Vail Relationships column: Skills that make a great relationship work
Editor’s note: This is from “The Best of Neil Rosenthal.”
Dear Neil: What separates a “normal” relationship — the one most of us have — from a good one? What is required in order to make a relationship work well?
Curious in Longmont
Dear Curious: Here are some of the behaviors, attitudes and skills happy couples tend to have:
• Reciprocal give and take — Two people being responsive to each other. I make what’s important to you important to me. We have both adopted the assumption of “us” and “we” rather than “you” and “me.”
• Emotional presence — There is a willingness to share our inner lives with each other, our thoughts, feelings, hopes, hurts, yearnings and fears. We are nurturing to each other, and are generally compassionate about our partner’s struggles. We both care about the well being of the other. We have both taken down our walls and have opened up our hearts to each other — and we keep open hearts, even in the face of our partner’s insensitivity, withdrawal, anger or mistakes.
• We treat each other well — With good will, an absence of malice and benefit of doubt. Our positive, kind, supportive, friendly, compassionate comments and behaviors toward each other far outweigh the critical, angry, judgmental, unfriendly comments and behaviors. There is an absence of unwarranted hostility, and we don’t regularly dump our negative emotions about other things onto our partner. We both control our anger and reactivity and express those appropriately, knowing that we’re not trying to injure love or trust.
• Trust — We trust each other and proactively clean up anything in the way of our not being able to trust each other. This includes behaving in a trustworthy manner, as well.
• We create time to be alone together and tend to do things with each other — We make our relationship a top priority in our lives.
• Touch — Touch is an aphrodisiac. It brings people closer and keeps them close. Happy couples tend to be physically affectionate with each other.
• Stability — We keep our relationship on solid footing, making sure not to destabilize, threaten or withdraw from each other. We’ve learned how to be independent without being distant.
We both use good communication, conflict resolution, negotiating and compromising skills. If we need help with improving those skills, then we get that help without delay. We have learned how to have fun together on an ongoing basis.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. He is the author of the best-selling book “Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Creating a Vital Relationship.” Contact him at 303-758-8777, or visit neilrosenthal.com.