Creating a Strong Relationship With Your Partner

by: Sharon Rivkin, MS, MFT

The healthiest and longest lasting relationships don’t just happen because a couple fell in love. The majority of strong and healthy relationships are created by using a formula composed of six vital elements. Good/open/honest communication and a willingness to change. This happens with practice.

It means you don’t judge or feel judged by your partner.You’ve developed good listening and speaking skills. Both partners trust each other and know they can talk to each other about anything.It means the willingness to work on your own issues and make changes in yourself if necessary.

Knowledge that a relationship takes hard work and laughter. A relationship of longevity is made up of hard work, daily nurturing, not taking each other for granted, and dealing with both the hard and easy issues together. It takes consciousness and caring about yourself and your partner. It requires discipline, dedication, and determination, mixed with fun and laughter. The better the balance between hard work and fun, the better chance that your relationship will last.

Take yourself seriously but not so seriously that you can’t also laugh at yourself. Respect for one another. The strongest relationships are the ones where each partner remembers that their partner is a human being whom he/she fell in love with. It’s easy to feel disrespect for your partner when you disagree and he/she makes you angry.

Disagreements don’t mean that your partner suddenly became a “bad” human being. Apply the golden rule in your relationship - respect yourself enough to respect your partner’s feelings, failings, and humanness. Most of the time mistakes are made not to hurt another person, but because we’re human. Learn from your mistakes, and don’t stop respecting yourself or your partner just because you slip up.

Ability to “nip problems in the bud. At the first sign of conflict, take immediate steps to resolve the disagreement. Nothing is too small to ignore. If you don’t, it will grow bigger each time you fight.Nip the argument in the bud by talking about it so you can understand it.

Learn good negotiating and problem-solving skills. The origin of huge conflicts are smaller arguments that never got resolved. Small conflicts can be easy to deal with, and can actually create closeness. Huge ones are difficult and can lead to affairs, separation and/or divorce.

Cultivate a deep friendship as the foundation for your love to grow. Make your partner your best friend. Lasting relationships are made up of two people who love each other and really LIKE each other. Love needs a strong foundation on which to flourish. Treat your partner like you would a friend. It is this companionship that deepens a relationship. If you don’t know how to respond to your partner, ask yourself, “If this was my best friend, how would I respond?” You’d probably be supportive, understanding, empathetic, honest, and caring. We forget that our partners are our friends, too, and we owe it to ourselves and our partner to treat them with dignity and compassion.

Creative ways to keep the intimacy alive. Intimacy means being close to your partner, enjoying each other’s company, sharing, and figuring out what makes you and your partner happy. If you’re losing sexual desire, rule out any medical issues, and then get busy by educating yourself to find ways to rekindle the flame. Don’t ignore the issues!Talk about them and remember that things won’t get better on their own.

Most importantly, keep learning and growing as an individual so you stay interested in your own life and in your partner’s life. The couples whose relationships are the strongest are the ones who put their commitment above all their disagreements, misunderstandings, and confusions.They respect themselves and their partner, and through their hard work and continued growth, magic really does happen in their partnerships!

Also known as the "last ditch effort therapist," Sharon M. Rivkin, therapist and conflict resolution/affairs expert, is the author of Breaking the Argument Cycle: How to Stop Fighting Without Therapy and developer of the First Argument Technique, a 3-step argument resolution system that helps couples fix their relationships and understand why they fight. Her work has been featured in O Magazine, O Newsletter, Redbook, Reader's Digest, Time.com, CNN.com, Prevention.com, and WebMD.com. Sharon is a contributing expert for HopeAfterDivorce.org, FamilyShare.com, CupidsPulse.com, and LAFamily.com. She has appeared on TV, Martha Stewart Whole Living Radio, and makes regular radio appearances nationwide. For more information, please visit http://www.sharonrivkin.com.

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