As a psychotherapist, I spend a lot of time working with individuals and couples helping them cultivate and maintain healthy relationships. Resolving conflicts can be difficult when you do not have the proper tools. Both parties are usually trying to get their needs met while using ineffective and emotionally harmful tactics.
Here are six key components that I feel are paramount when trying to cultivate a healthy relationship.
1. Learn conflict resolution skills
A little-known fact is that conflict in relationships is common and inevitable. That is right, having tension and discord in your relationship is completely normal! The problem is not about having conflict with our partner, but how we choose to resolve it.
Conflict resolution is the ability for you and your partner to come to a peaceful resolve and implement solutions to address the underlying issue.
Remember these tips when exercising conflict resolution with your partner.
· Be respectful
· Ask questions, warmly
· Avoid making insulting remarks
· Offer empathy, not just sympathy
· Pay attention to your tone of voice
· Use active listening and affirming body language
· Take a break when one party becomes overwhelmed (be sure to agree on a short time frame to return to finish the conversation)
2. Make and receive repair attempts
John Gottman, Ph.D., defines repair attempts as “any statement or action—silly or otherwise—that prevents negativity from escalating out of control.”
When we have tension in our relationships, it is essential for both parties to be open to making and receiving repair attempts. This action helps reset harmony within the relationship. The repair attempt may not resolve the origin of discontentment. However, it will help to deescalate tense moments and bring calmness to the atmosphere.
An example of a repair attempt can be telling a joke to lighten the mood, agreeing to compromise, or verbally acknowledging that your actions were wrong. Any genuine statement or action that can prevent further frustrations is an attempt to repair.
In his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John Gottman, Ph.D., says that “a marriage is likely to flourish or flounder based on the success or failure of a couple's repair attempts.” I recommend purchasing this book!
3. Use effective communication
Effective communication is an essential component for cultivating a healthy relationship. How we communicate our wants, needs, frustrations, and desires to our partner can have a great impact on how they respond to us.
Good communication skills are practically important when you are trying to convey something difficult to your partner. When we communicate effectively it is more than just expressing ourselves. We must ensure that the other person can understand exactly what we are trying to convey. Therefore, communication and comprehension go hand in hand. This ensures that we not only communicate our message, but we ensure that our partner understands our feelings appropriately.
When you are communicating a problem to your partner, I advise you to focus on describing the behavior or comment that you disliked and how it made you feel. Avoid “name calling” and prematurely assigning meaning to their actions, before allowing them to explain themselves.
4. Keep the romance alive
As we get older and more settled into our relationship, it can be a struggle to keep that spark alive. We hear quite often about the importance of having a healthy sex life in relationships, but what about romance?
Having romantic moments and showing affection by having date nights, holding hands, exchanging hugs, playing card games to learn each other, and giving forehead kisses help to keep you intimately connected to your partner. In addition, incorporating a sense of playfulness and fun within the relationship aides in moving on from the “bad times” faster.
5. Show appreciation
Research has shown that having appreciation for your partner is vital to maintaining a healthy and happy relationship. It is important that we express and show our appreciation for our partner daily.
Simply speaking words of encouragement, cheering them on when they are having a rough day, and expressing gratitude for their presence in your life are great ways of showing your appreciation for your partner.
6. Maintain trust
Trust in a relationship is of the utmost importance. It should be the foundation of your relationship, with both partners actively acting to uphold the trust and integrity of the relationship. Having trust in your partner helps you to be vulnerable, confidently depend on them, and feel safe. When you and your partner have a trusting-bond, it leads to a deeper connection and a greater understanding of each other.
Maintaining a healthy relationship takes work! I hope these tips help you to cultivate and maintain a healthy relationship! Follow me on Instagram for more helpful tips!