What Makes Relationships WORK?
Many believe that there is some mystery or magic answer to having a successful relationship. Not so! It boils down to hard work and five ingredients:
SUCCESS = SIMILAR VALUES + TRUST + COMPATIBILITY + COMMUNICATION + RESPECT
1) Similar Standards/Values/Beliefs: The FOUNDATION for a good relationship is agreement on core beliefs... (non)monogamy, finances, drugs, religion, family, parenting etc. The foundation will be weak when two people have fundamental differences about life is viewed. No two people will see eye-to-eye on everything, but it's necessary that a couple share the 'big picture' since we're talking about long-term coupling. Though opposites attract, it's core similarities that ensure long-term success.
2) Trust: Trust is about a partner's consistent behavior over time. For that reason, it might take a little while before we can solidly trust our significant other. Trust is earned by regularly showing that one has their partner's best interests at heart.
3) Compatibility: Different than #1 above... compatibility is about preferences. This element is important when it comes to enjoying the daily ins and outs of everyday life. Can the extravert deal with the introvert's desire to be at home? Does your fitness-conscious partner cramp your love for ice cream on the couch? Relationships feel more natural and run more smoothly when a couple enjoys some of the same types of things.
4) Communication: Early in the relationship, focus is on learning about your partner. It seems as if we could talk forever about our past, our philosophies, our future. Over time we become more comfortable with our partner's style of communication. A couple who has been together for 5 years won't have to work as hard on communication as a couple who is 6 months old.
5) Respect: Respect is a byproduct of ingredients #1-4. It takes all 4 for respect to be created and maintained. If one of the four is damaged at any point, the relationship becomes challenged.
Today the estimated failure of first marriages (heterosexual) is a miserable 60%! LGBT relationships fare no better. Success rates are low in part to picking a partner before we have truly put the effort into determining what we truly want or need. It feels good to find ourselves in a relationship until we realize that we may have chosen the wrong person. Taking the time to determine our prerequisites will save us a lot of time and heartache later.
Maintain a balance between self and self-ish. A relationship will of course require some loss of independence... a person now has another whole human to take into consideration. Sometimes 'me' has to be sacrificed for 'we', however it's also vital to remain true to ourselves and carve out alone-time or time with friends to maintain those activities we've always enjoyed. Losing oneself in a relationship will always build resentment.
Be prepared... and expect change. A fulfilling relationship will require an investment of time and energy... very much like a career or our physical health. We must put the energy toward maintaining the relationship... giving compliments, communicating productively, pleasing the partner sexually... even though we may not always feel like it. View advancing the relationship like advancing a career... through consistent, goal-focused efforts.
Sometimes we find that we're not equipped to deal with the breakdowns that might present themselves. The prognosis will improve when a couple elicits the help of a professional... sooner rather than later. Early intervention yields better results than a last ditch effort made years into the problem.
When in doubt, remember all of the behaviors that we displayed during the honeymoon stage and call up the effort to reintroduce the things that helped us fall in love in the first place.