Relationship Advice

Six steps to a stronger relationship

Image: Thinkstock, posed by model
When it comes to having a happy and healthy relationship that can last the distance, there’s no secret, in fact the key is to keep it simple.
The latest divorce and marriage statistics from the Australian Bauera of Statistics show that divorce in Australia increased by 1.6 percent between 2009 and 2010. But while the divorce rate continues to climb, relationship experts say that there is no secret to a lasting marriage. Although they may take a lot of work, relationships all come down to simple team work.
Director of operations at Relationships Australia, Lyn Fletcher says divorce is usually brought on by breakdown in communication, changes in goals and direction in life, disputes over children, property or in-laws, or sexual infidelity.
Although some of these factors may be 'deal breakers', Lyn suggests that before you ride-off a relationship review where you may be going wrong.
"There will always be differences between two people in a relationship and therefore there will be a point where you rub up against one another," she said.
So when it comes to maintaining a healthy, strong and lasting relationship here are Lyn's golden rules:
Communication is vital
Lyn says communicating is the first and most vital step to a healthy relationship. She suggests setting aside specified time to just talk without interruption from other people, including children, or distractions like TV, phones or the computer.
"It is absolutely essential to communicate and that means not making assumptions and assuming that you know what the other person thinks and feels, but actually talking about it," Lyn said.
"And being reasonably honest, now I’m not talking about being brutally honest, I am talking about being reasonably honest and the honesty really isn’t about the other person it is about you.
"For example if you are angry with your partner and you are sitting there with gritted teeth saying 'no I'm not angry' but you have clenched your jaw and you’re red in the face, I’m sorry but your actions and your body language speak a lot louder than your words. You’re much better to be reasonably honest about how you feel."
Be kind to each other
It really is the little things that count. It can be as simple as remembering an important date, but it is important to be mindful of the little things.
Lyn says that for some this can be a challenge if they have not been treated fairly in past relationships.
"It takes a while if we have been hurt in the past as it's hard to put something like that aside and genuinely take this person with a good heart and good intentions," she said.
"If we cull that problem acknowledging that there is that good intention and good intent and good will it can make a whole lot of difference to how you hear things and how you do things."
Let go of false expectations
Don't expect your relationship to look a certain way. Lyn says that some of us set expectations too high and base them on fictional expectations from movies and the media that don’t relate to reality.
"The reality is that good partnerships need a lot of work, there is constant negotiation and there is constant compromise," Lyn says.
Her advice is to let go of expectations that love must look a certain way and instead, acknowledge and appreciate the good things your partner does, however they may present themselves.
Approach conflict peacefully
You are bound to have disagreements throughout your relationship, it is all a matter of how best to deal with it. Lyn suggests having a plan in place between you and your partner where you work through conflict together.
"This means being willing to be wrong and to give in as well as having an agreement in place about how to 'do conflict'," Lyn says.
Remember, it's not your job to change your partner
Accepting that it is not your responsibility to change your partner will help ease the strain on both within the partnership.
Lyn says that any attempts to change your partner will fuel resentment on both sides and will generally fail. Resign yourself to your differences and give your partner space.
"Make allowances for the other person in the relationship," Lyn says.
"They are a human being in the same way as you are and, hopefully, we are able to forgive them for their mistakes the same way that we would want to be forgiven."
Negotiation, compromise and teamwork
Lasting partnerships are built from these three actions. They not only strengthen the relationship but each individual as a person as well.
If you are still feeling unhappy in your relationship and feel that you have tried everything you can, Lyn suggests couples counselling as a good next step to take.
For more advice on couples counselling contact Relationships Australia.

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