Good communication is the key to building any healthy relationship: the most important factor being to ensure that you both want and expect the same things. I see so many couples in my counselling room where issues of mutual importance have never been shared, or at least not for a very long time.
And so two people get to the point where they are barely speaking to each other and they then turn to professional guidance. Now, there is nothing wrong with that and it is within my professional role to see them but so often the difficult relationship that they are experiencing could have been averted if conversations could have taken place earlier.
Relationships continue from day to day but the issues that should have been said are too often left unspoken. Then something happens that upsets the everyday normal pattern of behaviour and insecurities start to creep in.
So here are some steps to keep your relationship healthy:
Speak up! If something is bothering you, then talk about it instead of holding it inside yourself to turn into resentment.
Always respect your the wishes and feelings of your partner, be they business or social, because they are important. You may not agree with them but they may need to express them. Let your partner know that you have listened.
Compromise is the essence of a healthy relationship. You may well disagree with their thoughts or ideas but disagreements are an integral part of all relationships.
Be supportive! Offer reassurance and encouragement to your partner and don’t hesitate to ask them for support when you need it. Good relationships are about increasing your partner’s confidence and self-esteem.
Respect each other’s privacy! There are times when we all want to be alone. A healthy relationship allows each one to sometimes be active by oneself and then to share the experiences afterwards with the other party.
Develop good inter-communication skills! Don’t use language that bullies, humiliates or damages your partner’s self respect. A partnership should be one of equality.
Common courtesy: It never ceases to amaze me how many people forget to say a simple ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ because it is so important for all of us to receive acknowledgement. We bring our children up to say it so I wonder why it gets forgotten as we get older.
Be realistic! This is a good time of the year to review the expectations we have of each other and see if they are realistic, going forward. If they are not, then they will need to be renegotiated and agreed upon by both parties.
Spend more time with each other! Make it a priority to talk and spend time with one another. We all have so many things to do each day, in our lives, that they tend to get in the way of just ‘chilling out’ together – and that is a mistake that needs to be rectified. ‘We Time’ is important!
Admit your mistakes! We all make them and if you have done something to upset your partner, then admit it and move on. There is no need to plead or beg but there is a need to admit it, accept it and then draw a line under it.
Practice forgiveness! This is a decision to consciously let go of the past and to focus on the present. It is about managing the current situation and remembering that forgiving someone frees you from any anger and resentment.
Be a good listener! Being available, both physically and mentally, by being a good listener can diffuse many situations from getting out of hand. And remember to switch off your cellphone so that you can give your full attention!
Offer encouragement! If your partner is starting a new job, then give them positive words of encouragement.
Have fun! Enjoy your time together. Laughter makes everyone feel better.
Appreciate! Simple words like ‘thank you for being in my life’ or ‘I am really proud of what you are doing’ go a very long way to maintaining a healthy relationship.
In essence, none of the above is difficult but we often forget some essentials in our frenetic pace of life.
Maybe 2013 will be a good time to start thinking about them.
The author is a BBC Guest-Broadcaster and Motivational Speaker. She is CEO of an international Stress Management consultancy and her new book, ‘Show Stress Who’s Boss!’ is available in all good bookshops.