As human beings, we are all persons in need of love, affection, and ultimately support.
The primary support in our lives tends to be our nuclear family-our spouse and children. As you might guess, the foundation of any healthy family really is the parental unit.
Without balance in this area, the other areas can end up bearing the weight and eventually in cases with excessive stress or unmet demands, crumble under the pressure.
So how do we build a strong foundation?
Below are a few tips to help you and your partner create and maintain a strong relationship and therefore, strong family unit.
1. Know each other’s strengths and weakness
Many couples or divorcees that eventually come to me for therapy express serious struggles in this area.
They get into fights because they feel their partner may not be doing their part. Yet, when we get down to it, it’s really not that their partner hasn’t made an effort to do so, it’s just that their way of thinking or functioning puts them at a serious disadvantage with the request that’s being made and they fail because of it.
If my partner isn’t very good with finances (but I am) how does it make sense to ask them to be the one to balance the checkbook?
I just end up getting frustrated (and so do they). In many cases, we’d argue, and I’d end up doing it myself anyway.
This can lead to build up or resentment and even contempt.
As a couple, we need to discuss what each of our strengths are and use this to fairly assign responsibilities for the best chance of success as a team.
2. Have realistic expectations
This absolutely relates back to the first point.
We need to not only know what each other’s strengths are and build off them but also have a clear and reasonable idea of what to expect.
Even if my partner is good at doing the dishes or taking out the trash, I also have to understand how much and when to expect them to do these things. I can’t get upset when I ask my partner to take care of something by a certain day or time but they’re busy with other obligations that they can’t get to them in that timeframe.
It can be easy to assume we know what’s going on and make requests based on this but it can be another place couples often trip up.
Over time, they stop asking and start assuming.
This doesn’t just go for behavior but thoughts and feelings as well. We need to communicate by presenting our needs, get feedback from our partner of how or when they can meet them, and negotiate something reasonable for both. Only then can they truly be accountable for meeting (or failing to meet) our request.
3. Love my partner the way they need to be loved
This is another big one.
Many couples I meet don’t feel loved or appreciated by their partner. Aside from obvious harmful situations like emotional abuse, abandonment, or affairs; it’s not because their partner doesn’t do things that are loving but they’re not loving them in the way that really validates and supports this.
What do I see?
One partner tries to show love in the way that they themselves would like to receive it. Their partner might even tell them what they need but they might discount it or simply find it more comfortable for them personally to do it their own way.
This only sends the message that they’re not listening or worse-don’t care. Know each other’s love languages and use them!
What’s the takeaway from all of this?
Ultimately, it boils down to communication, understanding, and acceptance.
We must accept our partner and ourselves for who we are and work within the confines of this to build and maintain a strong foundation.
Not only will it do well for our relationship as a couple, but it will help our entire family to have a closer relationship with one another.
It will also serve as a learning model for our children so that they can have healthier relationships with themselves, those they care about, and eventually as loving adults.