither of you can read each other’s minds. Develop a habit of communicating your needs/wants and encourage your partner to do the same. Everyone has a different communication style. Know how to best communicate with your partner and learn how to read your partner’s signals. Body language or other nonverbal cues often communicate better or more specifically than words alone.

  • Compromise-Compromise is a vital building block of healthy relationships. If you expect to get your way 100% of the time, disappointment is guaranteed. A reasonable compromise is the result of both partners working to be sure both get what they need.

Clearly stating your wants is critical for both partners’ happiness. Recognizing your partner’s really important issues and working to attain them can help build an atmosphere of support. However, constant giving, at your own expense, creates only resentment in your partner and anger in yourself.

An attitude of “winning” vs. “losing” makes compromise nearly impossible. By working together to resolve conflict and compromising when necessary, both partners are more likely to have their needs met.

  • Connect-Spending quality time together is critical in a relationship. Make time for just yourselves. Jobs, hobbies, children and other obligations creep in and make it difficult to remember that you are first a couple. Without taking quality time for yourselves, communication may suffer and the connection to each other may begin to erode. You’ve got to fill up the well of good will and that’s done by spending time together.

Have fun together and try new things together. Define things you enjoy doing together and make time to do them. Make a commitment, and appointment if necessary to regularly spend quality time together even if it’s a few minutes a day.

Play together. Playful surprises, games or just laughter can help keep a couple connected. Playing with your children or pets, as a couple, can be a fun way to reconnect. Maintaining a good sense of humor can help a couple decompress, reduce stress and solve difficult problems more easily.

  • Keep physical intimacy alive-Yes, it is important. In a committed relationship, intercourse is often a major component. Nonetheless, it should not be the only physical intimacy. Other forms of touch (i.e. holding hands, hugging, or kissing) are just as important.

Equally important is knowing what your partner doesn’t like. Inappropriate or unwanted behavior can make your partner anxious and withdrawn. Taking the time to learn your partner’s likes and dislikes is important to a relationship’s longevity.

  • Anticipate highs and lows-Recognize that every relationship goes through many periods of good and bad times. No two individuals will be on the same page every day. Different people manage stress differently. Dealing with death, job loss, health issues, money problems or child rearing can affect partners differently. No two people manage stress exactly the same way.

Try to avoid taking your problems out on your partner before the differences evolve into anger and frustration. Find healthier ways to express this frustration. Work through your problems in your own way but remember you are in this together. Moving forward and adapting to change as a couple will guide you to find the best solution to any relationship obstacle.

Nancy Travers is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She specializes in all types of relationships; We all want them, We all need them; How to get em and Keep them. Nancy’s office is located at 1600 Dove Street, Suite 260, Newport Beach, CA 92660.

For more information or to make an appointment, call 949-510- 9423 or contact us.
copyright a division of Counseling Corner, Inc.
As seen in The Blade magazine June 2005.