Love is a two-way street constantly under construction.”– Carroll Bryant
You know that when you are experiencing a ‘good’ spell in your relationship, the sun seems to shine a little brighter, you smile a little wider, and your partner becomes the best thing since sliced bread.
But, when there is a ‘bad’ spell in your relationship, you perceive your life to be a nightmare and would rather swap out your partner for a loaf of bread.
As with any relationship, there are both good and bad spells.
So, how do you build and sustain a successful relationship that will, inevitably, see its fair share of challenging days?
Here’s what you can do:
1. Love your partner for who they are
Every one of us has a unique set of values or priorities – things that are highly important to us that we are driven to do or act in accordance with. Because no two people can have the very same set of values, there is nobody like you or your partner.
Remember, there will be both similarities and differences between you and your partner; therefore, you are attracted to them for the way they are the SAME as you AND the OPPOSITE of you.
Ultimately, we ALL want to be loved rather than criticised for who we are. The health of any relationship is thus dependent on both partners loving the other for exactly who they are.
Married for eight years, Paul and Arlene learned to love each other for exactly who they each are. Paul’s highest values are playing and watching sport, while Arlene’s are reading and studying self-help books. Once they linked their highest values to the other’s, they understood that when they each are true to THEMSELVES, they give the other the freedom to be true to themself. For example, when Paul is watching or playing sport, Arlene has the freedom to read her books or work through self-help courses.
2. Plant ‘flowers’ in your mind about your partner
Your mind is a powerful tool. However, when you leave it unguarded against negative thoughts (weeds), it becomes a weapon of destruction.
Having negative thoughts about your partner – thoughts of anger, aggression, blame, and criticism – is akin to planting ‘weeds’ in the garden of your mind. As you know, weeds have the habit of growing quickly and taking over. It is thus wise to make a practice out of planting ‘flowers’ in your mind about your partner by reminding yourself of what you like and love about them.
Keep in mind that we ALL have a BALANCE of negative and positive traits. When you focus more on your partner’s negative traits, you lose sight of those positive traits and operate on lopsided perceptions.
3. Understand what drives your partner
Because we all have our own set of values, the things that drive your partner aren’t likely to drive you. Perhaps your partner is inspired by taking care of the kids and creating a beautiful, well-run home, while you are inspired by your career.
Partners make each other possible in a relationship. A wise partner will acknowledge this by repeatedly asking themself, ‘How does my partner make me possible?’
When you identify how the things that are driving your partner (e.g: taking care of the kids and running the household) are benefitting you, you will appreciate the wonderful role your partner plays in the relationship and in your life.
4. Be best friends and have each other’s back
Out of the millions of people on this planet, you and your partner choose each other! This is because you both perceive seeing far more likes than dislikes in each other.
Give your partner what they want, and, in return, they will give you what you want. This is, after all, the application of the law of fair exchange.
Look out for each other, play and laugh together, and, most of all, be thankful for the relationship you have. You will go far to find another friend so dedicated to you.
5. Develop a healthy sex life
Intimacy is the cement of a relationship, provided it is seen as an important part, not THE only important part.
Intimacy in a relationship typically works like a seesaw – one partner wants it more than the other, and then it shifts, with the other partner now wanting it more. There is no magic formula when it comes to how often partners ‘should’ have sex; it all depends on what works best for both partners.
Many people have fantasies or nightmares about their sex lives; becoming aware of them and taking steps to work through them is vital to having a healthy sex life.
Furthermore, partners can develop a healthy sex life by being honest about and openly communicating their likes and dislikes and aiming to bring pleasure to each other.
While a healthy sex life can bring joy and closeness to the relationship, a perception of VOID (perceiving that you aren’t having enough sex or enough of the things you like during sex) can be a source of stress and tension.
6. Create surprises and fight complacency
Surprise your partner with a ‘love gift’. This is just something your partner likes, be it their favourite chocolate or a foot massage. By creating ‘traditions’ in your relationship that communicate the love and appreciation you have for each other, you and your partner are less likely to settle into complacency.
It is also important for you and your partner to learn, understand, and speak each other’s love language. It doesn’t matter what it is – your love language is unique to you as your partner’s is to them.
If you do for your partner the things that are important to them, they will return the favour.
7. Have realistic expectations
Your partner has their own thoughts, values, ideas, beliefs, likes, and dislikes just as you have yours. If you want your partner to change any of this and turn into the person YOU want them to be, you are creating unrealistic expectations, which will only lead to disappointment, anger, and bitterness.
Rather than injecting and projecting YOUR values and priorities onto your partner, choose to accept your partner as your complementary opposite.
Whenever you are feeling challenged by your partner, ask yourself this quality question: ‘How is the person my partner is, serving me in what is most important to me?’
Asking and answering specific questions such as the one above is a skill that can be used to balance perceptions and help relationships thrive.
It is a skill worth mastering.
And it is a skill I would love to teach you.
- learn how to balance your perceptions
- build and sustain a successful relationship with your partner.
We can chat about it and find an approach that best works for you.
From my heart to yours,