Building and maintaining a healthy relationship can take work and be quite challenging. Thankfully, a relationship can develop and grow as long as both partners are willing to work on it. This is true even if the start of the relationship was bumpy. Hence, not setting things right at the very beginning is not insurmountable.
For the relationship to work, both partners need to make continuous investments over time into maintaining and improving their relationship. The answers to “how to maintain a healthy relationship” might differ significantly from one couple to the next. There is no universal recipe as there are no two couples that are the same. However, some pieces of advice can be of help to the majority of partners learning how to maintain a healthy relationship.
1. Put partner’s glasses on to understand how they perceive the world
The fatal mistake we, as humans, can commit is to assume instead of checking. We think that only because we think about a certain topic in one way the other is seeing it the same. Try to recall how many times have you said “Take me for example? I would have done it differently.” Although that is true, you are not in a relationship with yourself and the other person you are with has a different thinking process and a view of the world. Their actions stem from their perspective of the issue and life itself.
Based on our previous experiences with the world and people, we modify our assumptions accordingly. For example, if we had a situation where we were betrayed, we are most likely going to try to exercise control to prevent analogous hurt. Without such experience, we might be more open towards others.
Our thoughts drive our behavior, and they are developed based on our life so far. Therefore, there is a significant chance your partner is seeing things a different way than you are since their life experience was different.
Hence, the first and foremost advice is to try their shoes on for size and check out how it feels.
Be that as it may, understanding doesn’t mean conforming. It is about figuring out what something means for our partner, not behaving as they would expect us to or how they would act.
2. Maintain healthy boundaries
Partners should be capable to compromise and tolerate some of the actions they don’t like in the other. However, those should not be the ones that they find crucial to remain in a relationship in general. Additionally, they should only expect the other to compromise on those items that are not part of their identity and vice versa.
Altering your partner to fit your expectations will merely make your partner unhappy and eventually you too.
For starters, you will not respect them since they are acting as clay allowing you to reshape them as you desire. Compromise is necessary for a relationship to work, but both partners should not tolerate any identity change requests.
3. Focus on your own change
A friend of mine once told me he didn’t comply with requests from girlfriends about things they wanted him to change. In his own words: “If I do that I become someone else and I am no longer the person they fell in love with and they will leave me.” Although he might be overly rigid, we can agree he makes an intriguing point.
We might argue that best is to find a person that doesn’t need to change the core things that make us who we are, though some level of adjustment is necessary for every relationship. Nevertheless, we need to be alright with any change we make about us and those should not be characteristics that define us. For this reason, a safe road to take is to focus on yourself and your own change.
Once you alter your behavior, your partner will have to adjust theirs too. This way, you can accomplish the change you would like to see in other’s behavior, but you focused on what you can control – your own actions.
This way you avoid asking your partner to make significant changes and direct your effort into something you can for sure improve – your own behavior.
4. Have a wide support system
Do you consistently go to your partner to satisfy your needs for comfort, fun, sex, etc.? Are they the sole person you share sadness, worry, and happiness with? If your answer is “yes”, you might consider expanding your social circle.
One person alone can’t and should not be the sole provider for our needs.
Even so, there are some needs that we should rely solely on our partner for such as sex. This is only true for some relationships, though, and it doesn’t go for open relationships in which partners are in agreement to date multiple people at the same time.
Why do we want to have a wider social circle if our partner is excellent in providing what we need? There should be friends that can be there for us when our partner is unable. No one can be there for us ALWAYS. They can try, but in case they can’t, you should be able to turn to someone else instead of trying to extort it for your partner.
5. Demonstrate appreciation instead of taking them for granted
Let’s face it – nothing is made to last forever and everything needs maintenance. An unmanaged house will fall apart after some years. One might argue, a house could be repaired for sure. While this might be accurate, the investment required for the repairs could actually be significantly higher than the one required for routine maintenance. Not to mention the neglect could make it damaged beyond repair. We could say similar goes for relationships.
Express the appreciation to your partner as often as you can. We are talking about intimate and small actions like breakfast in bed, preparing a romantic surprise or buying their favorite candy. Do it as and when you can, but it also important to do it as often as you can. On the other hand, there will be times when you are simply too tired or stressed to focus on the other. Whilst this is normal, those periods should not last too long. What is considered too long? This depends on you, your partner and your communication. Communicating that there is something consuming your energy and focus away, could help them be more patient and provide you with the needed support.
6. Fight smarter and fight fair
To be honest, there will be fights. No relationship is prone to this. Some will be more and some less dangerous to the relationship. If you allow yourself to insult your partner and speak out of anger, you are inevitably endangering the relationship. This will wound them and even though you might want to take those words back later, you won’t’ be able to.
Alternatively, fight smarter by making “fighting break” when you notice you are about to say something you will regret.
Use this time to call your friend and vent before going back to talk to your partner. This is also one of the reasons you should have other people you can rely on who can calm you down when you are fighting with your partner.
One crucial piece of advice on how to maintain a healthy relationship is to remember – it is you two against the world, not one against the other.
It is more significant than the relationship survives than for either one of you to be right.
7. Speak up on time
When you have something to say, you should find adequate time and place to communicate it.
Wishing it away while letting it build up is not an optimal strategy.
Instead of adding strikes, communicate because your partner might not even know they are doing something wrong. They might be willing to compromise and change to improve the situation. Additionally, when you speak up after weeks or months, your partner will feel blind sighted and probably be unable to recall and “defend” themselves. By doing this you are negating them the possibility to explain why something is happening while it is occurring and correct it before you start being really annoyed.
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