Have you ever stopped to consider what you would want written on your tombstone? Have you ever taken a moment in your time of grief visiting a cemetery to cast your eyes at the tombstones mounted on the graves of lost loved ones? Well I have and the words on these tombstones largely do not reflect the achievements, the travels and the successes of these souls now passed from this world. Rather they reflect the relationships that this person developed, sustained and held onto in this lifetime and beyond “Beloved husband, father and grandfather …” It is these long term relationships that shape and define the path of our lives, the happiness and fulfilment we experience from life and the legacy we leave behind.
So what advice can hold you in good stead to keep your long term relationships – those intimate connections with others that cover significant tracts of your life – intact, healthy and growing? The same fundamentals of good relating apply to all long term relationships and this article looks at underpinning advice –essential ingredients for long term relationship satisfaction. Over and above these fundamentals there are features unique to specific relationships such as mother/daughter and husband /wife relationships which are for another time.
Here are four essential ingredients that come up over and again across studies of long term relationship satisfaction:
Prioritise long term relationships! If these relationships are so essential to your life prioritise them! Make sure you spend enough time nurturing and sustaining the long term relationships that really matter. Don’t get distracted by less important tasks and passing relationships. Stay focussed on what really counts and invest time and energy into these intimate and sustaining relationships.
Connect! Spend time talking with and sharing experiences, thoughts and values that really matter to you. The more you share of yourself in a relationship the deeper and more enduring it will become. Show an interest in the other person’s life. Notice what’s important to the other person and allow space and time for them to share their experiences. Become familiar with their world and allow them the opportunity to step into yours. Remember that any long term relationship is a partnership dependant on both partners’ capacity to give and take. Connecting is as much about receiving as it is about giving.
Generate positivity! Grab opportunities to express and generate positivity in the relationship. Notice what makes the partners in your long term relationships feel loved and cared for and create opportunities to express how much you value the other person. For some people that might mean a WhatsApp before an important meeting saying “Good Luck” and for others coming home to the smell of their favourite meal cooking in the oven might hit the spot. Tune in to your partner’s language of affection and be blown away by the positivity it generates!
Be consistent! Be present in the lives of people that really matter to you in a reliable and dependable way. Relationships are built on the day to day consistent and steady flow of connection, positivity and focus. Success in your long term relationships can be significantly influenced by day to day reliability, consideration and concern. So remembering to put the cap on the toothpaste or phoning your father daily all count toward generating long term relationship satisfaction.
Let’s distil down this essential advice to some concrete action steps:
- List the three most important long term relationships in your life (e.g. mother, husband, friend and/or child).
- Rate them in terms of how well they are doing with 1 being poorly and 10 being excellent (e.g. Rating relationship with mom with a score of 5).
- Now look at the above essential ingredients for long term relationship satisfaction and ask yourself if the relationship would benefit by you adding more of these ingredients to your relationships (e.g. add more prioritising, connection and consistency but positivity is good).
- Translate that ingredient into a tangible reachable, daily or weekly goal (e.g. phone my mother once a week).
- Keep tabs on the goal and watch your relationship go from strength to strength with increased satisfaction, intimacy and happiness for both partners.
Prioritising long term relationships is ultimately an exercise in prioritising yourself. When your long term relationships are thriving so will you!
Dr. Stacey Leibowitz-Levy is a highly experienced psychologist with a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology (Cum Laude) and a PhD in the area of stress and its relation to goals and emotion. She works with adults, teens and children within her areas of expertise. Take a look at her LinkedIn profile