Relationships can be tough, right? The good news is, they don’t always need to be. To mark National Psychology Week (Nov 9-15) we’re focusing on the importance of healthy relationships and what you can do to create one for yourself.
Maintaining relationships that are healthy, rewarding and long lasting is no easy task. Sure, when you’re in the throes of early romance it seems like nothing could ever possibly get in your way of being blissfully happy together forever. But we’ve all seen it: the dull realities of day-to-day life soon return and relationships become a little more challenging.
Add to this the many stresses of modern living – finances, longer work hours, bigger mortgages – and relationships, along with our health, are often the first to suffer.
The idea of a ‘healthy relationship’ can sometimes mean different things, depending on who you’re talking to. What seems to be common in genuinely healthy relationships though is a genuine willingness by both parties to have a go at making things work.
Some (though not all!) of the ways that you can create and maintain a healthy relationship with your significant other:
Clear and honest communication is the absolute bedrock of positive relating. With this on your side (well actually, on both sides) a relationship can much better tackle the many struggles thrown its way. Knowing how to gently communicate your needs, and how to have compassion for the needs of your partner are also key. There’s an art to effective communication and it’s not something that comes naturally to everyone, so be prepared to practise! Sometimes a very subtle shift in the way that we communicate can open the door to deeper and more honest relating with our partner.
There’s no escaping it – long-term relationships will always have their ups and downs. Many couples will tell you that there will always be times that will test your commitment for wanting to stay together and make things work. Humans aren’t perfect and neither are the relationships that we create. Being realistic about this can be a good place to start. And having an open mind, good communication and a sense of compassion when facing your challenges can really help. The upside is that quite often, sticking with someone through adversity often results in deeper bonding.
SPENDING TIME TOGETHER (AND APART)
It’s super important that couples make time to do things together that they both enjoy. Without regular bonding time, it’s easy to start feeling disconnected and dissatisfied in our relationships. Take some time to find out the kinds of activities you both really like doing together. This might be as simple as morning walks together, a regular Sunday bike ride, visiting your favourite bookshop or signing up to a short course with your partner.
Likewise, too much time spent together can sometimes cause dissatisfaction when one partner feels that they’re losing touch with their own identity, rhythms and needs. Make sure that you place equal importance on your own individual pursuits and development, especially when first entering into the heady vortex of a new relationship.
KINDNESS & AFFECTION
The importance of human touch in a relationship cannot be understated – it truly is the balm that cures a thousand ills and a simple loving gesture of affection can often say more than words, especially in difficult situations. In this hyper-digital world many people report a hunger for simple touch and affection – even those in steady relationships. Connecting with our partner every day by way of a kiss, hug or gentle touch subtly tells them that we see them, we love them and we care.
GOVERNMENT FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE
In July this year the Australian Government announced that it will provide $200 (per couple) towards relationship education and counselling services. The Stronger Relationships trial is open to all couples in a committed relationship, including engaged, married, de-facto and same-sex couples.
The trial will run until July 2015. For more information visit the Relationships Australia website: http://www.buildingstrongerrelationships.org.au/