Ah, romantic relationships. From the moment hormones start awakening in our preteen bodies, we all become obsessed with being in one. Like I’ve told my kids, wanting to be in a relationship is all well and good. It’s a natural part of life. A healthy relationship can be extremely fulfilling, a source of comfort and strength and stability. But often, it can be the opposite, a place of strife, of heartbreak, of confusion.
But what makes or breaks a relationship? What are the warning signs that our relationship is headed for combustion? How can we identify if a relationship is headed for bliss? And how can we cultivate a healthy relationship?
I thought February would be the ideal month to explore these questions, after all this is Hallmark’s month of love. This week we will explore what makes a healthy relationship. To start, I asked the Chico Creek therapists what they see as some of the top attributes of a helathy relationship.
Understanding more about your partner’s family history can be very helpful in understanding how the past impacts the present in your relationship. For example, if your partner fears conflict, it might feel much less personal if you understand the environment they grew up in. Also, checking in with your spouse or significant other about individual change as well as changes in your relationship can lead to productive discussion about “what’s next?” Using questions is a good way of checking in. For example,”Do we spend enough connection time together?” Or the opposite, “Do we need to cultivate friendships outside of our relationship to be healthier?”
The #1 attribute of a helathy relationship is being playful. It’s a skill to keep the friendship factor going after years of being married. I have a goal to make my wife laugh at or with me at least once a day. Attribute #2: Most of the couples I see in therapy report that they haven’t been on a date for months, or sometimes even years. Hey, that’s how we got the other to like/fall in love with us in the first place. So, dating is at the top of the list, too. Attribute #3: John Gottman (the guru of all marriage counseling) reminds us of the importance of a shared vision. Believing we’re in this life together and conquering all those obstacles life throws at us has high value. It helps knit us together as a couple.
For me? I’ve been married twenty-one years to my college sweetheart. We’ve been through the best of times and, quite literally, the worst of times. But through it all, I can identify three things that have kept us together: Vulnerability, open and honest communication, and being on each other’s side like a best friend. According to Brené Brown in Daring Greatly, vulnerability is daring to show up and be seen. Sometimes, this takes the most courage of all, to approach our partner with our hearts on the line. But when we have cultivated deep friendship and choose to stand by our declarations of always being on each other’s side (sometimes at the expense of our pride, being right, or a differing opinion) then we create a safe environment where open and honest communication can thrive.
Cultivating this deep friendship is what Joe and Colleen described, whether it is through having fun together, facing life together, or understanding how your partner’s past has shaped them into the person they are today.
Call To Action
But these aren’t the only key attributes of a healthy relationship. We’d love to hear from you, our Chico Creek Counseling community. What are some of the key attributes that have kept your relationship thriving? Share in the comments. Maybe someone else (*cough, cough* me) will be inspired!
And just for fun, we dare you to be a little vulnerable this week by answering these questions: How have you contributed to the joy in your relationship? What is something new you could do that would make your partner insanely happy? What would it take to do it, to follow through? Share your answers, and how your partner responded to your grand gesture. Love is in the air!
Meet Rachelle DeNecochea, Chico Creek Counseling’s new blogger. Rachelle worked as office manager for Chico Creek Counseling, but now spends most of her time writing fantasy novels for teens and blogging about bravery, risk-taking, and living fully. She has an undergraduate degree in behavioral science and a master’s degree in business. She lives in Chico, CA with her superhero husband and two almost grown minions. If you’d like to connect, follow her personal blog or send a message through her Acts of Bravery Facebook page. She’d love to chat with you.