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Building up strong relationships

This week I will share some good practices for a healthy and functioning long-term relationship.
Long-term relationships and marriages are a lot of work but a loving partnership through to old age is what we all aspire to when we get married.

I have been a marriage commissioner in my community for 7 years and have been part of some interesting and varied weddings. I have been at marriages where I felt such a strong love and respect between the couple, and also been at a few that were combative or impulsive. It is my job is to marry the couple regardless, but I always hope and pray that they find their way to a lifelong deep committed friendship in their married life together. Long-term relationships and marriages are a lot of work but a loving partnership through to old age is what we all aspire to when we get married.

At many weddings I share something I wrote about relationships. This is the short version: The married relationship is like a ship (canoe) we are in with our new relation (husband or wife). Sometimes the waters are calm and those inside the ship are centred and focussed, moving forward in united direction in their journey together. These are the good times and things seem to flow smoothly. But sometimes the environment is stormy and the ship loses its direction or takes on water and becomes difficult to navigate, or it hits the rocks and is damaged, needing repair. Sometimes, even in calm waters those inside the ship may try steering the ship in opposite directions, or may be off-centred or uneasy, causing the ship to roll. Sometimes there are creatures outside the ship that try to climb in or hang on and cause damage to the ship or affect its direction. These are uneasy times that require extra work to stay the course of the original intention for being in this relation-ship. There are your individual needs and the needs of the relation-ship. Please always be aware of the state of your “ship” and do what it takes to mend it rather than having only your individual needs in mind. Sometimes seeing the best in each other and having gratitude for each other is enough, but sometimes deep vulnerability, trust, understanding and forgiveness is required to mend damage done by internal or external factors.

Last week I shared some relationship pitfalls and how to determine if one is in a dysfunctional relationship. This week I will share some good practices for a healthy and functioning long-term relationship. Hopefully as you read this you see these qualities in your relationships.

Know Thyself – If you have a good relationship with yourself, knowing both the value you bring to the relationship and anticipating your part in the challenges you will face, you have a stronger chance of feeling in partnership. If you start competing – acknowledge to yourself that you are being competitive. This keeps the ego in check.

Skillful Communication without the need to compete or battle is one of the most important factors in any relationship Asking each other for their opinions and feelings honours them and makes them feel heard and valued.

Respect the other’s point of view without criticizing, shaming or competing. Respect oneself enough to have healthy boundaries and trust.

Equality in a relationship is key to feeling valued and respected. Without equality there can not be a meaningful partnership. Share the power rather than competing for it.

Trust in each other that the other party is honest and wants what is best for the relationship. Being vulnerable in our relationships can foster a deeper trust.

Feeling safe is emotional and physical and requires trusting deeply. One must feel safe in the knowing that their partner won’t try to hurt them physically or intentionally hurt their feelings.

Support each other’s interests and support each other through challenges. This helps the other feel safe and valued while solidifying a commitment to partnership. Turn “to” each other rather than “on” each other when times are challenging.

Be Authentic in who you are and never change who you are for another, to please them or their family.  You don’t need approval, and people generally respect those who respect themselves. Changing who you are can cause feeling of resentment in the long-run (which kills relationship).

Be Honest with each other around intentions, feelings, reactions, problems and concerns. Honesty breeds trust which strengthens the relationship bond.

As with all relationships, things won’t always be ‘smooth sailing’. In the case of an argument or disagreement try to be as fair as possible without taking anything personally. Stay calm, address the problem and think of a solution. Keeping our emotions in check and taking a break when things get heated is better than ending up in escalating conflict. Avoid accusing the other and making the other wrong as this leads to competition and the need to defend. No matter how angry you get, don’t say things with the intention to hurt each other and don’t argue just for the sake of winning as relationships can’t survive someone winning. 

To your long healthy relationship...

Claire Nielsen is a health coach, author, public speaker and founder of The information provided in the above article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional health and medical advice. Please consult a doctor or healthcare provider if you're seeking medical advice, diagnoses and/or treatment.