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How to build a lasting and loving relationship - Part 2 by Gill Wier

Posted 13 Feb '13 by Gill Wier

Wooden Heart image by Kris Delcour
Wooden Heart image by Kris Delcour


What will you be doing on Valentines’ Day? For many it’s a time to exchange cards and enjoy a romantic meal with their partner but for those who are single or struggling in their relationships it can be a painful and awkward time of the year. The way Valentine’s Day is portrayed in the shops and in the media tends to promote an idealistic and shallow view of romantic love.  So I felt it would be an appropriate time to share some down to earth practical suggestions about how to make your relationship work throughout the year!

1.     Acknowledge your differences – it’s helpful to identify the ways in which you are different from each other.  While difference can cause conflict it can also allow you to complement each other and make a good team.  Think of a three legged race!  We need to learn to “match our strides” so that we can run well together.  This means I need to be willing to adapt to my partner to some extent.  For example if it’s important to them to keep the house tidy, doing my share of the chores will contribute to them feeling happier and more able to adapt to my needs in return.

2.     Resolve conflicts  – if you argue or fall out with your partner it’s important to find a way of resolving the conflict as “sweeping it under the carpet” stores up problems for later. As soon as you both feel ready, sit down and talk together calmly about what happened.  Take it in turns to speak about what was going on for you during the argument, especially how you were feeling.  When you are the listener, allow the other person to speak without interrupting and focus on understanding where they are coming from.  Then feed back to them what you have heard.  This simple technique can help you both feel heard and understood and take the “heat” out of the argument. 

3.     Importance of forgiveness – when you feel hurt by your partner it can be hard to forgive but harbouring resentment towards them will gnaw away at you and drag your relationship down.  Sometimes we have to choose to forgive and the feelings will follow.  Don’t underestimate the power of saying the words “I forgive you” to restore trust and hope when your relationship is struggling.  

4.     Adapting to change –  In a long term relationship you will go through many life changes together – moving house, changing jobs, having children, children leaving home and parents dying all of which will change you as individuals and change the dynamics between you.  If you are able to acknowledge what has changed, be generous with each other at difficult times and talk about how you will respond to changes as a couple this will set you in good stead.  Relationships that last are adaptable. 

5.     Having fun together – Couples who come for counselling often reminisce sadly about the early days when they made each other laugh and had fun together every weekend.  Keep this feeling alive by planning in fun activities over the course of your relationship.  You could go to a theme park for the day or for a cheaper option play a board game or watch comedy on TV together.  You are never too old to “play” together - it helps strengthen the bonds of friendship between you.

Romantic gestures help too! If you are in a relationship, why not take the opportunity on Valentine’s Day to celebrate your love for each other? Is there one thing you could do to make your partner feel special today?