Relationships require constant attention and nurturing, but speak to any older couple and you’ll pick up a few secrets to a healthy relationship. What is that ‘it’ factor that makes some relationships last, while so many seem to flounder? I’ve been very fortunate to have been around some long-lasting ‘till death do us part’ relationships, so here’s some secrets to a healthy relationship that may just surprise you.
1. Commitment is a Choice
Let’s be honest, divorce has become so commonplace. In exercising our right to choose divorce or separation, we’ve forgotten that commitment is a choice too, and sometimes it’s a choice that needs to be made daily. Love is more than just feelings; it’s a decision to put your relationship and the person you love above all else. Commitment is the cornerstone for a lasting and healthy relationship. And when you think about it, knowing you have that same commitment from your partner is an incredible thing that should never be taken for granted – it means that you’ve both promised to stand together no matter what comes your way. It means acknowledging that every relationship will go through ups and downs, but you’re both there for the long haul. And this commitment is one of the secrets to a healthy relationship.
2. Communicate Honestly and Tune in
One of the most important things in a relationship is to keep the lines of communication open, always. This is more than just talking or venting; it’s about knowing how to communicate with your partner in a way that they can understand, and feel understood. It’s incredibly frustrating (and irritating) when your partner just doesn’t get it. After so long together, it’s reasonable to think that they should know you well enough to be able to tell when you’re hurt or tired or upset. But don’t expect your partner to guess your mood; we are all wired so differently and one person’s response to a situation or their coping mechanism can be so different to another’s. Much better to get things off your chest and out in the open where you can both deal with it, and you can get the support you need. Left unsaid and unchecked, the simplest issue can fester and become bigger over time, causing resentment and bitterness. Likewise, give your partner the same respect, and tune in to what they’re saying. Listening is an art that should be practiced more.
3. Make Time to Make Love
This may seem like an obvious one, and probably not much of a secret! But over time, it’s easy to get caught up in the rush and stresses of daily life. All of a sudden, you find you’re collapsing into bed at the end of a long day with nothing on your mind but sleep. Try to make intimacy a priority. Life goes on without it, and there are periods in life when it’s just not an option (illness, injury, old age, post-pregnancy, etc), but intimacy in your relationship is necessary. Think of it this way - you talk to your girlfriends, cry to your mum, mother your children. But there’s only one incredibly special person that you get to be intimate with. It’s a bond you share; nurture it.
4. Be Thankful
The worst thing you can do is take your partner for granted. There’s a saying, "Enjoy the little things in life, because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things." Enjoy and be thankful! Be thankful that he never forgets to take out the bins, that he gives you a hug when he walks in the door, that he asks about your day and really listens to your answer. If you can exercise gratitude in these simple things, and not take them for granted, then you’ll know contentment. And contentment is one of the secrets worth working towards. Acknowledge your partner’s attempts to make you happy, and show them the appreciation they deserve.
5. No Room for Selfishness
Lately I’ve noticed it’s ‘fashionable’ to subscribe to the philosophy of self, where your needs are given priority over all else. The concept of ‘Me, Myself & I’ has no place in a healthy relationship. Instead of self-centeredness, cultivate an environment where the needs of both individuals are respected and understood, and provided for and met. I once read an article where this guy scoffed at the idea of a 50-50 relationship, instead he recommended a 90-10 relationship, where both parties set out to give 90%, and take only 10%. The end result, he said, was a relationship that was always overflowing with goodness and gratitude. I love that!!
Possibly the most important point here is forgiveness. Unless you leave the past behind, you will never be able to move forward. And in order to leave the past behind, you must forgive. None of us is perfect; we have all made mistakes, and we’ll continue to do so. Bringing up past errors and mistakes is a relationship killer. Be quick to forgive, but also be quick to apologize. Don’t ever allow anger and resentment to breed and fester.
7. Bread Goes Stale, Not Love
This is something my 60-year old aunt said to me recently. After many years together, she and her husband are still like newly-weds, and their love and devotion is palpable. Love goes stale only if you let it. A relationship, like anything else, cannot stay stagnant. It must constantly evolve to accommodate the changing seasons of life. Be present in your relationship, and be there for your partner. Make new memories, enjoy each other and make time to be together, invest in each other and in your relationship. Don’t neglect each other but instead cultivate a relationship where there is always trust, security and love.
There’s no doubt that it takes two to make a relationship work. However, it takes only one person to start making a change that can turn things around. Put any one of these secrets to work in your relationship, and see how your partner responds. It’s the most worthwhile investment you’ll ever make and it will reward you a hundred times over. Can you see yourself making some changes in your relationship? Do you have any secrets to share that will help us all to maintain a healthy relationship?