Most people cherish a close, loving relationship with another person. You may think these ‘just happen’, when you meet the right person, but this is rare. Intimate relationships have to be worked at.
Why? because they’re a minefield! There’s so much that can go wrong, and when they do it’s not just the couple involved but potentially a wider family network including children.
All relationships involve meeting each others’ needs. If you want a relationship with another person to succeed, you must approach it with the attitude of putting something in rather than getting something out.
Let’s take a look at what these needs are, and what we can do to improve our intimate relationships:
Openness: being open to others, sharing feelings, speaking honestly and being willing to listen.
Communication: Poor communication is the number one reason why relationships fail. Your partner can’t read your mind, so if you don’t express yourself well, how will he or she know how you feel?
Often when someone thinks their partner doesn’t love them any more, it turns out that they do love each other: they’re just not communicating their love in a way the other person best understands. Everyone has their preferred way of giving and receiving love; one of the secrets of a building a lasting, loving relationship is to discover each other’s preferred mode.
- Visual people need to be shown that they are loved, though those subtle looks and glances exchanged, and by being ‘shown a good time’.
- Auditory individuals only feel totally loved if they are told often and in the right way (tone of voice, inflection etc.).
- Kinesthetic types need to be touched in the right way. Only lots of hugs and kisses make them feel deeply loved. Words don’t mean much to them and may be perceived as ‘empty’ unless backed up with action.
If you feel you need to communicate more, why not have a regular evening out, just to talk? Or take regular walks together?
Attention: a basic human need. Many people who have been together a long time stop paying sufficient attention to each other. They’re no longer fully present with each other and the relationship becomes stale.
Appreciation is another basic human need. How often do you express genuine affection and appreciation for your partner, without being prompted? How often do they do the same for you?
Take every opportunity to pay a casual compliment and make spontaneous gestures that say, ‘I care’ and ‘I love you’. Love is not to be taken for granted!
Accentuate the similarities: It’s widely believed that opposites attract. It’s true for the poles of a magnet, but not for human beings, at least in the long term. True, the differences may once have been exciting, but often this is because one or both were looking for the other person to make up for something missing in their own personality.
Studies show that people with vastly different personalities are less likely to stay together. Sooner or later the incompatibilities come to the surface. Some couples overcome them – but most don’t.
Shared values: You can never feel totally happy and fulfilled unless you’re living by your values, so if you’re contemplating a long term relationship, make sure your core values are broadly consistent with each other’s. Obviously, the ideal is to learn and grow together, but without a common vision and shared values it could be an uphill struggle!
Commitment: provides the strength to persevere when things don’t go well. It implies that ‘forever’ really means ‘for ever’. Nowadays some often widely publicised marriages are entered into with ‘get-out clauses’ which make financial provisions in case it breaks down. All too often, these arrangements turn out to be necessary – evidence perhaps that the commitment was never really there?
Loyalty and trust: provide the sense of security and support that are essential in all intimate relationships. Without them, neither party will feel that it is safe to allow intimacy to develop. Always keep your promises to each other.
Respect for each other’s individuality: In the most rewarding relationships, both parties commit without sacrificing their individuality or personal freedom. That’s what Kahlil Gibran meant when he wrote in ‘The Prophet’, ‘Let there be spaces in your togetherness.’
Teamwork: working with and for each other and taking important decisions together. The two most common areas of disagreement in long-term relationships are money and child-rearing.
Acceptance of change: Change is inevitable. A typical family unit, for instance, goes through a cycle. At first, the couple has only each other to think about. Then children come along, grow up and leave home. There are financial issues to deal with, changing responsibilities at work, moving home and so on. Then they have to cope with ageing, retirement and sickness. Each affects the relationship in some way.
If you realise at the outset that change is inevitable, accept and go with it, the relationship is more likely to survive.
Enjoyment: a must. It’s good for you. In lasting relationships, a shared history of memories, private jokes, code words and rituals builds up, which add to the feeling of togetherness.
These are just a few ideas about close relationships, borne of painful experience!
©David Lawrence Preston, 19.4.2016
Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston
How To Books, 2004