The myth of the perfect relationship still persists. We imagine happy couples radiating calm and soothing light, communicating with love and respect at all times, and engaging in a mutual and fulfilling path of spiritual enlightenment.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that successful relationships come in many different styles. It doesn’t matter if you are volatile, avoidant, validating or bickering: You still have equal odds of survival.
This is great news for those of us who aren’t yet perfect!
But then what are we to aspire to? What should couples be aiming for if not Zen-like love? Some of us need some guidelines 😉
If you want to know what works, don’t worry. Even in the absence of “the one” relationship style that lasts, there are still some identifiable qualities that all thriving relationships share.
I had the pleasure of listening to a great talk by Katherine Woodward Thomas (leading relationship expert and author of Calling in the One), and Dr. John Gray, (author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus) as part of the Art of Love online relationship series. They covered a lot of ground, but it all boils down to a few key things.
What Makes a Good Relationship: 6 Keys to Creating the Love You Desire
According to these experts, thriving relationships have six characteristics in common. See if you have these in your relationship and focus on expanding your skills in these areas.
1. A high level of self-love as a foundation for loving each other. This can be confusing. Are we talking bubble baths and massages? No. Self-love is not to be confused with self-care. Rather, it is a good relationship with ourselves. This includes a respect for our own limits and boundaries, a confidence in our own value, and a sense that we deserve to express our desires. This is a must for all healthy, authentic relationships with others (To see how to have a great relationship with yourself, click here.)
2. An ability to communicate effectively about each person’s feelings and needs. Once we know and love ourselves, we are better able to express ourselves with integrity. Happy couples are authentic, vulnerable, and honest with each other. They make requests in an attempt to meet their needs. In the culture of a successful relationship, communication is accepted if not welcomed. (See how to express yourself with integrity here).
3. Skills to engage tensions and resolve conflict. Couples that go the distance are able to address conflict. They can move past conflict even when they don’t see eye to eye. And most important of all, they use sources of conflict as opportunities for growth. (See the best four ways to handle conflict here).
4. Expert strategies to keep their sexual spark alive. Lost intimacy is one of the biggest reasons relationships fail after 10 years of being together. So the ability to keep the spark alive is something longstanding couples have in common. Sometimes this means consciously making it a priority. Make time, don’t wait until it feels organic. Like all things worthwhile, investment is required. This could be flirting, date nights, or inside jokes. A little effort will reap exponential benefits. (For tips on how to keep the spark alive, click here.)
5. Alignment of the relationship with a higher power and purpose. Couples who feel they are part of something bigger than themselves–whether that be a higher power or shared values–tend to be healthier. Being a closed circuit can be toxic during times of stress. See what you can do to nurture your common purpose, or tune into how your relationship plays part in a bigger show. This could involve getting involved in a faith community that resonates with your beliefs, or finding a way to link your life dreams with some guiding principles. (Click here for some inspiration from The Daily Love.)
6. Relationship role models. Great relationships usually have somebody they look up to and learn from. Perhaps you know somebody you think is great and serves as a fine example–somebody that can guide you. There are also great relationship experts who are couples (for example Gay and Katie Hendricks, Mastin Kipp and Jenna Love, and Susie and Otto Collins). Think about who in your life can guide and support your development as a couple. (Click here for more on relationship mentors.)
These are doable, right? If you need tips on how to achieve these, just click the links I gave you at the end of each section.
I always love hearing from you so let me know what you think in the comments below!