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Skills for Successful Relationships

I am brutally honest with the men and women who come to couple's counseling. The first thing I tell them is that I cannot save their marriage unless they both are committed to change. When one person refuses to make amends for the past, is unforgiving, and won't take steps to repair the brokenness, they have already left the relationship emotionally and they are only waiting for their body to leave. Unknowingly, they want their partner to do the work to repair the damage created in their childhood before they even met.

"If you want to go fast, go alone.

If you want to go far, go together."

African Proverb

Couple's go through life seeking, demanding, expecting these unspoken needs be met by their partner. They idealize these five needs, but have no idea how to ask for what they need, want, or desire. The above photo of two hands open with palms up, is a common gesture that can be both offering or accepting. When people start a new relationship they usually begin with offering and accepting. As the relationship develops the hands become intertwined and connected. At some point the offering and accepting stops and they begin to pull against each other until one lets go or breaks free of the controls of the other. To return to a place of connection, they must first resume the posture of giving and accepting in order to meet each other's needs.

In the book, How To Be An Adult In A Relationship, author David Richo says there are five skills most people need to learn to give and receive in a healthy relationship: Attention, Acceptance, Appreciation, Affection and Allowing (providing support so that one may develop into their best self). Most people never received these needs in their childhood and never learned how to meet these needs in their adult relationships.

When couple's learn first what it is they need (insight) and are able to express to their partner that need in a way that offers suggestions (actions), there can be a better outcome. It takes time to make changes because these skills must be learned and most people won't take the time to learn the skills. The first often misses the efforts of the second because they are not paying attention. Therefore, there is no acceptance and no appreciation for the effort made. They withhold affection, and won't allow that change is possible. The one making the effort will often become discouraged because they may feel they are unable to please their partner or ever meet their needs. They stop trying and the relationship fails as the first feels nothing has changed. In reality, they are the one who didn't change, not their partner. This is called a self-fulfilling prophecy, when they manifest the results they are looking for instead of acknowledging the other's effort to change.

It takes two people working on themselves to make sure they are doing the 5 skills daily. Successful couples take responsibility for their own actions and look for positive changes every day. They also choose to forgive and accept imperfections in their mate. They will show appreciation for the positives by giving small gestures of affection. By doing these things, they both allow the other to be the best they can be. Not what you want them to be, but the best they can be.

If you'd like to learn how to live intentional, check out my book of the same name: Live Intention. Live the life you always wanted, but never believed you could. Available at Barns and Noble, Amazon, and iTunes


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