Seven Ways To Nurture A Healthy Romantic Relationship

Marriage Counseling Insights From Westlake Village-Based Patricia McTague-Loft

At the end of many fairy tales the closing line is, “And they lived happily ever after.” Of course, there’s a reason that stories that end that way are called fairy tales: they’re not real. No one gets to a certain point and then lives a life of uninterrupted bliss. If you’re married or in another long-term romantic relationship, you might think this is doubly true. You don’t simply get to a certain level of intimacy and then the two of you live happily ever after. Long-term relationships require constant nurturing.

The question then becomes, what are the best ways to cultivate a loving and happy relationship? Writing for Psychology Today, Mark Travers, Ph.D. turns to research results from a psychological study by The Family Journal that points to seven basic characteristics common to successful marriages.

 The Ability to Turn the Downs Into Ups. Problems come in all shapes and forms. For married couples, they can come in the form of problems with each other. But they can also come in the form of financial challenges, health issues, misbehaving children and on and on. The keys to learning and growing in response to a challenge are “resilience and teamwork.” Travers says, “This resilience isn’t just about weathering the storm but is also about finding ways to grow stronger through adversity. By slowing down, soothing each other, and seeking solutions, couples can turn even the most challenging situations into opportunities for growth and bonding.”

Activity, Creativity, and Imagination. Most people intuitively understand that their affection for their partner deepens when they spend quality time with each other. Whether it’s long conversations over dinner or sharing in a passion for a sport or hobby, developing and maintaining intimacy takes time. The research confirms how valuable this is.

Tolerating Dissimilarity and Change. Hardly any 60-year believes they are the same person that they were at 30. The flip side of accepting change and growth in yourself is welcoming change and growth in your partner. Embracing that change is crucial to maintaining a healthy relationship. Furthermore, As Travers writes, “Instead of resisting differences, celebrate them as priceless opportunities to learn more about one another.”

Patience, Flexibility, and Humility. Disagreements don’t only occur between romantic partners — people inevitably have disagreements with virtually anyone they spend much time with. It helps to handle disagreements with anyone, including your partner, by showing a willingness to compromise and to understand the issue from the other person’s point of view.

Acknowledging, Supporting, and Admiring. While everyone appreciates a compliment, the research points to how truly important it is to verbally express your regard for your partner. Perhaps surprisingly, this doesn’t have to involve overt or dramatic expressions — little things count. Simply saying thank you and regularly expressing your gratitude goes a long way in a relationship.

Commitment and Dedication. While daily expressions of gratitude may be little things that set the tone of a relationship, commitment is at the other end of spectrum: a vital signal that you believe you want your relationship to last forever. It is the necessary foundation to build on, and one that both partners must be equally dedicated to.

Respecting Oneself. Counseling sometimes reveals that the root of a problem in a relationship is actually an individual problem with one of the partners. It could be anything from narcissism to an unresolved childhood issue, but the point is that people who have a healthy self-respect are in a better position to build a healthy relationship.