Sustaining a fulfilling, long-term relationship is tricky because it requires several essential qualities that may seem contradictory. Most problems in relationships occur because one of these crucial elements is missing or they are out of balance. All five of the following elements are critical in all fulfilling relationships, and particularly in long-term passionate, love relationships.
1. Respect — Show Respect
Frequent irritability, criticism, or contempt destroys the connection and love in a relationship. John Gottman’s research shows that unless respect is shown at least 80% of the time, the relationship will spiral downward toward misery and divorce.
Most of us occasionally get short with a loved one, and should quickly apologize for any rudeness. It is essential that we show that we value, respect, and appreciate our loved one on a daily basis.
2. Self-respect — Respect Yourself
Frequent self-criticism or an unwillingness to stop disrespectful behavior from others invites disrespect. The fear of speaking up and being rejected encourages further rudeness.
Demeaning self-criticism should be changed into constructive, positive self-talk. We must show that we have respect for ourselves, and therefore, stand up to rudeness, even if it is not in our nature to do so. While others aren’t perfect and may be rude occasionally, we must stop such disrespect instantly and on each occasion with a comment, such as, “Excuse me?” or “That tone does not work for me,” or “You’re pushing me away. Please say it more politely.”
3. Independence — Retain Self-Reliance
Being too dependent on another person to meet our emotional, financial, or intellectual needs oppresses the relationship and stifles the passion.
While it is not necessary to maintain absolute independence or contribute equally in every area, we should aspire to be self-reliant in most areas, as well as to think autonomously and retain our own interests. Nurturing our individual work, passions, and relationships with friends and family vitalizes the soul and prevents us from becoming overly needy and dependent on a loved one.
4. Kindness — Be Caring
Living a self-absorbed life leads to a hollow and desolate heart. Independence does not preclude kindness, generosity, or caring. In fact, it allows one to give out of a sense of fullness rather than a sense of need.
The joy of being considerate, giving, and supportive to our loved ones is one of the greatest pleasures in life. Making someone you love happy or simply making his or her life a bit easier often provides the greatest joy of being in a relationship.
5. Shared Enjoyment — Have Fun Together
A relationship based solely on daily practicalities and responsibilities loses passion over time.
Fun, romance, and adventure keep the relationship vitally alive. Daily appreciation, laughter, and interaction foster a healthy, happy, passionate relationship.
Balance — Strive for All Five
Most of us tend to emphasize two or three of the essential elements of a fulfilling relationship but lose sight of the importance of two or three others. Balancing all five elements — respect, self-respect, self-reliance, kindness, and shared enjoyment — is critical for sustaining a fulfilling, long-term passionate relationship.
Relationships are full of ups and downs and are never in perfect balance. We must continuously strive toward maintaining or reestablishing harmony and balance.
Unfortunately, it is not all up to one person. It takes two to tango, but only one to get out of step. Yet, balancing these five vital elements in all of our relationships makes our lives and relationships more fulfilling and robust.
Relationships are like a dance
It’s as much about your patience, kindness, confidence,
and sense of rhythm as it is about your partner.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD