Some things change, but some things stay the same. The Pew Research Center reports that the landscape of relationships in America has shifted dramatically in recent decades. The explosion of online dating, an increase in the number of people preferring cohabitation to marriage, same-sex marriage, casual hookups, polyamorous and open marriages, and interracial and inter-ethnic marriage all prove much has changed over the last few decades.There are many changes afoot in how people connect and try to fulfill our instinct to connect with others. While a lot has changed, a lot has stayed the same. People are people, no matter what century you pluck them from. To be sure, our society’s sense of morality and what is considered okay has shifted considerably and continues to do so. At the heart of it, though, we are still imperfect beings trying to enjoy meaningful relationships.
As imperfect beings, some of the things we pursue are not great for us, and we aren’t always wise in the choices we make. We can make self-defeating choices in the people we choose to date, or we can subtly undermine our relationships by retaining certain behaviors. There are couples out there that are successful and happy.
Note that no one said anything about them being perfect because there’s no such thing as a perfect couple or a perfect relationship. What we have are imperfect people who can navigate and make the best of the merging of their lives so that they both flourish. Below are a few things that can help you in your relationship, if you’re in one, or it can help you think through some things before taking the plunge with someone.
Qualities that help couples stay together.
You don’t get good or desirable outcomes by accident, at least not consistently. If you want a healthy relationship, you have to work at it. You and your significant other have to possess and cultivate certain qualities that will help you nurture a healthy relationship.
Here are 10 things to look out for and seek to cultivate in your relationship that successful couples typically do:
1. Couples foster a partnership.
A serious committed relationship with someone is a partnership. Brené Brown, a well-known author, podcaster, and professor said even though a relationship is a partnership, it’s rarely (if ever) a 50/50 partnership.
Sometimes you’re tired, under pressure, or anxious, and all you have is 20 percent to offer your partner. Be honest with them about that. A good partner will meet you at your 20 and cover the remaining 80 percent. And if you’re a good partner, you’ll do the same. It’s wise for a couple to come up with a plan for what to do in those situations where they’re both low, like showing each other grace.
2. They make time for affection.That’s not just a code for sex, though sex is an important part of intimacy in a marriage. Affection and intimacy refer to a whole range of behaviors and actions that allow you and your spouse to connect.
It might just be a hug during the day, or a quick call or text to let them know you’re thinking of them. It’s listening to each other about what happened during the day or letting him rub your feet and make you a meal after a long day. Make time for connection because it won’t happen automatically. Americans are busier than ever, and making the time to connect is essential.
3. Partners are interested in each other.
Accompanying the idea of being deliberate about showing affection is being genuinely interested in your partner. They are a whole other human being made in God’s image, and you should seek to cultivate your curiosity about them.
For one thing, don’t make assumptions about where your partner is at and how they’re feeling. Asking how your partner feels and exploring that is essential to a healthy relationship. It allows you to meet each other at your points of need, and not simply where you assume them to be.
One of the exercises that a couples counselor may have you do is listen without interruption, which communicates valuing the other person’s words. Simply being interested and asking questions with a real intention to hear the responses can be a game changer.
4. They prioritize date night.
Date night is a signal that you’re committing to each other and investing in the relationship. Date night can function as a time to check in with each other, share your dreams, and simply enjoy one another. Having a set time of the week for date night, and intentionally having a few ideas stored up to keep date night interesting will change your relationship for the better.
5. They handle conflict well.
Couples fight. This is true even of the best couples that look like they have everything under control. What counts is how you fight.
- Do you call each other names or otherwise dishonor each other? That can escalate a conflict.
- Do you seek common ground in your arguments, and do you fill the gap between your respective actions and intentions with grace?
- Can you listen well to each other to discern the root issue?
- Are you creative and able to problem solve?
These skills can help you resolve conflict successfully and strengthen your relationship.
6. Healthy couples forgive each other.Holding onto grudges and resentment can kill your relationship slowly but surely. You’re both going to mess up. Having the capacity to forgive each other will help you resolve issues and rebuild your relationship.
7. They play it straight with each other.
The last thing you want from your significant other is to have to play mind and head games. The world is messy and complicated enough without having to deal with veiled meanings and mixed messaging. A couple should be honest with each other, recognizing that they are on the same team. They shouldn’t try to outmaneuver, manipulate or take advantage of each other.
8. They apologize and are accountable.
Since you’re not perfect, it’s a good thing to be able to apologize and to do that well. That means owning what you did without making excuses. You can express your regret for what you did and acknowledge how it affected the other person, and then commit to changing your behavior for the better.
9. They maintain a united front and do what’s best for each other.
Often, outsiders to the relationship, even the well-meaning ones, can try to call the shots in the relationship and shape how things are between the couple. There are times when this is necessary, like in an abusive relationship. That’s not what we’re talking about here.
We’re talking about interference from outsiders like your girlfriends or your mom who simply want to tell a couple how to handle their relationship. Wisdom and humility will help you recognize when you’re out of your depth and need to call in for assistance. Remember that it’s good to have boundaries in and around your relationship so that you’re not listening to other people more than you’re listening to your partner.
10. They take their North Star seriously.
People need something bigger than themselves that helps them steer true in life. For some, it’s a set of values they hold onto, like family. For a believer, it’s God who is for His people in and through Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:1-4). Your partner will never fulfill your every need, and they can’t possibly support your every yearning or aspiration. No human being can bear that kind of weight.
You can find your fulfillment, meaning, and purpose in God, and that relationship with God nurtures and supports your romantic relationship. Finding your identity in Christ helps you keep your relationship in perspective, provides you the strength you need to forgive your spouse or partner, and provides you solace and comfort when that isn’t available from your significant other. Finding your identity in Christ will also help you discern when it might be wise to leave a relationship that isn’t godly or is otherwise toxic.
Finding help for staying together: relationship advice for women.
There are many challenges for relationships, including infidelity, anger issues, dealing with trauma, mental health challenges, addiction issues, and much else. You don’t have to go it alone. If you and your spouse or partner need help to navigate these sometimes-complex questions and issues, Christian couples counseling might be the thing for you.
Your counselor will journey with you in unpacking your emotions and questions. They can help you develop the skills you need to tackle difficulties in your relationships, as well as learn behaviors that can nurture your relationship. Wherever you and your significant other find yourselves, you can reach out for help and begin moving toward a healthy and happy relationship today.
“Sitting on the Beach”, Courtesy of Bingodesigns, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Surprise Flowers”, Courtesy of aliceabc0, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Cooking Together”, Courtesy of 089photoshootings, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Meteor Shower”, Courtesy of C1superstar, Pixabay.com, CC0 License
DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE
The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this article are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please contact one of our counselors for further information.