7 things all healthy relationships need to thrive

Illustration  (PHOTO: Getty Images/Gallo Images)
Illustration (PHOTO: Getty Images/Gallo Images)

So, you treated your significant other to flowers, chocolates or a fabulous dinner on Valentine’s Day. But what’s happened in the weeks since?

Of course, it’s great to make a fuss of your partner on the day that celebrates love, but it’s hardly a guarantee for living happily ever after.

As anyone who’s in a long-term relationship knows, keeping a partnership strong takes more than whispered sweet nothings and heart-shaped choccies in fancy wrapping.

We asked a few experts to share their tips and tricks for ensuring lasting love.

1. Learn to let it go

A relationship isn’t a contest, life coach Thato Choma says – and this applies whether you’re in a new romance or have been together a long time.

Stop trying to prove yourself right all the time, she advises.

Instead of jumping into a situation boots and all, take a step back and ask yourself, “Did I do something to help create this scenario? Could I do something to stop it arising again and again?”

Find a balance between learning from an experience and “punishing” the other person.

“This could even prevent you from finding love or stop your relationship from flourishing. Not being able to let go has a negative impact on a relationship.”

Top tip: Don’t sweat the small stuff, Choma says. If your partner does something that drives you crazy, let off steam with your friends instead of carping at them.  And remember, you probably also do things that makes your partner nuts.

2. Cultivate self-esteem

You need to love yourself before you can expect someone else to develop strong feeling for you, life coach Thato Choma says.

“Love isn’t about ‘a better half’ – it’s about two complete people coming together and sharing their lives and themselves.”

This doesn’t mean you have to be perfect, she adds. “Imperfections are what make relationships special. Your lover has chosen you to travel this journey of love, warts and all.” And it’s often the warts that make life more interesting.

Top tip: If you keep running yourself down, not only could your partner start seeing faults where perhaps there aren’t any, they could be affected by your negativity and start to question your relationship.

3. Your partner should be your best friend 

Her personal and work experience has taught her the importance of being “excellent friends” with your significant other, says YOU’s relationship advice columnist Louise Olivier, a psychologist and sex therapist.

Its vital people can talk about everything under the sun and interact on a deep, personal level. The heady early days of a relationship may all be about sizzling passion, but when this fade it’s the warmth and camaraderie that remain.

“It’s the basic foundation needed for a lasting relationship,” Olivier stresses. “You should be soulmates who talk about your dreams and bucket lists as well as everyday issues.”

Top tip: Don’t underestimate your partner. If you’re worrying about whether to tell them something difficult or deeply personal, ask yourself: would you tell your best friend? And the answer is usually, “Yes”.

Happy couple

4. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Nothing takes such a severe toll on a relationship as a lack of communication. While it’s not a train smash if you don’t know what your partner had for lunch, it’s absolutely imperative to create an environment where you can both talk and listen, says Paula Quinsee, a relationship expert and author of the books

Embracing Conflict and Relationship Tips. “Ensure you’re present in the relationship,” she says. “Remember, communication is key to everything you do because when there’s no communication there’s no connection – and when there’s no connection, things fall apart.”

Tip top: Make time for each other away from the kids, phones and TV. Try not to fob your partner off when they want to talk.  Yes, life is busy, but your relationship should be the hub around which everything else revolves.

5. Know what turns your partner on

Sexual intimacy is an extension of good communication, psychologist Louise Olivier says. If you don’t know what your partner likes between the sheets, and vice versa, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Partners must teach each other how to satisfy them, she adds. “Women must get over this notion that all men want is sex all the time. What they want is sexual intimacy, which is quite different. Couples often don’t communicate what they like, what they enjoy, what really turns them on.”

Experiment ask questions and pay attention. A good, satisfying, enduring sex-life is one of the greatest assets in a partnership. And remember, it’s not the quantity that matters but the quality.

Tip top: A lack of interest in sex can indicate an underlying problem and should be dealt with, Olivier says. “The sexual urge is one of the basic urges of a human being, so if you’re not that into it, see a sex therapist to find out why your feelings are inhibited.

6. Prioritise date nights

With so many things going on in their daily lives, couples sometimes forget to pause and check in with each other, says Anthea Nagoor, a counselling director at nonprofit organisation Focus on the Family Africa.

“Plan and discuss which night in the week should be date night so you’re both aware of it and free for that evening,” she advises.

Don’t spring a date night on your partner then be upset if they aren’t that keen – remember, you’re in this together so planning makes perfect. And stick to your date nights: don’t look for excuses. Cancel only if you absolutely have to, and then make another date as soon as possible.

Tip top: Nagoor also suggests couples take 15 minutes out of each day to connect with each other face-toface. “Even a simple cup of coffee in the lounge talking about your day will do. Stay connected and in tune with each other.”

7. Show appreciation

“Many relationships fall apart as a result of partners taking each other for granted. Use the 5:1 ratio: for every negative you find about your partner, you need to find five positives.

“Negativity makes the space between you and your partner unsafe and often causes you to disconnect,” Anthea Nagoor of Focus on the Family Africa says.

More tips

  • Learn how to deal with your issues.
  • Respect each other and your relationship.
  • Have set couple goals and actively set out to achieve them together.
  • Understand that it takes small actions each day to reap big rewards.
  • Remember that arguments and fights don’t mean the end of a relationship but rather an opportunity to learn and grow together.
  • If you value your relationship and partner, don’t be afraid to seek help if you’re stuck.
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