1. Respect is more important than love
2. Checking in about the Relationship
3. Not taking each other for granted
4. Protecting quality time
5. Letting go of the small stuff
6. Making amends, owning your behavior
7. Working on your sex life
8. Actively create a future together
Hello, my name is Sevin Philips. I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist and I’ve been working with couples for many years. During this time, I have found 8 key principles that really help in creating a healthy, long-lasting relationship.
If you’re dating or you’re new in a relationship, these principles are excellent for developing a foundation for the relationship you want.
And if you’ve been in a relationship for a while, even if you’re having challenges in that relationship, these are the principles to practice together to make it better.
The first principle is respect is more important than love. We all know that love is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. It’s the thing that drew us together in the beginning.
But what happens over time is if we’re disrespectful – we’re bickering, we’re defensive, we cut each other off, we start name calling, whatever the disrespect is – we erode our love over time.
It happens really suddenly sometimes that we don’t even notice. Then we wake up one day and we find that we’re adversaries with the person that we were in love with.
So I want you to take this seriously. Take your behavior seriously and stop. Don’t allow it anymore. Make an agreement with your partner that if anyone becomes disrespectful that you can call a timeout and take a break until you can come back and talk about it later.
One more thing I want to say is I know oftentimes underneath, a lot of times we’re hurt or our needs are not being met and that’s kind of why we’re being disrespectful. It’s not a justification for it, but I want to say this because I know sometimes we need to address larger issues going on underneath in order to heal that.
The second principle is checking in about the relationship. This could happen once a month, once every three months, but it needs to happen regularly beyond just “How are we doing?” “Oh, okay.”
Actually talking about the details of our relationship. “How are we doing with our sex life? How are we doing with our finances? How are we doing with our household stuff?” Is there any harm that’s been done to either one of you that you want to express?
Now this isn’t a blame session. This is the kind of place where you can just speak from your experience and have somebody else hear you. Even if a solution doesn’t come apparent, you at least get to air it out. This way, you get to prevent things from building up over time.
I want you to take these two principles to heart and I’ll be back with part two.
8 Principles for Creating a Healthy Relationship Part 2
Principle 3 is not taking each other for granted. It’s a very easy thing to do, especially the longer you’ve been with somebody, you just stop appreciating how you support one another on a daily basis.
Remember in the beginning of the relationship you might’ve been paying attention and noticing what the person was doing for you that felt really good? You’d say that. “Wow, I love when you do that” or “Thanks so much for doing the dishes. I was really tired.”
Whatever the small and seemingly insignificant comments are, they have great impact on one another. Especially the longer you’ve been with one another, to know the other person appreciates you really encourages you to want to do more.
So I ask that you install this no matter where you are in your relationship. Appreciate each other often.
Principle 4 is protecting quality time. You might remember when you were dating when you were looking forward to seeing the other person. You knew the other person was holding that spot, that date night, as important. You just felt really good about that.
In a long-term relationship, it’s very easy in day-to-day life. We have work, we have kids, we have many things that we actually put our relationship on the back burner for. Some of that is understandable, because the relationship stalls. “We’re not going anywhere.”
But what happens is we kind of lose that connection over time. So oftentimes what happens as a default is people call their quality time their down time. In other words, the time we spend together is when we come home from work, we’re relaxing, not talking; maybe watching TV. Whatever it is. And it’s really different.
It’s actually really different when you were dating earlier on when you were actually talking, engaging and looking forward to seeing one another.
I suggest that you both decide once a week, for example, having a date night. “Every Sunday, we don’t do anything with anybody else. This is our day together.” Really protect that time and looking forward to it again. It’s a great way to reconnect and it’s a great way to remind each other how important you are to one another.
8 Principles for Creating a Healthy Relationship Part 3
Principle 5 is letting go of the small stuff. You know what I’m talking about. It’s the dishes, it’s the “You’re always late,” and even asking your partner to change forever and they haven’t done it and you get really steamed up about it. It’s that stuff.
I know there will be things in your relationship that will be very important to you that you’ll need to stand up for and ask your partner for their support or their help. However, I want you to really choose your battles. Some of the stuff we need to be willing to let go of if we’re going to be happy with somebody and live our lives with them.
Life is very short, and if you’re getting a lot from your partner, they’re the person you want to spend your life with, be willing to live with some of this stuff. They probably have to learn to live with some stuff that you have as well.
Principle 6 is making amends and taking responsibility for your own behavior. When you’re hurt in an argument or in a relationship, sometimes we don’t want to make amends. We feel wronged and we feel justified. That’s a very dangerous mindset. I’m asking you to turn this around.
In other words, take responsibility for your own behavior. It’s the only thing you can take responsibility for. Even if he or she started it, if you end up finishing it, make amends for that. You’d be amazed how contagious and infectious humility is.
For example, somebody’s wronged you and you say something like this: “You know, I may not agree with what you said in our argument yesterday but I want to tell you that the way I reacted wasn’t appropriate, and it wasn’t respectful and it’s not the way I want to be with you.” Something like that where you just take responsibility for your side.
You’d be amazed at how much your partner’s heart might melt as a result of doing this. You’d be even further amazed that it will really give them permission to want to do the same thing.
And it really puts us in a different position. Instead of being adversaries again, we’re responsible for our own behavior, we make amends when needed and we’re able to move forward and truly heal when we have these arguments and fights. We can get beyond them instead of them just building up.
8 Principles for Creating a Healthy Relationship Part 4
Principle 7 is working on your sex life. Many of us have a myth that if we have to talk about our sex life or if we have to work on our sex life that means there’s something inherently wrong with our sex. And it’s not necessarily true if you think about it.
You’re constantly getting to know yourself. I don’t care how old you are; there’s always more to explore in your own sexuality.
And if you’re with somebody for 20, 30 or 50 years, things are going to happen that are going to change how you feel about sex. What used to turn you on isn’t going to turn you on in the future. You need some sort of way to talk about this with your partner if you want to maintain and have a healthy sex life for a long period of time.
Even if you’re really uncomfortable talking about sex, you can even talk about that you’re uncomfortable talking about it and that can be the start of the conversation. “Hey, we’ve never done this. I know we need to, but I’m really scared and I don’t know how to start.” That’s a great way to get going.
Principle number 8 – creating a future together. Actively working on your future, thinking about what you want to do together and what you both really feel good about and looking forward to it is one of those characteristics I see in really healthy relationships.
What it does is it really sets you apart from being a roommate or just a friend. It’s the thing that actually makes us feel like we’re special, that we’re moving through time in a really unique way, that we’re bonded in this one way and we’re looking towards the future together.
This actually takes some effort sometimes. We get into the day-to-day life and we just kind of go through life. Sit down. Talk to your partner. Figure out where you want to be. Dream and vision a little bit. Open up the doors. You normally say, “Oh, we can’t do that.” Just take that down and consider that. Maybe you can. “If we could, how could we?” Do some dreaming together. It’s a great practice.
Then bring it back down to reality and say, “Well, what’s the step in getting towards that?” and actively work on creating that together. It really brings you together and it really makes you feel like you’re a team.
These are my 8 principles for creating a healthy relationship. I hope you take them all to heart, practice them in your lives and have really, really satisfying relationships.