There are basically three types of intimate relationships that shape our personal life – close friends, romantic partners and family. However, the success of any of these, or of other relationships which we may see as less significant depends on what we as individuals are prepared to invest in them.
The key ingredients for any successful relationship are a willingness to trust in each other, to communicate effectively, be able to apologise when we make mistakes and take responsibility for own behaviour, to maintain a sense of humour and humility and above all to give each other and the relationship time by being actively involved and sharing a significant part of our lives together.
When a relationship feels good and is working well we have that sense that being in that relationship just feels right, when even sitting in silence is to feel at ease in each other’s company. An intimate relationship is defined as the state of knowing someone well, and to be known and to know the other is the ideal, though it takes time to achieve. This sense of all being well with each other and with the relationship is not always easy to maintain. Relationships evolve, change and sometimes break and experiences such as raising children, bereavement, loss of a job or job satisfaction, changes in financial circumstances, infidelity, and the stages of our own development may all impact on these relationships. These are challenges that most relationships encounter and it is the quality of the relationship that will most affect the processes of repair and growth.
So what are the key factors in sustaining and growing our relationships with others?
• Time: When the relationship is working or feels right to us we can become complacent. So attending to and being attentive to the other person and to the relationship is critical. Take time to check out with each other how things are and what, if anything, needs to change.
• Self-awareness: We should ask ourselves ‘How am I changing? Do I involve others when it should be a relationship decision? Do I accept responsibility for my own actions and forgive others when they’ve made a mistake? Do I have a ‘helping’ or a ‘blaming’ mind-set? Am I doing the best for us or for me? Do I communicate openly and honestly in order to let others know how I feel and why I am upset, or do I expect others to mind read my thoughts and feelings?’
• Positive outlook: Ask ‘Do I acknowledge others and their strengths and can I remain positive, good natured and demonstrate genuine warmth and love when things are difficult or do I criticise and use put – downs?’
• Ability to resolve conflict: Arguments are inevitable in any relationship but it’s our ability to resolve conflict in as non-blameful or confrontational way as possible that matters. We must try to demonstrate forgiveness and a willingness to reach a resolution rather than taking a stance of ‘I win, you lose’.
• To Listen: Listening requires a great deal of empathy (ability to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes). When we decide to really listen we make ourselves available to that person, thereby demonstrating the importance we are giving to that person and to the relationship. This says to them ‘I am here for you’, rather than ‘I’m trying to put my point across regardless of your feelings’.
If you are at that stage where you feel that your relationship with your partner or the ‘significant others’ in your life are in need of some attention, or that you want to explore your relationship with self, then Talk-In-Herts Counselling Services can offer you help and support. To find out more about the services we offer please see our website: www.talk-in-herts-counselling.co.uk or email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact us on 07530298388. We would be pleased to hear from you. We are based in Hatfield but we can also see clients in St Albans.