by Laura Garrett
Remember when Cinderella and Snow White found their Prince Charming, fell in love in the forest, married and lived happily ever after? Well no one ever tells us much about the happily ever after. In this article you will be introduced to four basic and useful steps for building and maintaining a healthy and long-lasting relationship with your significant other during the happily ever after.
Step 1: Know thy self
First, ask yourself, “Why do I want to be in a relationship? Am I running away from something, or from myself? Am I running toward my desire to have a companion to share life, to start a family and grow old with?” Perhaps you want to be in a relationship because that is what is expected.
Once you discover your reasons for being in a relationship it is important to explore your goals and make sure your partner has a similar vision, whether a long-term committed relationship or a friendship with benefits. Together, examine your beliefs about relationships as influenced by your family values. Your expectations and values are also important concepts to consider. You cannot expect your partner to be something that you yourself are not. For example, if you want your partner to be faithful, you might need to consider your own track record with fidelity.
Step 2: Identify a healthy relationship
Once you have explored what you want and are looking for, you are ready to learn how to find a healthy, interdependent relationship.
A codependent relationship is one in which both partners are dependent on each other for their identity and the fulfillment of their emotional needs. This type of relationship can create unhealthy family dynamics and include domestic violence or substance abuse.
An interdependent relationship is one in which each partner is whole and complete. Each knows who he or she is and has developed an independent lifestyle. Now both are ready to share their lives with another independent person. Each individual maintains his or her own individual identity while creating a shared life together.
Step 3: Learn effective communication skills
Communication is one of the key ingredients for building a strong foundation in a relationship. An important skill in communication is the use of I-messages, which are blame-free statements you use when you own the problem.
Following the I-message, your partner needs to clarify your statement to ensure you are both on the same page. Once on the same page, your partner then validates your feelings. Keep in mind, your partner does not have to agree with how you feel, but you do have the right to be validated. Following the validation, you and your partner can proceed to problem-solving if warranted.
Step 4: Become comfortable with conflict
A conflict is a disagreement in perspectives, beliefs, values or ideas that generally occurs when one’s needs are being infringed upon or not being met. What causes escalation in a conflict are the strong emotions that are attached to it.
The most effective way to broach a conflict is by using the communication skills that have been briefly addressed, in addition to sticking to fair fighting rules, such as:
- Stay in the present and address only the current and immediate problem. Any issue older than 24 hours is “garbage dumping.”
- Deal with one issue at a time.
- Take responsibility for your part in the conflict by using I-messages.
These are the four most important steps to building and maintaining a healthy relationship with your significant other. They’re the start to a happily ever after.
Laura Garrett, M.A, M.Ed, LPC, CACIII is the author of What Happens after Happily Ever After? She is a licensed professional counselor with an MA in Counseling Psychology. Laura has over 20 years’ experience working with individuals and couples who struggle with relationship, mental health and addiction issues. firstname.lastname@example.org, www.laurabridgeways.com