Elements of a good relationship

At different stages of our lives, we encounter certain psychological developmental challenges, teaching us what it important and shaping us forever.

By Samineh I. Shaheem

Published: Sat 26 Nov 2011, 11:46 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 10:39 AM

During adolescents, for example, the main objective is to try and uncover the complexities of our identity and self-concept. Later on, finding the right person and maintaining a healthy relationship is one of the primary concerns of early and middle adulthood.

Truly good relationships are not coincidental nor do they just happen. Of course at the beginning, when the people are getting to know each other, there are going to be arguments and disagreements, as well as that blissful feeling of having found the right person. This unique mix of emotions need to be handled with care so that it doesn’t confuse you and when the excitement and newness wares off, you should have developed a healthy understanding of your needs, your position in the relationship and level of happiness.

There is no magic formula, of course, or set instructions on how we could guarantee a blissful relationship. However, we do know that healthy relationships equal better health and when in pursuit of something good for us, effort, time, energy and thoughtfulness need to be extended to that particular situation to bring about the best results.

Below are a number of dimensions, especially relevant to our region here, which can be used as a basis to assess the health of your relationship. Go through the list and fairly evaluate the strengths and weakness of your union.

u Mutual respect, love & affection — This has been placed on top of the list to highlight its importance. Having these components are necessary for a lasting relationship as well as the ability to resolve conflict.

u Cross-cultural understanding — If you come from culturally diverse backgrounds, do you have a vibrant understanding of cultural differences that might lead to misunderstandings? Communicate about habits, traditions, and values on a regular basis so that differences do not become deficiencies.

uHonesty & trust — These variables take time to form and are very fragile. Therefore if they are broken, it will be very hard to rebuild them. Any behavior that weakens honesty and trust also weakens the chances of the relationship succeeding.

uPhysical intimacy — Like other variables, this too deserves attention and in the appropriate context, should be open, comfortable and exciting.

uLoyalty & commitment — These elements extend to all other parts of the relationship and are the glue that binds two people, creating a beautiful private world, which is protected by both of them. Allowing another person into that world can be the beginning of the end of that relationship.

uLaughter & friendship — To be able to laugh together means you love each other’s company and are able to find humor in similar topics. Being each other’s best friend strengthens your trust, mutual attraction and helps build a delightful companionship.

uPublic acceptance — Ask yourself if you are proud to have this person next to you. Do they respect you in public or put you down or criticize you? Public acceptance is an important extension of your private world.

uCompliments & constructive criticism — We don’t always have to agree with our partner. Offering them constructive criticism encourages growth and learning. However this should always be balanced with compliments and appreciation or else our advice won’t be heard after a while.

uInner world involvement — We all have a fantasy world where everything is wonderful and possible. Does your partner share that world with you? Do you know what their goals, dreams and inner world features are? uAdmitting mistakes & learning from them — There’s nothing worse for a relationship than someone who can’t admit their mistakes and doesn’t know how to apologise. So much time and energy is wasted when people do not accept behaving inappropriately. Admit, learn and move on.

uFinancial agreements — Is this a safe plateau or a minefield? Do you know where you stand financially? Who pays for what, when and where? The more ambiguous this dimension is, the bigger the problems. Communicate and clarify at every new juncture of your lives.

uWork/life balance — Success doesn’t come from all work and no play so try and include activities in your life, with your partner, that can invite feelings of rest, relaxation and rejuvenation.

uLove/children balance — For those of you who have children, give them lots of love and quality time however don’t forget that before you were mommy and daddy, you were husband and wife.

uExtended family — Living in a collectivist society, many of us have to also manage the extended family. You do not necessarily have to love them, after all they come with the package, but there does need to be mutual respect and understanding. Ask yourself if you feel comfortable and accepted around them and if not, what could you do to improve relations since in the long run it can affect the condition of your marriage.

It is not easy, agreed, however being more conscientious about these dimensions can strengthen and even improve your relationship, eradicating frustration, stress, sadness and confusion that causes so many other health concerns. Speaking to a qualified marriage counsellor may also be helpful so that a deeper analysis and diagnosis of your relationship is made as well as learning strategies on how to have a more joyful alliance.

Remember, learning more, results in living more…over to you…

Samineh I Shaheem is an author, an assistant professor of psychology, currently lecturing in Dubai, as well as a cross-cultural consultant at HRI. She has studied and worked in different parts of the world, including the USA, Canada, UK, Netherlands, and the UAE. She co hosts a radio program (Psyched Sundays 10-12pm) every Sunday morning on Dubai Eye discussing the most relevant psychological issues in our community. Please forward your thoughts and suggestions for future articles to OutOfMindContact@gmail.com

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