This season on X Factor USA, a duo (who also happen to be a couple), Alex and Sierra, have been blowing judges and audiences away with their talent — as well as the power of their relationship. The love and caring that they share when they perform together is palpable, adds depth and feeling to their performances and makes people feel good when they watch them. This all got us to thinking about what makes some relationships good and other relationships truly amazing. Being in a healthy, deeply loving relationship gives a person the strength to accomplish anything they want. Part of the reason these couples want to be their best selves and continue to grow is because they want to share positive experiences with their partner. Having someone to share our success and experience actually makes our wins feel bigger and more exciting.
An example of how this pattern plays out occurred on a recent episode in which Alex and Sierra received criticism about their performance. It was strongly suggested that Alex's talents were being negatively affected because Sierra wasn't seen as "an equal" in terms of talent. You could see the sadness both partners felt at the idea that something they were or weren't doing could negatively impact the person that they loved. While this was difficult to hear, it was clear that after that show their performances improved and deepened. What was also clear was a renewed drive for success and the desire to be their best for one and other. They could have turned on each other or allowed the criticism to come between them but they didn't. In essence, they used a difficult situation to deepen their resolve, rather than come between them.
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Interested on learning how to do this in your own partnership? Here are 4 tools you can begin to incorporate today that will shift your relationship from good to amazing.
1. Protect And Nurture
Strong couples have the ability to protect and nurture their relationship above all else; they don't allow other things to get in the way. Sometimes this can get complicated. Children, work, aging parents, and other responsibilities can have seemingly endless and immediate needs. It takes practice and fortitude to learn how to navigate the complications of life. Couples who consistently make time for themselves, either through regular date nights or weekends away, have a stronger bond. They have the strength it takes to deal with life without it interfering with their positive feelings for each other.
Often couples who have difficulty communicating will avoid one-on-one time in order to minimize conflict or feelings of frustration and loneliness that they don't know how to resolve. To stay connected for the long haul, couples need to be willing to face the difficulties and figure out how to connect. Doing so will build incredibly strong foundations that allows you to conquer any challenge that comes your way.
2. Take Responsibility & Show Support
Each person takes responsibility for helping create each other's dreams. Sometimes that will mean making your partner's dreams more important than yours. Most people don't understand how profound this simple act of giving can be. Although this can be difficult, this kind of maturity and commitment to your partner will bring incredible rewards over time. Even if your partner's dreams don't seem to directly improve your life, you will experience improvement in the relationship as a result of supporting your partner. When your dreams are shared, you will increase the depth of your relationship. Over time, this will enhance how you feel about each other and what you dream is possible.
3. Shared Interests & Activities
Connected couples share interests and activities. We live in a society that encourages individualism, but it is important to remember to spend time together doing things you each enjoy. No, you may not want to go to the ballet or watch a football game but if doing so makes your partner happy (and by "happy", I mean they feel loved and valued, then it is worth it). Here's one caveat — allowing yourself to feel joy versus resentment at doing something you don't like is vital. Enjoy that your presence is making your partner happy. Feel good that you are giving to someone simply to make them happy. Taking turns choosing the activity allows you to learn more about yourself and your partner which is a life-long endeavor.
4. Let Go
A little bit of amnesia goes a long way. Couples that learn to let things go and focus on their partners strengths versus their mistakes or imperfections report much higher satisfaction levels in their marriage. We all have moments we regret, moments when we weren't our best selves. Couples that remember all of the slights and keep score end up distant and lack the motivation needed to improve the relationship. They stay stuck in these repeated patterns of hurting one another over and over. As therapists we've see this pattern destroy many marriages. When you know that you are the most important person to your partner, it is easier to forgive their imperfections. You recognize that they are still on your side, fully supporting you, even if they have unintentionally caused you distress.
We wish Alex and Sierra the best! While we hope they win the contest, as marriage counselors we know that no matter the outcome of the contest, their love will make them successful.
Stuart Fensterheim LCSW and Kanya Daley MFT
Kanya Daley, MFT and Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW are experts at YourTango. They love to help our readers learn more about creating satisfying relationships. They look at the questions you post on the YourTango question board and provide answers and insight giving both a male and female perspective. If you have a burning question, post it on the board and look back to see if you've gotten an answer.
Stuart is a Marriage and Family counselor with a private practice in Scottsdale Arizona. Stuarts practice in exclusive to individuals, couples and families who are having relationship difficulties. Stuart has advanced training in Emotionally Focused Therapy helping families who are having difficulty feeling close and connected to one another. He assists families in finding ways to deepen their relationship by understanding what each persons needs in the relationship. He helps families develop a pathway to establishing a closeness where everyone feels important and special. For more information on his practice go to http://www.thecouplesexpertscottsdale.com
Kanya is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a Private Practice in Paoli,Pennsylvania. She specializes helping couples deepen their levels of intimacy and closeness as well as coaching single women ready to create meaningful relationships. Find out more about Kanya at www.kanyadaley.com. Download her new e-book for single women at www.kanyadaley.com/Get-Your-E-book.html.
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