The beginning of a long-term relationship or marriage is usually bliss. But over time, you may wonder why you can’t see eye to eye or why marriage is so hard.
If you knew how to start a relationship the right way, would you do everything differently?
Saving your marriage or relationship is easier to do before the trouble starts. But, you can still start fresh, so to speak, with a long-term partner when things get tough.
Regardless of whether you’re starting a new relationship and want to do things right, or starting again with a marriage or relationship that’s struggling, there are a few principles to help you establish a healthy, lasting bond.
Researchers have studied thousands of married couples for over 40 years and found differences between successful, happy, and secure couples and unsuccessful, unhappy, and insecure couples.
Dr. Stan Tatkin, founder of PACT, in his book “We Do,” makes it clear how couples who develop security at the beginning will be more successful and have an enduring relationship.
If you practice these principles, you’re more likely to build a healthy, lasting relationship — it’s well worth the effort.
Here are 7 tips for how to start a relationship the right way — or start fresh again.
1. Ensure safety and security.
Security is important in relationships because it decreases anxiety and worries that the relationship might not exist tomorrow, creating the ability to bond and connect with your partner.
When couples create a team approach to their relationship and know how to care for and protect each other, they are more likely to have a secure relationship.
It’s important to base the foundation of your relationship on honesty and trust.
2. Co-manage each other’s emotional state.
When either partner brings up an issue, the other partner needs to listen and validate their partner’s concerns, fears, wishes, or dreams.
That doesn’t mean that you have to agree with your partner, but being dismissive or avoiding the conversation teaches your partner that you will not care for and protect them.
When partners continue to misattune and misunderstand each other’s needs, this builds up a “threat” in the relationship, triggering your bodies to look for more perceived threats.
The goal is to repair anything that happens quickly and correct old, unresolved fears and concerns.
3. Learn how to collaborate and cooperate.
Support each other because you are on the same team, trying to help each other get the ball down the field.
You need to work together, have each other’s backs, and help each other.
4. Accept each other “as is.”
You need to accept your partner for who they are today. If you can’t accept them as they are now, then you’re setting up your relationship for insecurity.
This is not to say that you will both stop working on being the best people you can be, but your love is not determined by whether or not your partner will need to act in a new or different manner.
In addition, you can hold your relationship in a state of limbo because you will not commit to your partner until they lose 50 pounds, save $5,000, or when they become more organized — the list goes on.
Neither of you is perfect and you need to choose whether or not to accept each other with all of your flaws.
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5. Ensure proper management of “thirds.”
”Thirds” refers to any person or thing that comes in between you and your partner.
For example, if your partner is always siding with his mother instead of you, his mother would be considered a third.
Another example is when one of you works late frequently and misses planned date nights or events.
When couples don’t manage their “thirds,” it allows ex, friends, kids, in-laws, work, hobbies, activities, and the like to disrupt the security and safety of the relationship.
You both need to put your relationship first or your relationship will feel unsteady, unprotected, and unfair.
6. Set the stage for personal growth and well-being.
When your relationship is being taken care of by both of you, you have the resources and energy to focus on your work productivity, your health, well-being, and personal growth.
On the other hand, if your relationship is not safe and secure, you will focus your time and energy on your worries and concerns about the relationship stability.
7. Discuss shared principles of purpose and vision.
You and your partner should discuss and share the same goals and vision for your relationship.
Dr. Tatkin states, “Secure functioning partners are equals and held to mutually agreed-upon principles of functioning.”
For example, do you put your relationship first?
This doesn’t mean that you can’t hold a job, but your partner knows that your relationship is a priority. When you have clarity about what is important to you, then you remove fears and doubts that destabilize your relationship.
When couples collaborate on their shared purpose and vision, then their relationship can start off on the right foot.
You will have challenges in your marriage, but you can build a strong relationship with tips and tools that will create a successful and happy life with your partner. Take the steps now.
Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC is a licensed counselor in the state of Maryland and Virginia. She is a Certified Gottman Couples Therapist and PACT Level 3 Candidate. To find out more about improving communication in marriage, reach out for a 30-minute free private consultation today.