Human beings crave intimacy. One of our basic needs is the need to love and be loved. Yet people have a lot of trouble creating and continuing intimacy in relationships. Here are some basic guidelines for relationships from many sources and experts. Pay attention to the ones you could use help with and practice, practice, practice.
- Choose a partner wisely and well. We are attracted to people for all kinds of reasons. Evaluate a potential partner as you would a friend; look at their character, personality, values, their generosity of spirit, the relationship between their words and actions, their relationships with others, especially their parents and siblings.
- Know your partner’s beliefs about relationships. People have different and often conflicting beliefs about relationships. You don’t want to fall in love with someone who expects lots of dishonesty in relationships; they’ll create it where it doesn’t exist.
- Don’t confuse sex with love. Especially in the beginning of a relationship, attraction, chemistry and pleasure in sex are often mistaken for love.
- Know your needs and speak up for them clearly. A relationship is not a guessing game. Many people, men as well as women, fear stating their needs and, as a result, camouflage or try to ignore them. The result is disappointment at not getting what they want and anger at a partner for not having met their (unstated) needs. Closeness cannot occur without honesty. Your partner is not a mind reader.
- Respect, respect, respect. Inside and outside the relationship, act in ways so that your partner always maintains respect for you. Mutual respect is essential to a good relationship.
- View yourselves as a team, which means you are two unique individuals bringing different perspectives and strengths. That is the value of a team—your differences.
- Know how to manage differences; it’s the key to success in a relationship. Disagreements don’t ruin relationships. Learn how to handle the negative feelings that are the unavoidable byproduct of the differences between two people. Stonewalling or avoiding conflicts is NOT managing them. How you manage the differences with respect and kindness will determine your success.
- If you don’t understand or like something your partner is doing, ask about it and why he or she is doing it. Talk and explore, don’t assume. Never make assumptions!
- Solve problems as they arise. Don’t let resentments simmer. Most of what goes wrong in relationships can be traced to hurt feelings, leading partners to erect defenses against one another and to become strangers. Or enemies.
- Learn to negotiate. Modern relationships no longer rely on roles cast by our culture. Couples create their own roles, so that virtually every act requires negotiation. It works best when good will prevails. Because people’s needs are fluid and change over time, and life’s demands change too, good relationships are negotiated and renegotiated all the time.
- Listen; truly listen, to your partner’s concerns and complaints without judgment. Much of the time, just having someone listen is all we need for solving problems. Plus it opens the door to confiding. And empathy is crucial. Look at things from your partner’s perspective as well as your own.
- Work hard at maintaining closeness. Closeness doesn’t happen by itself. In its absence, people drift apart and are susceptible to affairs. A good relationship isn’t an end goal; it’s a lifelong process maintained through regular attention.
- Take a long-range view. A marriage is an agreement to spend a future together. Check out your dreams with each other regularly to make sure you’re both on the same path. Update your dreams and goals regularly.
- Never underestimate the power of good grooming.
- Sex is good. Pillow talk is better. Sex is easy, intimacy is difficult. It requires honesty, openness, and self-disclosure; confiding concerns, fears, and disappointments; as well as hopes and dreams.
- Never go to sleep angry. Try a little tenderness and talk through things another day.
- Apologize, apologize, and apologize. Anyone can make a mistake. Repair attempts are crucial and highly predictive of marital happiness. They can be clumsy or funny, even sarcastic—but willingness to make up after an argument is central to every happy marriage.
- Some dependency is good, but complete dependency on a partner for all one’s needs is an invitation to unhappiness for both partners. We’re all dependent to a degree—on friends, mentors, spouses. This is true of men as well as women.
- Maintain self-respect and self-esteem. It’s easier for someone to like you and to be around you when you like yourself. Research has shown that the more roles people fill, the more sources of self-esteem they have. Meaningful work—paid or volunteer—has long been one of the most important ways to exercise and fortify a sense of self.
- Enrich your relationship by bringing into it new interests from outside the relationship. The more passions in life that you have and share, the richer your relationship will be. It is unrealistic to expect one person to meet all of your needs in life.
- Cooperate, cooperate, and cooperate. Share responsibilities. Relationships work ONLY when they are two-way streets, with much give and take. Remember that men who do more chores around the house have more sex.
- Stay open to spontaneity.
- Maintain your energy. Stay healthy.
- Recognize that all relationships have their ups and downs and do not ride at a continuous high all the time. Working together through the hard times will make the relationship stronger.
- Make good sense of a bad relationship by examining it as a reflection of your beliefs about yourself. Don’t just run away from a bad relationship; you’ll only repeat it with the next partner. Use it as a mirror to look at yourself, to understand what in you is creating this relationship. Change yourself before you change your relationship.
- Understand that love is not an absolute, not a limited commodity that you’re in or out of. It’s a feeling that ebbs and flows depending on how you treat each other.
And finally, here is the advice of Lyndon B Johnson, “I have learned that only two things are necessary to keep one’s wife happy. First, let her think she’s having her own way. And second, let her have it.”
Adapted from Psychology Today