While every relationship is unique, it’s inevitable that each will face conflict. That being said, there are certain things you and your partner can do to create a solid relationship.
To help you achieve a happy relationship built on trust, loyalty, and commitment, we tapped Lesli Doares, marriage coach and author of Blueprints for a Lasting Marriage to explain what traits take couples the distance. Here’s what she had to say:
It’s paramount to be honest with both yourself and your partner, says Doares. While this may sound like common sense, it’s not unheard of for someone in a relationship to avoid little details or hide certain opinions in an attempt to avoid conflict.
This is especially common early on in a relationship. And although you could be doing so with good intentions—whether you’re aware of it or not—being dishonest with or withholding information from your partner will inevitably cause issues. “You’ll be presenting a false self to [them]. This will either lead to feelings of betrayal and disappointment if you don’t follow through or feelings of resentment if you do, but don’t really want to,” Doares explains. You want to build a relationship where you not only trust one another, but also feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and being your true selves.
Setting clear boundaries early on in your relationship, as well as discussing them occasionally, is also crucial to a relationship’s foundation. This covers both how you want to be treated as well as how you want your relationship to be treated. “You have to know what is and isn’t acceptable to you and be able to enforce those boundaries in a healthy way. You teach people how to treat you, but if you accept inappropriate behavior you won’t feel safe or respected,” says Doares. “Boundaries also allow you to hold onto who you are while you’re part of a relationship. They allow you to create the independence that is the hallmark of a healthy relationship.”
It’s also important to note that your boundaries—as well as your partner’s—can shift and change throughout your relationship. Just be sure to communicate these changes with each other (refer back to that honesty point above).
One of the strongest pillars of a good relationship is good communication. What does that mean exactly? You and your partner should be willing to be honest, transparent, and open with one another. You should also allow each other to express how you’re feeling without jumping to defensiveness.
That doesn’t mean you’ll never encounter conflict, though. Since these moments are inevitable, the more important aspect is being able to talk about and work through those situations. “Knowing how to talk about tough stuff is a skill,” Doares notes. “Being able to handle disagreements and differences in a productive way is what will keep your love alive.”
You and your partner should always, without fail, treat each other with respect. When there’s respect in your relationship you recognize each other’s unique wants, needs, feelings, and boundaries, and don’t use controlling or manipulative behavior.
“The biggest challenge to a good relationship is recognizing and accepting that you are two different people,” says Doares. “Trying to ‘change’ each other is disrespectful. It’s always okay to ask for a different behavior, but not a different personality. Making room for the differences and being willing to learn from them is the real benefit of a relationship.”
A relationship ultimately won’t work out if you don’t regard each other as individuals. On the other hand, if you have respect for one another and acknowledge your differences, you’ll be able to learn and grow together.
Perhaps most importantly, you must actively love each other. “Love is a verb. Acting in a loving way that shows you actually like and value your partner is critical,” says Doares.
This doesn’t mean you’re always going to like what they’re doing. What it does mean, though: No matter what, you treat your partner with honesty, respect, and put an effort towards good communication. (See how it’s all coming together?)
You can also show your partner intentional love by being interested, showing empathy, and performing small acts of kindness. When you show appreciation and care for one another and are truly happy, you’re more willing to make things work.
Sharing these values with your partner isn’t a guarantee that things will always run smoothly or work out. They are, however, wonderful tools when it comes to facing conflict, showing your partner appreciation, and working towards a successful relationship.