All strong relationships have three things in common, according to Meredith Hansen, Psy.D, a psychologist and relationship expert: trust, commitment and vulnerability.
“Trust allows a couple to know that their partner is there for them, truly cares about them, is coming from a good place, and supports them,” she said.
It means keeping your word and putting your relationship first, especially when you’re confronting a decision that might compromise it, she said.
A minor example of following through is calling your spouse to tell them you’re safe if they worry when you’re running late, she said. And it means “demonstrating good character,” she said.
Commitment means “We’re in this together no matter what,” Hansen said. As a couple, you work on finding a solution, not walking away, she said. Building a commitment also happens on your end. Hansen suggested engaging in activities that connect you to your commitment every day.
For instance, have a playlist in the car that reminds you of your partner and schedule regular date nights, she said. If you’re married, have a playlist that reminds you of your wedding, frame your vows to remind you of your promises, discuss your growth as a couple on anniversaries, watch your wedding video and look through your photos, she said.
“Vulnerability is all about taking the risk to be your real, genuine self [with your partner],” Hansen said. For instance, being vulnerable includes sharing your feelings, not your thoughts, she said. Instead of saying “I feel like you did this on purpose” or “It seems you don’t love me anymore,” you explain, “I feel hurt, disappointed, worried or scared,” she said.
“Vulnerability requires trust and safety in the relationship, but if you can truly make the effort to reveal your softer side, then you’ll continue [to] grow closer as a couple,” Hansen said.
What Doesn’t Work
People think that strong relationships require communication training, Hansen said. While communication is important, it’s not much help if your trust is shattered, a partner is emotionally distant or a partner is unsure about staying in the relationship, she said.
Communication actually naturally improves, according to Hansen, after couples start reconnecting and stop defending themselves. In fact, her first goal with couples clients is to help them strengthen their connection and feel emotionally safe, she said.
Nurturing Your Bond Daily
Relationships require “small amounts of effort every day to nurture the bond between the two of you,” Hansen said. For instance, she suggested a variety of ways to strengthen your bond, including: kissing daily; sending sweet text messages; unplugging during dinnertime; walking together, touching often; listening often; asking your partner about their big meeting, their happiness, goals and dreams; making love; making eye contact; sharing your feelings and putting your partner first.
It’s also important to be able to pay attention and acknowledge the effect your fears and insecurities have on your relationship, she said.
“Remember that relationship satisfaction will continually ebb and flow, but if you practice coming back to your ‘why’ — why am I in this relationship, why does this relationship matter to me — you’ll easily get back on track,” Hansen said.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 23 Oct 2012
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Tartakovsky, M. (2012). 3 Keys to a Strong Relationship. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 7, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/10/23/3-keys-to-a-strong-relationship/