As a couple’s therapist, I see all types of relationships. Every couple goes through challenging times. I’ve noticed that the ones who can make it through their tough times and come out even stronger on the other end—have instilled the following qualities in their relationship:
Empathy in a relationship means being able to put yourself in your partner’s shoes and give your partner the benefit of the doubt. This allows you to see a situation from more than one side, and to understand that yours is not the only truth in this relationship.
Why does empathy matter?
The people who love us the most also hurt us the most, albeit not on purpose. When we practice empathy, we can see our partner how amazing—anda flawed person he or she is—rather than thinking that our partner is doing things to hurt us deliberately. This protects both our hearts.
Trust makes everyday activities easier because we know we have someone to rely on in times of emotional needs. Mistrust puts a cloud of doubt over everything your partner does.
Why does trust matter?
When you trust, you can expand yourself, grow, and really LIVE… so can your partner.
3. Sense of Excitement and Fun
Being excited about your future together and having common goals adds a shared meaning to your marriage. Looking forward to what’s to come with hope and enthusiasm, bonds you closer together.
Why does having a sense of excitement and fun matter?
When we are excited about our future, when we are hopeful that things will work out, we take more positive steps toward ensuring that they happen. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: expect the best, and you take actions that ensure the best is coming.
4. Hope and Faith
This is the belief that you’ll be okay no matter what happens, and the trust that everything happens for a reason.
Why do hope and faith matter?
Hope and faith allow you to work through the strange and sometimes serious challenges that arise. If you know you’ll be okay no matter what, you can take action even though it’s scary. You can be true to yourself, without feeling tied down to a particular idea or person out of fear.
5. Joint Goals
Having common goals means working toward a higher purpose together, being of one mind about what you want and need from life and each other. While you can have an ultimate goal, such as focusing on one or both partner’s careers or raising emotionally intelligent children, you can also have smaller goals that you work toward on a daily or weekly basis.
Why do common goals matter?
Mutual goals help you and your partner see each other as a team, as “us against the world.” In your ordinary life, this doesn’t look like anything fancy. It looks like working out together, becoming healthy together, watching a show on Netflix together, spending time with each other’s families, working on a household project, buying furniture or a home that has elements you are both looking for, redecorating together, anything new and exciting you can do as a team.
Instances where you have to fight for your partner and your love. Examples include long-distance relationships, having to stand up for your partner to loved ones, and even forbidden romance.
Why do obstacles matter?
When you have to fight for your partner, you are forced to place them on a pedestal to keep your resolve. Obstacles prolong the average 18-24 months we typically feel “in love” with our partner, because we constantly have to see the great in our relationship to fight for it.
7. Friendly Competition
Friendly competition means rooting for different teams at the hockey game, betting on who can make the best stir fry or anything that brings a sense of excitement, competition, and fun to your daily lives.
Why does friendly competition matter?
This type of interaction keeps that spark alive and prevents life from becoming boring, particularly when you have two stubborn partners who like to be right. It keeps life interesting and gives you new and exciting things to bicker over.
Friendship is the most important element of a happy relationship for both men and women.
Why does friendship matter?
When you can genuinely say that your partner is your friend, you automatically treat them with respect, give them the benefit of the doubt, go out of your way for them, consider the things they want and need, and turn toward them when you’re upset rather than shutting them out. True friendship means genuine connection, and that is what we crave in our most intimate relationships.
9. Knowing Your Partner, and Opening Up to Them
This means being aware of the ins and outs of your partner’s day. Having a complete idea of your partner’s stresses, worries, hopes, and dreams. Keeping this “love map,” as Dr. John Gottman calls it, continually up to date because your partner’s life is always changing and evolving, just like yours, and letting your partner into your world in the same way.
Why does knowing your partner matter?
When we know our partner well, we can go through life WITH them. When our partner feels he or she can open up to us, we become our partner’s cushion, their source of support when the world seems scary or stressful. And after all, isn’t the reason people get into relationships in the first place—is to have someone there to love and support them no matter what?
Respect means not allowing yourself to become condescending, critical, or hostile toward your partner, regardless of the situation. Avoiding blaming your partner for things because you realize you both have a part to play in how the relationship feels.
Why does respect matter?
When we criticize or condemn our partner, we automatically set the relationship up to feel as though it’s “me against you” rather than “us against the world.” This leads to isolation and loneliness, two killers of relationships.
11. Love Blindness: Focusing on the Good
At the beginning of our relationships, when we’re deeply in love and won’t let anything get in our way, we naturally exaggerate the good and minimize the bad in our partner and our relationship. Over time, we begin to see and sometimes focus on the negative. But we can train our brains to concentrate on the positive, simply by noticing and being grateful for the good things that our partner does and the amazing person our partner is.
Why does focusing on the right matter?
Everyone has flaws. A person can be either lovable or hateable—depending on what you expects of them that you choose to delve. When we deliberately focus on the right, we can retain that feeling of being in-love.
12. A Social Support Network
This means having more than JUST your partner in your life.
Why does a social support network matter?
Remaining close to your immediate family or best friends is vital to retaining your sense of self and being able to have different conversations and sharp exchanges of ideas. Plus, it gives you and your partner someone to talk about that could bring you closer together.
If your relationship is lacking some of these characteristics, all is not lost! Relationship coaching can help you and your partner find and keep the best parts of your relationship and change the parts that no longer work for you. Your love life CAN feel great again… with relationship coaching, many couples see improvements after the very first session.
About the Author: Jena Amarsi is a Couple Therapist and Relationship Coach with InLove: Informed. She is also a Couple Counsellor with Moving Forward Family Services. For more information on Jena and the services she provides, please visit her website www.inloveinformed.com.