Over the next few weeks, Eric and I will be sharing some vlogs with you to help bring hope, healing, and growth to your relationship with your spouse.
Oftentimes, couples get into relationships and think that everything is just going to develop wonderfully. They’re focused on the physical and emotional parts of the relationship and don’t realize there are many other layers to a healthy relationship that need attention, too. Left unaddressed, this can lead to disillusionment.
You have to actively learn and plan how to have a good relationship. Many of us come to a new relationship with only what we’ve learned from our family of origin — what was modeled for us? For some, it’s a model we want to emulate in our own relationship. For others, the model is exactly what we never want our relationship to look like. Either way, if you don’t know what you’re working with or against from your own upbringing, you won’t know what to fix or pay attention to in your relationship with your spouse.
This week, we’re tackling a big question: What does a great relationship look like?
To start, here are a few things that go into making your relationship rock-solid:
1. Have each other’s back
When we don’t have each other’s back, we can feel like our partner isn’t for us and may, in fact, be against us. It’s critical to make your partner feel important, that they matter to you, and that you’re in their corner. This echoes Dr. Sue Johnson’s three questions which we discuss here:
- Are you there for me?
- Will you come when I call?
- Do I matter to you?
You need to demonstrate your answers to those questions for your spouse through your words and actions, especially if the attachment style they were raised with left something to be desired.
We love to dig into this inner knowledge of one another through the Core Values Index™, but other resources like the 5 Love Languages and the Gottman Institute questions for building love maps are also helpful in starting this work of getting to know your partner in a deep way (and by the way, this is level of understanding is beneficial beyond your relationship with your spouse; it can aid your relationships with your children, friends, colleagues, and more).
2. Align your philosophy of life
It’s important to be in alignment with your partner about the things that matter to them. You can ask questions like:
- What’s your financial philosophy?
- What do you do for recreation/in your free time?
- How do you take care of yourself physically?
- How do you connect emotionally?
- How do you want your spiritual life to look?
- What do you want your sexual life to be like?
We’ve found that most couples find they have some work to do in at least one of those areas to resolve some ongoing conflict. Doing this requires learning how to talk about each of those topics, making sure that both you and your partner feel safe in the process.
A great place to start is with vulnerability. Brené Brown has done so much great work around the topic of vulnerability; we highly recommend you watch this TED Talk of hers (if you haven’t already).
In order to build a relationship, you have to be vulnerable with one another. You have to be willing to share with each other the underbelly, so to say, of each one of those conflicts related to the six philosophies we mentioned above.
If you’re anxious about being vulnerable, there are some tools that can help. The softened start-up and open-ended questions are two great ones to start with. The Gottmans report that “96% of the time, you can predict the outcome of a conversation based on the first three minutes of the interaction.” If it starts harshly, it will likely end harshly. If it starts soft, it will likely end soft.
Know your spouse’s heart. If you understand them deeply and know where they’re truly coming from, at their core, it’s easier to manage times when your partner may not communicate with as much gentleness and empathy as you’d like them to. The Gottmans refer to this work as love mapping.
3. Understand your partner’s highest core values
Can you name your partner’s highest core values? The Core Values Index™ is an integral piece of our work at Core Values Counseling. It shows the innate, unchanging core of who you are — and who your partner is. It helps you understand the lens through which your partner views life.
It’s amazing to see how couples will shift their perspective of their partner once they understand their partner’s core values. (More on this in our next blog/vlog.)
4. Have a shared vision
Eric and I have been married for over 40 years, and from the very beginning, we had a shared vision for what our life together would look like. We had a legacy in mind, and it was like a laser beam into the future, pointing us to what we were going to do together. In fact, it sometimes feels like that shared vision helped pull us through some of our hardest times as a couple.
We think it’s absolutely vital for couples to create shared meaning and have a shared vision for their relationship and life together.
Get In Touch
We’ll be unpacking these ideas in more detail in the weeks to come. In the meantime, if you have questions and would like to talk with us, please feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!