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Here at Core Values Counseling, we talk a lot about the Core Values Index™ and how unpacking the CVI™ can lead to some wonderful breakthroughs in your relationships. With this post, Eric will share his thoughts on what a good relationship looks like and feels like.

If you sit and watch people, how can you tell that they’re really in love? We can recognize it in an instant, but it doesn’t take a PhD or thousands of hours of counseling to see the markers of a great relationship. You can tell a couple is in love when you see that certain spark in their eyes as they look at one another. There’s a sense of respect and of mutual care. You can tell that they’re equally comfortable and capable of going out on their own with friends, mingling solo or as a couple. They’re not clingy. They can enjoy time apart but readily come back together. They’ve got that healthy sense of attachment and belonging. They’re connected. As a couple, they are aligned in their lives, in their purpose. There’s no mistaking it: they’re going in the same direction together, sometimes doing separate things but always supporting one another.

It’s like me and Sabrina with our kids: I’m not able to travel and help them with our grandkids, taking shifts in the middle of the night, after a new baby arrives. But I can be with Sabrina’s mom to free her up, so she’s available to help our kids. It’s a system of support that we’ve built for one another. I don’t do this begrudgingly; I celebrate and encourage my ability to help and her ability to be present with our family.

In some families, the kids don’t see that in their parents. Maybe they complain that the dad wasn’t around as much. But perhaps he sacrificed so that the mom could do more. What we find can be lacking in families like these is the outward expression of support for each other. Instead of a couple cooperating and supporting one another, what we see (and what the kids often see) is complaint and one parent or the other having a chip on their shoulder about the challenges of their role in the relationship.

Here’s another way to put it: in a loving, healthy relationship, what you don’t see says a lot. In healthy relationships, you don’t see the Four Horsemen: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling (at least not all the time).

You might be wondering how this applies to your relationship. So we’d like to offer some suggestions for a checkup on your relationship. This isn’t intended to make you dwell on the ways your relationship might be lacking. Rather, it’s an encouragement toward what you can strive for together in your relationship.

Here are five ways to check in on your relationship:

  1. Do you know your partner’s stressors?
  2. What are your partner’s highs and lows of this season of life?
  3. Are you able to state with confidence your partner’s dreams?
  4. Do you give your partner at least one long hug or kiss every day? 
  5. Can you list your partner’s highest core values?

Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a deeper dive into much of this. We invite you to discover with us how to take stock of your relationship, improve it, and get to that ideal place of being one of those couples whose love and connectedness is apparent and unmistakable.

And to close, here’s a fun related side note from Sabrina: 

Earlier this summer, we shared this blog post featuring an image of a couple that — much to our surprise and delight — turned out to be the in-laws of someone I’m close to, (we even attended her wedding 8 years ago!). She wrote immediately after we published the blog post to tell me about the family connection to that image! Apparently, her in-laws were delighted to see that their picture had actually been used in something that reflected who they really are and accurately represented their loving relationship — as opposed to ads for assisted living facilities, hospitals, etc. 

That certainly put a smile on my face! I’m reminded that that couple emulates what we’re talking about: loving one another. Accepting each other’s influence and encouraging one another. You can see it written all over their faces.

Eric and I have been married for 40 years. We’re at that age where we look back and say, “this is where we come from, and it’s good.” We’ve gone through our share of hard times, but we’ve made it to a place where we’re more in love than we ever have been. And we’re looking forward to the golden years ahead of us. 

Other couples approach this season with despair: is this all there is? We want to give them hope. We want to help them invest in their relationship and be intentional about improving it, because it can get better. Eric and I are living proof of that.