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5 Secrets to a Successful Relationship, From a Couples Therapist

5 Secrets to a Successful Relationship, From a Couples Therapist

What are the most important, the most the critical, and the most absolutely necessary ingredients for maintaining a fulfilling love in a relationship? Spoiler alert: I really don’t know for sure. However, based on my work as a couples therapist and from what I know about relationship science, I have been wondering if I could come up with five—and just five—key principles for making relationships work.

In essence, this list is your Relationship Mission Statement. These are the ideas and concepts that will lead you to success, and although nobody wants a relationship that’s run like a business, it doesn’t hurt to think like a CEO about the core values defining how you want to behave on a daily basis.
Why is it so hard to acknowledge your missteps and ask genuinely for forgiveness?

Now, are these the only five things you need for a successful relationship? Absolutely not, and I encourage you to compare my list to others out there—and to your own concept of what it takes or what makes your relationship what it is. But from my experience as a therapist (and as a human), I can tell you that taking these concepts seriously, and taking them to heart, can do wonders for you and your partner.
1. Love Means Always Having to Say you’re Sorry
Apologies get you unstuck, can deescalate conflict, and can allow your relationship to keep rolling forward in a positive way. We are all imperfect, and when you own your imperfections in real way—perhaps even with a little humor—your partner will appreciate the honesty and sincerity.

 

I have worked with many people in therapy who have a complete inability to accept responsibility for their nasty behavior and to say, simply, “I am sorry I did this,” or, “I am sorry I acted this way.” Often, they spit out something that sounds like an apology, but really isn’t: “I am sorry you feel this way.”
Why is it so hard to acknowledge your missteps and ask genuinely for forgiveness?
One problem with truly owning your behaviors and apologizing is that if we have negative thoughts about our partners’ behaviors, we start to see them as unworthy of an apology. He’s nasty. She’s self-involved. He only likes me for my money. She’s not really that caring. (You get the idea.) Research tells us that these negative attributions about your partner’s behavior are quite detrimental over time.
To have the ability to say you’re sorry—and to forgive—requires that you cultivate more benign explanations for your partner’s behaviors. If you can view what your partner did in a better light, looking at the situation instead of attributing the action to your partner’s innate personality, then you can enter the forgiveness/apology space.

2. Making Love Really Does Mean Making Love


In Tara Parker-Pope’s excellent book, “For Better,” she discusses the importance of physical intimacy for maintaining a good relationship. There’s a great part in the book where she discusses the lessons concerning sex and relationship satisfaction. She writes, “Forget the lesson. Put the book down and go have sex with your husband or wife.”

Keeping your sex life alive and reinvigorating it as needed is one of the most important things you can do to maintain a happy relationship.

Physical intimacy is not simply a nicety of a relationship, it’s a fundamental building block of love. We call it making love for a reason. The biology of an orgasm, for example, was carved over the course of evolutionary history to bring people together and solidify their bond.

For adults with jobs, kids, chores and houses to run, there often doesn’t seem to be time for intimacy. Keeping your sex life alive and reinvigorating it as needed is one of the most important things you can do to maintain a happy relationship.

I’ve written a column about having more sex with your partner. Basically, after you’re done with this column, you should follow Parker-Pope’s advice and go get some. (Did I really write that?)

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