Are you in a committed and satisfying relationship?
- Never Confuse Intimacy With Sex. It is very common to hear couples talk about sex as if it were the same as intimacy. But intimacy is very different from sex. Intimacy should be a precursor to sex; it adds quality and a sense of togetherness, but it is not a substitute. Intimacy requires spending quality time with your partner: sharing, talking, cuddling, holding hands, hugging, kissing. Sex is limited to the sexual act, and despite that some, or perhaps many of us claim to have the best sexual experiences with our partners after a big fight, intimacy is what gives sex a true sense of satisfaction and emotional bonding. Without it, sex becomes mechanical and routinized.
- Respect Your Differences. That includes your values, beliefs, and cultural expressions. A basic tenet in human interaction is that if you want to be respected and understood, you need to be respectful and understanding. Getting into a relationship with the mindset that you are more important or deserving than your partner will only lead to the destruction of the relationship. We all hold certain values and beliefs that make us unique. Some of these are not changeable or even modifiable. It is important to understand your partner’s values, beliefs, and cultural expressions to let your relationship truly flourish.
- Communication Goes Both Ways. Communication must always be honest, clear, and frequent but being a good listener is a huge part of communicating effectively. No one in the relationship should have a monopoly on communication. True interaction requires that you listen with interest, allowing your partner to express himself or herself fully and freely. Often, individuals do not talk about the issues that bother them out of fear of their partner’s reaction. In problem solving of any kind, avoidance is not a substitute for good communication. Honesty leads to trust, and trust is the foundation of any relationship. If you avoid talking about issues that separate you from your loved one in hopes the issues will disappear, you will be disappointed. Speculation and mind-reading take over, and the problems only fester. Listen without defending and speak without offending. Communication isn’t just an important part of a relationship; it is one of the pillars that keep the relationship from crumbling.
- Don’t Just Talk The Talk; Walk The Walk. Now that you are communicating, it is critical that your words match up with your actions. Telling your partner that you love them is meaningless if you are not backing up your words with actions. Apologizing for having done something wrong will amount to nothing if you continue repeating the same behavior that prompted the first apology. Credibility is precious and like trust, when you lose it, it is very difficult to get it back. Mean what you say and say what you mean.
- Accept Each Other’s Shortcomings. Stop expecting perfection from your partner. By
definition, human beings are not perfect; we make mistakes and hurt others with our actions and words. Be present for your partner in the good and the bad times. The fact is, nobody is perfect; and that includes you. Work through difficult moments together without judgments and unrealistic expectations.
- Spend Quality Time Together. Recent research shows that couples that spend time together, stay together. Couples who don’t actively try to spend time together have divorce rates at 60% higher than couples who do. Of course, if the time spent together is not used to nurture the relationship, neither of you will benefit. Couple’s time is important, especially when there are children in the relationship. It is common that the arrival of a child imposes more demands on the relationship, but couples must really try to make time for themselves. If children become the only focus of your relationship, the intimacy you have with your partner may suffer.
- Avoid Getting Lost In The Relationship. Being in a relationship does not mean you have to lose your sense of self or your identity. Have friends and a social life. It is important that you recognize your needs. You deserve to have a social life and friends but so does your partner. Sometimes we need some alone time to reflect, pray, be creative, or to just vegetate.
- Parent As Equals. Parenting is one of the most difficult jobs anyone can ever take on. But parenting can also be a source of discord and arguments. Life can often get in the way of raising your children; the demands of work, social interactions, and responsibilities can take a big part of your day. However, parents must work together and find the time to develop and agree to a parenting strategy that is fair, firm and consistent. Children don’t do well when they don’t have a consistent disciplinary structure. They need parental expectations that they can follow and dependon. Mixed messages are not healthy for children or for parents. If you and your partner speak with one voice and as equals, your home will be harmonious.
- Three Is A Crowd. Unless you’re seeking help from a couple’s therapist, you don’t want to involve other people in your relationship. Relationships have a life and a rhythm of their own they may not make sense to people on the outside looking in. Relationships don’t do well if they are injected with third-party opinions. So, it is incumbent on both of you not to let others run your relationship. If you’re having a disagreement with your partner, work it out within the relationship. Remain independent from anyone who wants to inject an opinion about your relationship. It’s your duty to decide if a relationship is right for you.
- Don’t Go To Bed With Technology. Technology is everywhere and we might as well embrace it. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t manage its use and application. Technology should help you manage your life, not take over your life. Face-to-face communication and social interaction even if it is through video chat must not be substituted by texting or emailing. Body language often speaks louder than verbal communication. Much is lost when you are not able to physically see your partner. You need visuals to connect verbal communication with non-verbal communication; you need it to understand your partner’s emotional expressions and mood. For communication to be effective and for the relationship to remain strong, you must give your partner undivided attention.
Dr. Gonzalez is a family counselor who also treats couples and individuals. If you have any questions about mental or behavioral health, contact Dr. Gonzalez for more information. Se habla español.
New Day Therapy and Counseling Center, LLC.