Love is not the only thing you need to make your relationship work. Many people have been left by someone who has said “I love you.”
If you want a healthy, long-lasting relationship you need several skills. For starters you need to be a competent communicator so you can relate to your partner’s needs and desires. This includes expressing your feelings, opinions and needs and allowing your partner to do the same, so that there is an open flow of dialogue.
Some ways to enhance communication with your partner, include:
- Being a good listener
- Being approachable and open to communicating
- Giving your partner your undivided attention when he/she is talking to you
- Not monopolizing the conversation
- Being polite and respectful when expressing your opinions and truths
Besides being a competent communicator it is important to be trustworthy and demonstrate integrity in your relationship, so that your partner can have confidence in what you say and know you are honest, loyal and faithful to the relationship. Trust is earned and can be re-earned over time with rigorous honesty.
A few ways to build trust with your partner, include:
- Apologizing and taking responsibility when you have been dishonest
- Being considerate of how your words and behaviors effect your partner
- Making choices that are in the best interest of the relationship
- Living by the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would want them to do unto you)
- Allowing your partner to be honest with you without shutting him/her down
Another necessary skill to having a healthy relationship is commitment. This means you agree to stay in the relationship and work together to resolve all difficulties, so that your partner feels safe to give you his/her full self because he/she is not afraid you will leave.
Some ways to strengthen your commitment and persevere through difficulty in your relationship include:
- Taking mini breaks, going for a walk or drive to de-escalate and get a fresh perspective
- Surrounding yourself with people who have long lasting, healthy relationships
- Being intentional about making it easy for your partner to be in a relationship with you
- Encouraging yourself in your ability to persevere and endure difficult responsibilities
- Praying that God helps you and your partner to love each other the way He loves you
But wait… there are still more skills you need! We have not covered respect yet. Respect is necessary for proper treatment of your partner, so he/she feels you have regard and value for who he/she is as a person. This includes acknowledging and esteeming your partner, and treating him/her with honor and cooperation.
A few ways to build respect in your relationship include:
- Choosing words and behaviors that are considerate
- Following through with what you agree to do
- Managing your emotions so your partner is comfortable being around you
- Being intentional about encouraging your partner rather than criticizing him/her
- Standing up for what you believe is right and good
Last but not least, loving your partner is necessary for a healthy relationship. This means you always see the good in your partner, despite his/her imperfections. Love allows you to forgive and persevere through the difficult times and demonstrates to your partner that his/her life is just as valuable as your own.
A few ways to be more loving in your relationship include:
- Loving yourself by recognizing the good in you, so you can offer this to your partner
- Being patient and more tolerant of human mistakes
- Being kind and helpful
- Forgiving and offering more grace and mercy
- Compromising and being more cooperative and flexible
The great news is all the skills needed to produce a healthy relationship can be learned. Even if your parents did not have a healthy relationship, you can. Even if your friends are breaking up, your relationship can last by practicing the necessary skills. The benefits of having a healthy relationship are numerous. A partner to share your life with, a helper so you do not have to do things alone, someone who loves you and sees the good in you, someone to have a family with, someone to create happy memories with.
I have been with my husband just over 30 years. It has not always been easy. Like many couples, we have had to go through loss of loved ones, financial difficulties, parenting challenges, career changes, and much more. Going through it together has strengthened our relationship because of the way we have learned to communicate with each other, the trust and respect we have developed, the love and friendship we have shared and the commitment we have made to stay together. It is worth it!
Written by Elisabeth Davies, MC
Author of Good Things Emotional Healing Journal: Addiction