Five Keys to a Happy Relationship
Blog entry by Dan McMillan, M.Ed, R.Psych
Relationships are crucial to our personal happiness and wellbeing. In fact Harvard released a study a few years ago demonstrating they are one of the most important elements that influence not only our wellbeing but our mortality. While this was an incredible finding, most of us intuitively relationships matter. It’s the lived experience of life; when our relationships are good, we feel good.
When they suffer, so do we. Unfortunately, they can suffer pretty easily and pretty often if we’re not careful. Below are 5 key elements I have learned as a couple’s therapist to give your relationship the best chance to be healthy and happy over time.
- Safety. A relationship requires both partners to feel emotionally, and of course, physically, safe with each other. Everything else is built upon this foundation. If you don’t feel emotionally safe in your relationship it is hard to open yourself up to more.
- Connection. A relationship requires connection in it’s many forms. Like a plant, it needs care to survive. Water your relationship by making time and effort to connect with each other on various levels including verbally, physically, and emotionally. Go on those weekends away as often as you can.
- Balance. Balance is the law of nature. We need homeostasis to be healthy. Relationships are no different. There should be an overall balance in needing and giving, in caretaking and care – accepting, in workloads and in thoughtfulness. Whilst it is okay even good to honour the different strengths of partners, the overall relationship should feel balanced in the end. If it doesn’t, it hurts both partners because we all need to be needed and to need.
- Full transparency. You have to be fully honest, bravely sharing even the hard and messy parts of yourself. A relationship requires full, authentic honesty from both parties as a necessary feedback system to help keep the (relation)ship upright. While it is scary to be vulnerable, set a goal to try to be as fully transparent and honest with your partner about your feelings as possible. Of course do so in a way that they can best hear, this is not an excuse to be cruel.
- Vulnerability. You have to be willing to take chances and let them in to the softer, scary parts of yourself. Without this you can’t be seen, which is is one of the primary purposes of a healthy relationship. Let yourself be seen; life is too hard to feel alone walking beside someone you love.
While none of these are easy or foolproof, they are rewarding if you dedicate yourself to them over time. I encourage you to talk to your partner about them and see if together you can give it a try!
Article by: Dan McMillan, M.Ed., R. Psych.
Daniel is a registered psychologist working out of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He counsels individuals and couples in the areas of mental health, relationship, trauma, and men’s mental health issues.