Some relationships just seem to work. The partners are compatible, their friends and families get along and they communicate well and resolve conflict easily. To achieve this kind of relationship magic, a lot of factors usually work together. We’ve outlined the leading factors that contribute to an effortlessly successful partnership so that you can see how your relationship stacks up.
Although fighting is not a pleasant aspect of any relationship, an occasional argument is inevitable when two people share a life. The way that you fight and how you recover from a blowout will define your relationship. The healthiest arguments deal only with the matter at hand and don’t involve insults or dredging up issues from the past.
Even if you and your partner can’t settle on a solution in the heat of the moment, you should at least be able to agree to disagree, and not let the bad feelings linger for days. And if there is a bigger issue that needs to be addressed, the healthy couple makes time to discuss it when everyone’s cooled down.
Couples should see arguments as opportunities to understand each other better and to grow.
Psychologist and marriage counsellor Marie Hartwell-Walker has ten rules for “friendly fighting”, and one of those is that couples should see arguments as opportunities to understand each other better and to grow.
You and your partner resolve your issues between yourselves, and don’t gripe about each other in different rooms at parties or on evenings out with your friends. You are loyal to each other and present a unified front to the rest of the world.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be aware of and tackle your partner’s flaws; it’s just that you should be dealing with those flaws in the privacy of your own home.
Some couples manage to make their relationships work even though they have very little in common, but in general, the recipe for relationship success is that you enjoy doing the same things together. After the first flush of romance, couples spend a lot of time together. It helps if that time can be spent doing things that both partners enjoy.
At the same time, it’s vitally important that you are able to spend time apart, comfortably. Partners that limit their loved ones’ access to other friends or are jealous of outside relationships or hobbies are not giving them room to flourish. You need to be secure in your relationship so that you can enjoy the freedom to be individuals, and embrace the growth you experience when you are apart.
While many people make a go of relationships in which the partners hail from different social, cultural, political or financial backgrounds, it just makes things easier if you don’t have to overcome extreme differences. This is particularly true if you are planning to have children together, because in child raising, people generally repeat the structure of their own upbringing.
It is very easy – especially when you have children – to fall into the couple trap of keeping score of both the good things you’ve done and the unpleasant things your partner has done, to demand some kind of reward or compensation later. In an ideal relationship, both partners should be equally kind to and considerate of the other, and no score-keeping is necessary.
Of course, it’s fine to take turns to wash the dishes, take out the rubbish or make the morning coffee, but when turn taking becomes score keeping, it’s time to investigate the underlying cause.
The relationship self-help book ‘The 5 Love Languages’ , has helped couples all around the world to identify both partners’ relationship needs and cater to them. The book defines five “languages”: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time and Physical Touch, and explains that if you perceive love in one way but your partner shows it in another, you will feel unfulfilled.
Whether or not you buy into the author’s specific philosophy, there’s no doubt that people express and perceive love in different ways. If you can both understand and adapt to the emotional needs of your partner, you’ll find that your sense of fulfilment in your relationship is greatly improved.
Money is usually listed as the number-one issue that couples fight about. It doesn’t matter how much you earn; your compatibility will depend on the similarities in your approach to spending and saving. You should also have a similar outlook on the importance of money and on the financial aspects of raising children – and you should communicate about day-to-day finances and long-term planning.
It is also vital that you are never guilty of financial infidelity – spending money without telling your partner because you know that they will disapprove.
Does your relationship display the eight factors for relationship success? Or are the odds stacked overwhelmingly against you? Don’t worry – for every couple that enjoys plain sailing, there’s another that beats the odds and makes a success of being incompatible. While you’re certainly in for an easier ride if your relationship has most of these factors, if you don’t have them, it doesn’t mean the only possible outcome is heartbreak.