Our lives are built on relationships. Whether it be with a family member, a friend or a lover, all relationships come with its ups and downs, good times and bad. Relationships are such an important part of our lives and we can be doing things to ensure that they are healthy and long lasting.
According to Dr. Christie Dakin, a practitioner of Counseling Psychology, there are some important steps we can be taking to help build long lasting relationships.
Communication is key. Many relationships break down because one person isn’t completely open and is emotionally cut off from the other.
“There has to be communication in order for the relationship to grow,” explains Dakin. “This also means both members of the couple have to feel safe and heard. This can be a challenge when communication has broken down.”
What can help is to create a safe, nurturing environment for the couples to talk and work out their problems, whether it’s with each other, or with help, like a therapist.
There also needs to be a real and healthy connection between the people in the relationship. “Often people enter a relationship because they feel like something is missing inside them and there’s the idea that another person will complete them”, says Dakin. At first this might work but overtime there will be disappointment and a relationship based on neediness will quickly disintegrate.
“The key to connection is being two whole people who come together to work on what comes up in a loving and respectful manner,” explains Dakin. Work on yourself first and a healthier, long lasting relationship will be easier.
Be curious, not critical. “Look at your partner or friend as though you have never seen them before,” suggests Dakin.
Ask questions about what they think and really listen to what they are saying. It may surprise you. Also listen for what is being said between the lines. Sometimes the real message is actually behind the words. Even though it would be ideal for the other person to tell you directly what they mean, that is not always the case.
Trust yourself. We want to trust others but it’s also important to learn to trust ourselves first. By doing that, we are loving ourselves enough to stay in a relationship when it is working, as well as being willing to look at ourselves when challenges in the relationship come up, advises Dakin.
But if a relationship is real and is meant to be, should it not be simple and easy? A good relationship shouldn’t be so much hard work, or should it?
According to Dakin, a long lasting relationship will come with ups and downs and there will be ebb and flow. Sometimes it will seem easy and sometimes it will seem hard. That is the nature of all types of relationships.
Dr. Christie Dakin, a practitioner of Counseling Psychology
Often, even with all that hard work that’s put in and the advice that is followed, some relationships will not work out and that is not always a bad thing.
Relationships, whether with a partner or a friend, may have simply run their course. Often people can grow in different ways than the person they have a relationship with and that can affect the longevity of it. In some cases it can be more loving to separate than to stay together, explains Dakin.
What are some of the other reasons that relationships don’t last?
In many relationships, one person sometimes has high expectations of the other. Even though it may start out wonderfully, when the character traits and quirks that were ignored at the beginning start to affect the other person, it will be a trigger to the end of a relationship unless it’s worked out.
Dr. Dakin shared one of her favorite stories about a couple she met in Italy. They were in their 60’s and still behaved like love birds, holding hands and were really caring and kind to each other. When Dakin asked if they had always gotten along this way, the woman admitted she used be very demanding and critical of her husband. Then one day she decided she didn’t want to do that anymore and stopped. Her husband’s reaction was, “I knew she was worth waiting for.”
The reality of it is, all relationships will take work, from both people, to make it last, regardless of who it is with. “If you treat yourself well, you will treat others better”, says Dakin.
Reduce your expectations of the people you are in relationships with, let them be who they really are and you will be happy.