It is not uncommon that by the time a couple enters my counseling office, they've already had a consistent history of arguing and experiencing emotional distancing in their relationship. After taking time to learn more about their marital or dating histories, it often becomes clear that basic principles to having a healthy relationship aren't being followed. Thankfully, many of these wonderful couples were willing to learn these principles, apply them, and begin to experience improved communication and a deeper emotional connection as a result. Allow me to take a few moments to identify and explain these principles as part of helping you experience the same with your significant other.
The Basics of a Strong Relationship
Before going any further I think it's important to establish the following:
"Building a healthy relationship does not have to be difficult or complex."
Although it's true that building a healthy marriage or dating partnership takes effort, the degree of difficulty is really up to you as a couple. By choosing to learn and apply foundational steps in your relationship, you can work "smarter" versus "harder" in those efforts to build and continue strengthening the emotional bond between you.
The following is a brief rundown of these foundational steps or principles which I'll identify as "The Basics:"
The Power of Listening
The Power of Writing Things Down (being able to reference your partner's stated needs)
The Power of Following Through
Let's briefly explore each of these fundamental concepts so you can become more familiar with them.
1. The Power of Listening
Listening is one of the most effective means of showing your spouse or dating partner that you love them. Making eye contact, having a facial expression that says "I care about what you're saying," and facing them with your body when they're talking to you are all things that will make a huge difference in helping them feel heard and understood. This is why listening is so important.
When listening is consistently applied by spouses or dating partners in their conversations, it allows them to convey a sense of mutual value and respect. This, in turn, helps them establish safety and trust in the process of being open or vulnerable when addressing relational needs. These resulting effects of listening are all necessary to a healthy relationship, and they function as part of the essential nutrients that enable it to thrive.
2. The Power of Writing Things Down
Once you've taken the time to carefully listen to what your spouses or dating partners relational needs are, it is absolutely vital to write them down or store them in your phone, tablet, etc.. Please understand, this has nothing to do with your level of intelligence or your ability to recall information stored in your memory.
However, it has everything to do with the need to focus and bring yourself back to points of remembering what these needs are.
The reality is that our lives are generally very busy, and we're pulled in many different directions in the course of a day. This naturally makes it harder to keep the needs of our significant other in focus, aside from the fact that if we're not proactive in writing those needs down, we may actually forget what they are over time and do a great disservice to our partner as a result. And yet, we do a great service to them when they know that we are fully aware of those needs and have made active efforts to remember them.
My recommendation is to write down or electronically store their expressed relational needs and then reference them each day. Doing so will help you to keep them in focus and ultimately memorize them, which will enable you to more effectively accomplish the final principle we'll address in this post.
3. The Power of Following Through
Following through is one of the most vital elements in any successful partnership and can be considered in the following terms:
"It's always good to listen to our partner's needs. It's far better to actually do what they are needing. This is what impresses. This is what brings about lasting change and connection to every relationship."
The conflicts I see couples struggling to work through are not generally centered on a lack of information regarding their relational needs. They are driven by a lack of follow through, usually because they either haven't really heard one other, or taken the short amount of time needed to write these stated needs down so they can be remembered and applied.
Bringing It All Together
I recognize some of you may think I'm over simplifying my case in addressing these principles, and in a sense I am. I understand that every relationship is distinct and complex in its own right. There are many factors that influence the way couples interact with one another including experiences of trauma, family of origin dynamics, age and maturity levels, spiritual backgrounds, personality differences, etc.
However, the information we've addressed today will help you establish a strong and lasting foundation for a healthy connection with the individual you've committed to love and cherish.
If you would like more information about the information in this post, or about Fulfilled Christian Counseling, please contact us by clicking on the button below.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Eric Gomez, MS LMFT MHP
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Fulfilled Christian Counseling
Chapman, G. (2009). The Five Love Languages Singles Edition. Moody Publishers, 2009.