Seven Steps to a Happier and Healthier Relationship
Jan 30, 2012 09:48PM
By Reverend Margaret Laveda
Everyone wants to be in a loving relationship, but often, relationships are not as healthy, happy or fulfilling as couples would like them to be, so they settle. Partners make excuses for each other and themselves. Finally, one partner realizes the relationship hasn’t been working for a long time and decides not to go along with the charade anymore—a painful and sad situation for everyone.
Couples can avoid letting the relationship degrade to this point. Just like a garden, a relationship takes work, but the labor invested yields rewarding fruits.
Here are seven steps to keeping a relationship healthy.
1. The first step is to know oneself. People need to know their own strengths and weaknesses and be humble enough to recognize and acknowledge their shortcomings when they arise. Healthy relationships comprise two people that have already done some work to know themselves.
2. The next step is for the partners to work on developing good communication skills. By learning how to listen emphatically and actively to each other, each partner can be heard and feel equally valued.
3. The other part of communicating is the ability to express oneself honestly in the relationship. Partners need to learn how to share difficult feelings. If they brush away the occasions when they feel hurt, the ignored feelings will fester and may eventually erupt into anger and conflict.
4. Another aspect of honesty is faithfulness. Healthy relationships happen between two people that make a commitment of faith to each other and to the relationship. When people cheat on their partners, they aren’t in the relationship. Having either a one-nightstand or a long-term affair is equally devastating to the integrity of the committed relationship. If a transgression happens, the one who was unfaithful should respect his or her partner enough to be honest, giving that partner the right to decide how to respond.
5. Happy relationships are not about always being together. Each partner needs to find their own sources of fulfillment and happiness that are not dependent upon the other. A partnership is a union in which two people enhance each other’s lives. However, each individual needs to have his or her own life, too, preferably one that is full of creativity, friends, work and satisfying activities.
6. Partners must give each other the freedom to build and nurture friendships outside the relationship, to find themselves spiritually and to grow independently.
7. Finally, partners that are able to forgive have healthier relationships and happier lives. Forgiveness washes away resentments that cause bitterness in people’s hearts. Learning how to truly forgive is a skill that brings peace to the relationship and to the one granting the forgiveness.
These seven steps require work and dedication, and as with a garden, couples will reap what they’ve sown. When the weeds of anger, criticism and selfishness are pulled out and faithfulness, freedom and forgiveness are nurtured, relationships blossom beautifully.
Rev. Margaret Laveda is a priest and the director of the Center of Light, in Milwaukee. She teaches public secular and spiritual classes that bring greater harmony, peace and consciousness to all aspects of life. For more information, visit Milwaukee.CentersofLight.org.