Relationships 101 — The Practical Side
“You don’t need love to make a relationship last.” I recently heard this quote at a speaking engagement. The topic was marriage and the expert was illustrating how love gets us into our relationships, but that it takes much more than that for a love relationship to stand the test of time. For a relationship to grow, have meaning and weather life’s challenges, each member must know and employ certain skills. When two people start with a foundation of love and use positive relationship skills, they experience a healthy, loving and satisfying relationship where they both feel known, loved and supported.
So, what kind of skills are the glue that holds a relationship built on love together? A trained and licensed Orlando couples’ therapist can help you identify the skills you possess (and those you lack) in your relationship…no matter what type of relationship you are in (dating, married, heterosexual, gay, lesbian, etc.), or what you are currently facing in that relationship. A seasoned psychotherapist will meet with you and your partner (most likely together and separately) to identify your concerns and design a treatment plan that meets both of your needs. You may benefit from individual, couples’ and/or family therapy with one of our mental health specialists, depending upon your needs.
After a few sessions with your therapist, you will begin to more deeply understand, a) the areas of your relationship that need improvement, b) how these areas arrived at this state, and c) what you can do individually and jointly to make things better. However, there are some basic relationship skills that may help you even before you make an appointment with one of our licensed counselors—skills I wish I had known before I ever found myself in my first serious relationship. Here are some of those helpful relationship skills:
- Love & Respect: I think this one goes without saying, but all relationships should be built on these two basic principles.
- Weekly Dates: At least once a week you should sit down with your partner for some quality time. If you have money, childcare, time and everything else you need, go out on a real date. If you cannot do this, have the best sort of date possible. For example, if you work opposite schedules, meet together for lunch. If you have a new baby and can’t get out, put the baby down for the night and have a date night in the living room on a picnic blanket. Be creative!
- Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say: This one seems obvious, but it is important to make your requests and feelings known in a positive and straightforward manner.
- Remember You Are On the Same Team: When problems arise, it is easy to get stuck in our own patterns of thinking and forget that we are a member of a team. Working with our partners empowers us to tackle life’s issues as we draw wisdom and support from one another.
- Ask for Help: Relationships are not only fun and wonderful, but helpful. When you are struggling, ask your partner for help. Try to be specific. For example say, “I need at least one night a month/week out with my friends.”
- Use “I statements”: When sharing your thoughts and feelings, remember to begin your sentences with “I feel…” This simple phrase does wonders for relationships. It conveys kindness and thoughtfulness and keeps your partner from instantly feeling defensive.
- Be together and apart: Make sure to pursue individual and shared interests. If you do not have any shared interests, make a plan to try something new together every few months. It is important to do what you love–alone and with your partner.
- Work on yourself: Take care of yourself mentally, physically and emotionally so that you can be healthy and present for your partner. Self-care includes things like counseling, proper diet, rest, meditation, exercise and down time.
- Sacrifice: Remember that all great relationships require some level of sacrifice. We each have to give up some things to have the best relationships possible. However, the sacrifices we make are more than worth it to feel known and loved by the person we value most.
Whatever your relationship needs, an Orlando psychotherapist can help you. Life Enhancement Counseling Services provides pre-marital, marital, couples’ and family counseling. Our therapists specialize in communication skills and have training in the Gottman Method of couples’ therapy. Healthy, intimate relationships are one of life’s most fulfilling experiences. If yours is in need of help, please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment.