How to Strengthen Your Relationship and Make Love Last after Children Arrive

Everyone’s relationship is unique, and people come together for many different reasons. But there are some things that good relationships have in common. Knowing the basic principles of healthy relationships helps keep them meaningful, fulfilling and exciting in both happy times and sad:
What makes a healthy love relationship?

  • Staying involved with each other. Some relationships get stuck in peaceful coexistence, but without truly relating to each other and working together. While it may seem stable on the surface, lack of involvement and communication increases distance. When you need to talk about something important, the connection and understanding may no longer be there.
  • Getting through conflict. Some couples talk things out quietly, while others may raise their voices and passionately disagree. The key in a strong relationship, though, is not to be fearful of conflict. You need to be safe to express things that bother you without fear of retaliation, and be able to resolve conflict without humiliation, degradation or insisting on being right.
  • Keeping outside relationships and interests alive. No one person can meet all of our needs, and expecting too much from someone can put a lot of unhealthy pressure on a relationship. Having friends and outside interests not only strengthens your social network, but brings new insights and stimulation to the relationship, too.
  • Communicating. Honest, direct communication is a key part of any relationship. When both people feel comfortable expressing their needs, fears and desires, trust and bonds are strengthened. Critical to communication are nonverbal cues—body language like eye contact, leaning forward or away, or touching someone’s arm.

Healthy relationships are built on give and take
If you expect to get what you want 100% of a time in a relationship, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Healthy relationships are built on compromise. However, it takes work on each person’s part to make sure that there is a reasonable exchange.
Recognize what’s important to your partner
Knowing what is truly important to your partner can go a long way towards building goodwill and an atmosphere of compromise. On the flip side, it’s also important for your partner to recognize your wants and for you to state them clearly. Constantly giving to others at the expense of your own needs builds resentment and anger.
Don’t make “winning” your goal
If you approach your partner with the attitude that things have to be your way or else, it will be difficult to reach a compromise. Sometimes this attitude comes from not having your needs met while younger, or it could be years of accumulated resentment in the relationship reaching a boiling point. It’s alright to have strong convictions about something, but your partner deserves to be heard as well. You are more likely to get your needs met if you respect what your partner needs, and compromise when you can.
Learn how to respectfully resolve conflict
Conflict is inevitable in any relationship, but to keep a relationship strong, both people need to feel they’ve been heard. The goal is not to win but to resolve the conflict with respect and love.

  • Make sure you are fighting fair.
  • Don’t attack someone directly but use “I” statements to communicate how you feel.
  • Don’t drag old arguments into the mix.
  • Keep the focus on the issue at hand, and respect the other person.

Couples counselling. You might be considering couples counselling or marriage counselling. It’s a big investment, and time, energy, focus and commitment are needed from both people to make a difference. Both parties need to be willing and able to honestly communicate what you need, face issues arising in counselling and make changes. It’s important also that both people feel comfortable with the counsellor.
by Helen Reese
Helen Reese has worked as a health practitioner for the past 30 years in hospitals, community settings, private organizations and with DEET and other public sectors. She also works in private practice with children, adolescents and adults in physical and psychological crisis. She has been counselling young people and adults for 25 years.
Having a Master of Counselling, being a Registered Nurse and with post graduate qualifications in Paediatrics, Hypnotherapy, Pain Management and Education she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her counseling and training. Rebates are available under the mental health care plan, and free counselling may be available for those who are not working or caring for someone with a physical or mental health problem. PH 0400991346

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