When it comes to relationships, there's a lot of material written about how to repair the disconnect that so often occurs between partners. However, there's a lot to be learned from successful relationships as well.
To help, let me share a story of a couple I worked with who really epitomizes a successful couple. Janice and Martin came to see me because he had had an affair. Janice said, as so many others have said this situation, that she never thought she'd find herself in this position and that she was still willing to work to repair the marriage.
Initially, Janice was hurt and angry. However, she always expressed her feelings in a respectful way. Apart from dealing with the betrayal, we also explored the conflicts in their marriage that leave both of them feeling disconnected, alone and empty. The entire healing process, of course, took time. As it moved along, Martin was filled with shame and guilt. Janice responded with compassion. Little by little, they learned to open up, share and confide in each other. In the meantime, Martin's work was also affected and Janice, instead of being bitter, was able to be supportive.
So what can Janice and Martin teach us? Here are 5 important attributes of successful relationships:
- Respect: This is the #1 factor in a healthy, strong relationship. Respecting your partner allows you to accept who he or she really is, without trying to change the person. Respect also allows for you to really listen to each other.
- Good Conflict Management: In any relationship, there's going to be a time when the two people run into a conflict simply because they're two different individuals. Strong couples can handle their conflicts in a way that allows them to hear the other's needs with respect and understanding. Through this process, they actually become closer to one another.
- Humor: In general, humor is a great stress-buster. Successful couples are able to use humor to help during times of stress. Additionally, they have an attitude that allows them to let go of issues rather than holding on to grudges.
- Support For Each Other: People and relationships grow and change. In a successful couple, this process is supported. Rather than trying to get one's mate to be who you want him or her to be, you accept and encourage their strengths.
- Friendship: It's important that a couple feels that they can support one another. Additionally, sharing information (even gossip) actually has been shown to be connecting. Finally, that which is shared and private is kept within the boundary of the relationship.
Oh, by the way, Janice and Martin just celebrated a milestone anniversary — a graduation of sorts, I'd say!
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