Over the past 8 years, I have worked with hundreds of couples who are struggling with their relationship in various ways and have found that these 5 ways to build a strong, loving relationship are essential. The couples I work with all experience underlying emotions about not having their needs met, fears of losing their partner and/or longings for a deeper connection. Many have experienced a competing attachment which interfered with their connection and trust with one another, such as infidelity, alcohol problems, sex addiction, being a workaholic or focusing so much energy on their children to the expense of their relationship. Whether a couple has been together a few years or many decades, their struggle to stay connected and feel emotionally safe with one another is most often their primary underlying reason for the distress in their relationship. With so much research now that validates that humans are wired to connect, it’s even more important to find ways to PREVENT the disconnection in your relationship. Having a loving, strong bond is good for your health, as well, and there is proof that life expectancy is longer for those in a healthy relationships. So here are 5 ways to build a strong, loving relationship so that you can continue to thrive in love.
Letting your partner know what you need is one of the ways to build a strong, loving relationship.
Our society was built on the notion of being independent and not relying on others. However, in relationships, the truth is that being able to depend on one another is necessary, appropriate, and bonding. So don’t be afraid to let your partner know what you need – no one is a mind-reader, despite our wishes to the contrary! If you can share your worries, times of feeling let down, needs to be close and intimate, for example, your partner will know and not have to guess what you need. Even if you don’t get what you need, at least your partner is aware and can work towards meeting that need. Of course, don’t forget to allow time for your partner to also share their needs.
Letting your partner know when you are hurt is another way to build a strong, loving relationship.
In relationships that matter the most to us, we can often feel more hurt or disappointed by them when something happens that causes pain. At the same time, we often don’t want to hurt the feelings of someone we love by letting them know that we are hurt. However, by not saying anything, your partner will not know when they have said or done something that hurts you. Letting your partner know, in a loving manner, without anger, defensiveness, or shutting down, will go a long way to opening communication and understanding. As well, it builds a sense of trust that you can share your deepest feelings and be heard. Letting your partner know you want to share something to prepare them, can also help to set the groundwork for a good conversation. As well, being open to hearing their perspective will be vital to open-hearted sharing.
No one is a mind reader and with couples having such busy lives, especially if there are children to raise and both partners are working (or one is at home), there is a high likelihood that disconnection happens – there is often not enough time to share feelings and check in with one another. However, by not sharing, there can be a gulf that develops that both partners feel but are afraid to bring up. Or one person may feel it and the other is unaware. Either way, letting your partner know well before loneliness and isolation happens is so vital and an important way to build a strong, loving relationship. This also opens up communication and connection which helps partners feel less alone. Remember that experiencing a feeling with your partner helps ease the burden. Here’s a well-known video by Brene’ Brown that highlights the ways that being with your partner, even in painful moments, makes the experience less lonely and develops empathy.
To build a strong, loving relationship, it’s important to remember that when sharing your feelings, work hard at not being defensive or angry but rather open to sharing underlying feelings and hearing what the other person feels, as well.
There is a lot more neuroscience research these days about the effect of facial, non-verbal cues, voice levels and body-language on partners. Stephen Porges has found that there is an instinctive response to anger that our ears react to which puts people into a “fight or flight” response. This means that when a person hears someone who is angry with them (or even near by), the person really can’t think clearly but rather goes into a place of defense (flight or flight) to prepare for an attack. With our loved ones, if someone is raising their voice in anger, the other person can’t really hear or take in what is being said. So it’s even more important to wait until you are calm yourself and your partner is calm, before you can then share your feelings from a softer, more vulnerable place so that your partner can hear you. This advice is one of the ways to build a strong, loving relationship
A final way to build a strong, loving relationship is to carve out time every week (or daily) to check in with your partner about how the relationship feels.
Making your relationship the number one place on your list of priorities is so important. Most often, kids, work and then relationship is the order of what seems to be critical. However, not putting your relationship first is damaging and therefore, making sure to check in with our partner on a daily basis, is so helpful in keeping the relationship strong. Remember that finding ways to build a strong, loving relationship are vital to a lifetime of connection with your partner