Collectively, my wife and I share about 40 years experience working with couples from all walks of life. We were recently talking shop, discussing what factors we see most consistently in the happiest, healthiest couples. Here are the Big Three:
Steady chemical base
Here, I’m calling a “chemical” anything you consume. Medication, beer, junk food, supplements. I’m also referring to exercise, sleep, sex and other activities that substantially effect brain chemicals. Untreated depression, anxiety or substance abuse can easily derail other genuine efforts to improve your relationship. When possible, address these first.
Most people–especially those that don’t want to admit it–have unresolved issues with their parents, and these get in the way of the ideal romantic relationship. Working out family dynamics doesn’t require having a heart-to-heart with your father. It means you look inward, learn to recognize the automatic, unspoken “rules of engagement” your family modeled when you were growing up. Are these so-called rules working effectively in your adult life?
Shared spiritual or philosophical orientation
Couples need something “bigger than themselves” to motivate them over the years. I’m not talking about staying together because of the kids, which generally isn’t a great idea. Do you feel being a better partner makes you a better, happier person in general? Changing to please your partner never works–not for long. But changing because you trust your partner’s feedback, even when difficult to hear, indicates you value your relationship as a means of balancing your own energies and refining your strengths. Your romantic partner, unlike any other person in your life, holds a mirror reflecting your deepest struggles and uncertainties.
About the Author: James Robbins is a licensed professional counselor, published author and co-owner of Dallas Whole Life Counseling. He has over 15 years of experience helping people in various life stages that come from a wide variety of cultural, economic and family backgrounds. Learn more about his background by clicking here.