As a couples counselor, I work with individuals and couples with many different issues that are preventing their relationship from feeling an emotional connection. Through the years of working as a couples counselor, many people have come into see me in a state of being emotionally disconnected. This is a result of many possible issues; infidelity, a mood disorder, adjustment to a new pregnancy, parenting issues, the list goes on. What I have become very aware of, is, one of the hardships that occur for many couples is not only the need for specific tools, but an understanding of what a healthy relationship looks like.
I’m going to address this and identify some of the characteristics that go into having a relationship that is fulfilling, satisfying, and where both people would cite each other as the best thing that ever happened in their lives. The need for an emotional connection and what interferes in that sometimes has couples repeating negative cycles. They tend to have the same fight over and over again but for different reasons. These couples can benefit a great deal from an emotionally-focused therapist; one that’s working with an attachment-based model.
Sometimes, what the relationship needs most, is an individual taking a good look at themselves and deciding what changes are necessary in order for them to be the best partner for their spouse. The following is a list of characteristics that I believe would allow each of you to benefit greatly, and identify your relationship as not only healthy, but also one in which you feel has the foundation necessary for both of you to truly feel loved.
Keep each other informed of the important things in your lives
Having a healthy relationship in your life involves a huge responsibility which requires both of you to be expert communicators; sharing both your internal and external life. Make sure your partner is aware how you are doing emotionally. What often tends to happen is there is an expectation that our partners can read our minds. It is necessary on a regular basis to check in with one another.
Each person needs to let each other know how things are going at work, informing each other about the events within your extended family, and making sure that conversations you have with the children are related to your partner. Schedule some time every day to let your partner know what is going on. Regular date nights and quiet time at night are perfect opportunities to accomplish this. Your partner doesn’t need to know every little thing, but the more you share, the more important they will feel they are to you. Let them know there is no one in your life that you would rather share these things with than them.
Respect and kindness
There is nothing more important to a healthy relationship than having a partner that demonstrates respect and kindness to their partner or spouse. One of the things that we need to make sure we understand is, respect is more than just not name-calling. When a relationship is respectful, our partners needs, hopes, and dreams are considered as important as our own.
Respect should be defined as,” I appreciate who you are as an individual”. People who respect each other send consistent messages in words and actions that they value each others’ independence and want their partner to pursue things that are important to them. We encourage them and make sure that our partners know that the things that matter to them are things that we are willing to support, and help them accomplish.
Giving respect in a relationship is also being true to yourself and your words. If you promise your partner you’re going to help them with something, show up and follow through with it. The golden rule is obviously one of those characteristics where you treat your partner in the same way that you would like them to treat you. It encourages both of you to speak up and talk about the things that matter to you and encourages your partner to let you know if there’s anything that you’ve done that they feel badly about. That is something that you want to hear.
One of the things that I would ask each of you to do is an analysis on your own behavior. Ask yourself whether or not the way that you treat your partner would be seen as respectful.
When my wife and I were dating one of the things that she said to me was that she was I was one of the kindest people she knew. I actually was disappointed in this I wanted her to say I was the sexiest person that she knew but I’ll take kind Kindness! It lasts a lifetime and that’s the kind of characteristic I want her to associate with me. I like that she thinks of me as someone who will always be kind and respectful to her.
A willingness to Apologize
An apology is probably one of the hardest things to accomplish in relationships that are struggling. When you talk about forgiveness you need to talk about sincere apologies. One of the characteristics of apologies is making sure that when you have done something to hurt your partner that you know what the injury is. So often, people rush to an apology without having a conversation. Their partner who is hurt and emotionally upset at the time isn’t comfortable talking about what they did to hurt them.
People talk about surface feelings.
Anger is often what someone sees, but I think that anger is typically a expression of hurt. Someone you love has just hurt you. When an apology is made in a relationship there needs to be a connection emotionally to the to the hurt and anguish of hurting someone you love.
A true apology can never be done quickly. It should be something that is accompanied by an emotional response such as tears, or a difficulty in getting the words out. So often, apology looks like,” All right already, I’m sorry!” That is not a sincere apology. The injured party needs to feel that you are ashamed and in emotional pain due to hurting them.
Playfulness and humor are never at each others’ expense
Humor and playfulness are an essential part of any relationship. Without these characteristics most relationships don’t seem fun. One of the hopes would be that the two of you would view your relationship as one in which you laugh and enjoy doing fun things together.
Having a date night is one way to establish and develop these characteristics for your marriage. The two of you should go to comedy clubs watch funny movies together and do things to make you laugh.
Humor should never be at the expense of your partner and should never be something that would be embarrassing, humiliating, or insensitive to your partner’s insecurities.
I see couples in my office who are struggling due to the fact that one or the other partner makes fun of them publicly, and embarrasses them in front of others. I have seen couples coming in who talk about enjoying cutting each other up and putting each other down and they aren’t even aware of the negative impact it’s having on their relationship. What I see for these couples is a lack of respect and having a partner that they experience as having each other’s back is a central part of any relationship
Physical Relationship is not ignored but encouraged
A active physical relationship is an essential part of a healthy relationship. There are two essential features to a physical relationship; both have to do with touch and sexuality. One of the most important pieces of a healthy physical relationship is daily touch. Affection is an essential ingredient for most people to feel loved. If you and your partner are not touching a great deal, there is a basic need that all human beings have that is not present in your relationship.
I have repeatedly told couples in my office foreplay begins when you wake up in the morning and you reach over and kiss and hug your partner, telling them how much you love them. When is the last time that you reached out and held your partner in your arms telling them how lucky you feel that they’re in your life? Do the two of you cuddle on the couch together? When you’re getting dressed in the morning and you see your wife or your husband naked do you tell them that they’re sexy, touch and kiss them in intimate ways ?
These are just some examples of ways to participate in making sure that your affection with one another is a daily occurrence.
How often are you being intimate and sexual with one another? Research shows that 80% of couples need to have an active sexual relationship,(active is defined by each couple differently) in order to feel like they have a happy marriage. This is a requirement if you’re going to have a relationship where both of you feel fulfilled.
One of the more misunderstood things about men is that most woman do not understand that sex for men is a path that leads emotional closeness. As men age, they need affection, touch, and emotional closeness to have a satisfying sexual experience. That’s one of the reasons I often hear from women that they are much happier with their husbands when they’re in their 50s and 60s.
This is obviously not an exhaustive list of characteristics of a healthy relationship. I feel they are the important ones. Hopefully This information will allow each of you to determine what areas of your relationship may need some focus to improve the satisfaction for both of you.