Supportive and meaningful relationships can help you effectively manage the trials and tribulations of life.
Being well-connected in this way may help prevent distress or it may provide you with the support you need to remain happy despite troubling times. Having supportive relationships also allows you to cement the conviction it sometimes takes to make personal changes.
Although relationships have their ‘heavenly moments’ they require work to keep those heavenly moments alive and continuing. This work is an ongoing, conscious, and active process.
About love, family, and supportive relationships
We hear a lot about rising divorce rates and the difficulties that couples face in making their commitments last. Yet there are many couples that have lasting relationships, with continued joy and intimacy for many years.
What makes these relationships last? In part, it has to do with the commitment that the couples make to each other, and the effort and thought that each person puts toward keeping that commitment alive.
Here are five ‘rules’ to consider for beating the odds and having a lasting and successful committed relationship—whether it be traditional (between husband and wife) or nontraditional (e.g. same sex relationships or common-law).
Rule 1. Be mindful of your commitment
The happiest and most successful couples are those that have a clear sense of their commitment to each other, and what that commitment means. This may mean making a pledge to devote your best effort to keeping your love alive in the relationship and meeting challenges with courage and strength.
At minimum, being mindful of your commitment means to acknowledge that commitment and keeping love alive are a couples’ job, and not the task of one person or another.
Rule 2. Act accordingly
Now that you are mindful of your commitment, and you know what this means to you as a couple, ensure that you act accordingly. For example, if family is your number one priority, than why are you spending all of your weekends at work? If the happiness of your spouse or partner is your greatest concern, then why do you put them down in bouts of anger?
If you acknowledge rule number one, rule number two simply refers to making this abstract concept of “commitment” concrete. What actions are you taking that reflect your commitment to your relationship? Act accordingly. This is an effortful (it takes energy), ongoing (it never ends), and conscious (you think about it) process.
Rule 3. Manifest your love through quiet acts of tenderness
It is not enough to ‘assume’ that your partner knows how you feel about them. Show your love. Make your feelings explicit. This is perhaps best accomplished through what I call ‘quiet acts of tenderness.’
Yes, you can buy flowers to celebrate your anniversary, and splurge on a vacation as a surprise, but perhaps more important are the subtle ways in which you can show your love each and every day. Touch hands while watching television, intertwine your legs as you lay in bed reading together, buy your partner’s favorite treat at the grocery store ‘just because’. Do things that show you are looking out for their best interests.
Rule 4. Respect each other
One of the most powerful contributors to long-term happiness is to treat your partner with respect. This is evidenced in many ways. For example, the next time your partner is telling you something that you disagree with, don’t deny their experience. Don’t say ‘you shouldn’t feel that way’ or ‘you’re wrong.’
Rather, seek to understand why they feel the way they do or why they are looking at the world from their point of view. With understanding there can be acceptance. And when youacceptyour partner’s viewpoint, you are conveying that yourespectthem. They are worthy of having an opinion that is different than yours.
Another way you show respect is by not ‘building walls’ or shutting each other out. Often the courting period of a relationship is typified by happy moments and periods of great joy. Only after some time has passed, and you face your first challenging event as a couple (e.g. birth of your first child, loss of one person’s job), do you see how each of you handles anger, frustration, or sadness. When these events happen, don’t push each other away or seek solace apart from each other (e.g. with friends or through drink or by working more).
Rather, approach these events as a couple and seek to understand and support each other’s feelings and perspective.
Rule 5. Work on your relationship every day.
Every day. Every single day. Keep this in mind—if you do nothing at all to contribute positively to your relationship (e.g. compliment one another), and you do nothing at all to contribute negatively to your relationship (e.g. argue), over time thingswill not stay the same. Indeed, they will get worse.
Relationships do not deteriorate only because people do things that make the relationship worse. They also deteriorate because the couple does nothing to contribute positively to the relationship.
When you wake up in the morning, and you are thinking about the day ahead, one of your thoughts should be ‘what can I do today to contribute in a positive way to my relationship?’ or ‘what can I do to show my partner that I love him or her, today?’. Decide what says ‘I love you’ and do it. Today. Tomorrow. And each day thereafter.
In the end, if you are mindful of these ‘rules’, and apply them in a conscious, effortful, ongoing fashion, you will ensure that your commitment to each other is strong and that your love is kept alive.
For more information about friendships and relationships the following resources may be helpful.
- The Benefits of Friendship. Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association. https://www.ccpa-accp.ca/the-benefits-of-friendship-on-a-relationship/
- Friendships: Enrich your life and improve your health. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/friendships/MH00125
- Friends Wanted: The health risks of loneliness and the benefits of strong social connections. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/01/cover-friends.aspx
- Friends and co-workers: Research offers insights into how to juggle your personal and professional relationships in research settings. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2012/01/relationships.aspx
- Intimacy: The Art of Relationships. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/196912/intimacy-the-art-relationships