You heard about the birds and the bees, read endless love stories, and sang about finding romance in your nursery rhyme days. But now that you’re an adult, you know all too well that love, romance, and relationships aren’t always rainbows and butterflies.
Beyond how to find love, the real question is how to maintain it. From fostering a relationship with yourself to choosing validation over defensiveness, here’s what six experts say make a relationship thrive, not just survive.
Foundation of trust
Ah, trust – it’s one of the key building blocks of a healthy relationship as it directly impacts communication, vulnerability, and intimacy. “Trust is the foundation of a healthy relationship, and the stronger the trust, the more the relationship will thrive,” says Monte Drenner, a licensed counselor and life coach.
A relationship with yourself
Relationships are between two people, one of whom is you – and since you’re half of the equation, it’s important to self-evaluate and gain a strong understanding of what you can bring to the table. “When people ask what the key is to a healthy relationship, I always say you need to start with the relationship you have with yourself,” says Talya Knable, a licensed clinical professional counselor.
More validation, less defensiveness
“I can understand why you feel that way.” A few simple words can go a long way to make your partner feel heard when he or she is frustrated or hurt. According to Raffi Bilek, the director at The Baltimore Therapy Center, “When your partner says something you don’t like, disagree with, or resent, you don’t have to agree with them, but you also don’t have to necessarily defend yourself against their comments. Instead, you can validate them by developing an understanding of where they’re coming from and letting them know you get it (even if you still disagree).”
Understanding of strengths and weaknesses
You don’t like to cook, he does. You’re always on time, he’s always late. You like staying in on Friday nights, he likes going out. If he or she is the yin to your yang and the sun to your moon, understanding your unique differences is crucial to maintaining a healthy relationship. “You need to understand that you’re going to have to compromise and make changes in how you operate as a single versus as a couple,” says dating expert Stefanie Safran. Who knows? You might grow to enjoy some of the things your partner does and vice versa.
Never expect your partner to instinctively say or do what you want. In a relationship, two people are either growing together or apart, and communication is the determining factor. “Honest communication is the GPS for relationships,” says relationship advisor and author Kevin Darné. “It lets you know which direction you’re heading in — whether you’re happy or unhappy with your relationship, it’s important to let your mate know.”
Always choosing each other
As simple as it seems, choose each other…always. In disagreements, in tough decisions, and during time apart, keep choosing your partner above anything else. “Make the choice that you are together, and that no matter what, the relationship comes first,” says love coach Matthew Solomon.
It’s just as important to be kind to yourself as it is to your partner. Here’s how to practice more self-compassion.
xx, The FabFitFun Team