By Karen Collins, MSW, LCSW, ACSW
Having a healthy and happy relationship is not as complicated as it may seem. A healthy relationship is built on mutual respect and mutual benefit. One of the most predominant qualities of a happy relationship is having respect for one another. If you do not talk to your partner with the same respect that you would speak to a friend, loved one, co-worker, boss or family member, then you have to question if you genuinely respect him or her. Treating your partner as your intellectual and emotional equal strengthens your relationship. Lack of respect can cause resentment; it is one of the quickest ways to undermine your relationship.
Consider some basic guidelines to assist you in developing and maintaining a healthy relationship. When you read over the guidelines, you will notice that all of them have some element of respect within the guideline.
- Keep in mind it is what you say, how you say it and when you say it! Your demeanor, tone, posture and attitude all factor into what you say and how well it is received.
- You must be respectful, even when you feel frustrated. Avoid any type of personal attack. Never should name calling or belittling become an option. It is very difficult if not impossible to build a strong relationship when it is common practice to demean one another.
- Maintain emotional control. In other words, do not react emotionally, even when you are upset and angry.
- Discuss controversial topics in a more structured setting and stay focused by thinking through your points and issues before approaching the topic. It is a good idea to ask your partner when it would be a good time to discuss something important with them.
- Work to understand and show appreciation for your partner’s view. One of the benefits of being in a relationship is that each of you brings a separate set of unique experiences to the table. Keeping in mind there is often more than one good way to do something.
- Express your thoughts, feelings, concerns and issues constructively. Identify your needs that are unmet and your concerns as items, not as demands or accusations. If you come to the table with the goal of being right at all costs, you may find yourself eating and sleeping alone in the end.
- Place your focus on solutions and not past indiscretions. In other words, do not try to place blame for the situation on past problems. Do not bring up a laundry list of things gone wrong from the past.
- Try to look for solutions that meet the needs of both of you. Look for a common ground and build on that. Sometimes, there may not be a compromise that is feasible. It may be that a decision has to be made where one or the other person’s suggestion has to be chosen. Keep in mind, if the solution/idea/suggestion does not work out well, you do not reserve the right to say that is not the way you would have done it. You simply regroup together and figure out a Plan B.
- Consider every interaction, discussion, disagreement and conflict as intimacy and act accordingly. The way you treat one another in every day interactions impacts how close you feel to one another.
- Do not keep score. It is difficult to be in a relationship with someone who is keeping score of all of the things you did or didn't do.
- It is essential and it is your responsibility to make your needs known to your partner. Your partner can’t read your mind…it is up to you to appropriately communicate your needs.
- All you can do is control your reactions to what happens to you. It is important to realize that you can’t control other people, including your partner. Trying to control what your partner does, says and how they act is a recipe for an unhappy relationship.
- Look at the big picture and try not to overreact. Most things are not the end of the world. Even if it is a bad situation, there is always a solution; it is simply a matter of finding the best one together.
Reflecting back on past relationships or thinking about what you see in other people’s relationships that you do and don’t want to have in your own is helpful. Think of yourself as a work in progress, there is no such thing as a failed relationship, simply a relationship that has ran its course and taught you many things on your relationship journey. Each relationship that you are in can set you up to be a better partner in the final great relationship of your life. You can become a great partner and have an amazing relationship.
Editor's Note: Karen Collins is a marriage and relationship counselor in Jupiter, Florida. Karen's StayMarriedFlorida profile can be viewed by clicking here. Karen can also be contacted at (561) 512-9743, or through her website, www.rlovestory.com.