Relationship skills are commonly considered to be the foundation of a healthy relationship; things like communication, conflict resolution, and so on. I respectfully disagree with the conventional view on this matter. Relationship skills are a great asset, but the actual foundation of a relationship is the individual nature of each person.
Most problems I have encountered in my couples counselling practice are individual issues predating the beginning of the relationship. In other words, they are resolved primarily by addressing the individual, with a secondary strategy of addressing any shortcomings in the relationship itself.
The idea behind pursuing individual development to increase relationship stability is straightforward. If you aren’t happy with yourself, you aren’t going to be happy with anyone else. Individual issues like jealousy or insecurity can undermine even the strongest bond between people.
If you want a strong foundation and a healthy relationship, here are a few things you can start with.
Get your wilds out before you settle down.
Hello midlife crisis, infidelity, and resentment – people who are dishonest with themselves about being ready and willing to settle down are in for a difficult future. I see this most frequently in young couples or couples faced with high levels of social pressure. In both cases the result is called cognitive dissonance, which basically means holding conflicting views simultaneously.
Since two different views cannot coexist within the same person, someone who is not being congruent with their desires will start to feel tension. Imagine yourself as an elastic band, and incongruent living as the tension. The more you try to deviate from how you truly want to live, the more tension you’ll feel, until you eventually snap and do what you really want to do.
Be honest with yourself. If you want to go party, try random hook ups, experiment with drugs, or whatever, then go do those things. Better now than ten years down the road when you have a family and a well developed career. You can’t just deny your urges and pretend they aren’t there – if you have stuff you want to do, do it before you find that special someone.
Discover your passions and pursue them.
A passionate person is an attractive person. If you have no passions, hobbies, or desires in life, not only will you seem one dimensional, but you’ll lack that sense of confidence and fulfillment a person has when they’re doing what they love. If you aren’t fulfilled by your sense of passion and purpose in life, you will try to use your romantic partner to fill that void. This includes things like hanging out with friends, going to the gym, and so on… it’s important to maintain your individual hobbies even when things get more serious with your partner.
You will become dependent, needy, and emotionally off balance, none of which are attractive qualities. When you become dependent on someone or develop a need for their validation and approval, it guarantees relationship issues. Often, these feelings manifest in the form of jealousy, suspicion, and a low sense of self-worth.
If this is an area of concern for you, you need to check out this article on building confidence and self-esteem.
Develop a balanced lifestyle and stick to it.
When people are single, they tend to develop a lifestyle that allows them to feel happy and content being alone. This can be referred to as the process of learning to be comfortable with yourself; you learn how to organize your life in a way that’s fulfilling for you. You learn about who you are, what you like and don’t like, you figure out your boundaries, and so on.
Happy, successful people are balanced people; they have a great sense of how to maintain different areas of their life. Don’t let a love interest pull you away from that. If you go to the gym three nights a week and have poker on Mondays, a relationship shouldn’t interfere with those things. If you stop taking care of yourself or neglect your lifestyle, your relationship will suffer.
Being comfortable with yourself and your lifestyle is the biggest piece of your relationship’s foundation. It’s the knowledge about your own needs and wants, and being able to organize your life in a way that allows these needs and wants to be fulfilled. More importantly, it helps develop the awareness you need to know when someone isn’t a good fit for your wants and needs, leading to a better chance of a long lasting healthy relationship.
What are your thoughts? How do you keep your relationship strong? Leave a comment below!