Let’s be honest, the initial phase of falling in love and physical attraction is not enough to maintain and sustain a relationship in the long run. There are lots of other practical aspects involved that contribute to building a healthy relationship.
The “honeymoon phase” phase for many relationships can only last for so long. That isn’t a bad thing, it’s just how we function. The initial blinding love where we overlook our partner’s faults and flaws and feel almost addicted to them is essential to get things going between the two.
But hey, life is not always a bed of roses, and we are bound to face the practicalities of life.
We’ve got to make sure that when that initial “relationship high” fades off, our choice of spending the rest of our lives with that person doesn’t change with it and that we are with someone whom we deeply respect and still like to be around even after the honeymoon phase fades off.
To be able to do that, we’ve got to lay the right foundation and practically work on building a strong and healthy relationship since the start. If your relationship has a strong foundation, harsh weathers of life and strong winds of time won’t bring it down.
(By the way, this is going to be a good ‘ol long beefy guide like my other guide on toxic relationships. So get a cup of coffee [or tea if you’re a tea person], and let’s dive deep into this.)
It’s common for people who have just begun their relationship to think that they don’t need to work on their relationship because everything is going so great right now.
Don’t let those overwhelming emotions of love and attraction fool you into thinking that everything will be perfect down the road since there’s great love and passion between the two of you.
It’s great to enjoy the springs and summers but it’s also important to think wisely and prepare for the autumns and winters of life.
Have a Realistic Approach Towards Your Relationship
One of the primary reasons why many relationships don’t last long is that people enter a relationship with an unbalanced approach and an unrealistic expectation.
Making decisions under the influence of temporary whims and desires when you’re “feeling head over heels” is not a very stable foundation to base such major decisions of life.
Let’s face the reality, our intimate relationships aren’t the story of Romeo & Juliet (thank God that isn’t the case, did you know that 6 people died because of the love-madness between those teenagers!). Don’t expect to always feel the initial “romantic high” in a life-long relationship. That’s just too unrealistic.
The burden of such expectations weighs our relationship down, and when our unrealistically high expectations are not met, we feel as if there’s something wrong with our relationship.
Our partner is no perfect prince or princess from a novel. They are flawed, imperfect, fallible human beings who won’t always feel the way you do.
Both of you will have your ups and downs of life, and go through not-so glamourous phases. Your partner won’t always look as perfectly handsome or beautiful, neither will they always be in a positive state of mind.
Building a healthy, stable, and lasting relationship requires much more patience, maturity, and wisdom than what most people demonstrate in their love lives. It’s strange how 40 y/o adults act like 14 y/o teenagers during an argument or a rough patch in a relationship.
It’s like all of our wisdom, life-experiences, and literacy goes out the window when dealing with the person we love so dearly and want to spend our entire lives with.
Let’s be honest with ourselves, somewhere inside we know that part of our love is somewhat conditional.
We love and treat our partners well when they fulfill those subconscious conditions and expectations we have of them. When they don’t, we feel like they don’t love us anymore and in turn, we begin to lose our love for them.
Unconditional Love is based on maturity. Knowing and accepting that things won’t always be so smooth between the two and that there will be some rough patches, yet we choose to love our partners regardless. Unconditional love is not based on mere moods and desires.
It’s knowing that there will be conflicts and disagreements, while also realizing that not all conflicts and disagreements need to be resolved for a relationship to work.
A lot of frustration in relationships comes from having idealistic expectations, thinking that there must be no conflicts in a strong relationship, and trying desperately to resolve everything to attain perfection.
It’s ironic that trying too desperately to make a relationship perfect and conflict-free, ends up in a relationship full of frustration and often toxicity, which eventually leads to breaking up.
Falling In and Out of Love and Then Back In
“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them, and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for people who give thought.”Quran 30:21
“Lasting love” is a choice. Sometimes people get aggravated when I say that. They often link it to their own pain during a breakup and subconsciously get defensive. In doing that, they miss the point.
What I usually mean when I mention long-lasting love being a choice is that your mental and emotional state won’t always be the same. You’ll change, you’ll evolve (we’ll come to that in a bit), and so will your feelings.
It’s common to fall in and out of love constantly during life-long relationships. When you commit to spending a lifetime with someone, you don’t just give up on them only because you “don’t feel the spark anymore”. You stick together and work on reigniting the spark patiently until you two fall back in love once again.
Ask a couple who has been happily married for 30 or 40 years and they’ll tell you the exact same thing. You keep falling in and out of love throughout your life.
Love does not just always “happens” and you don’t always “fall in love” automatically. You might have to put in conscious effort to reignite love through constant care, patience, sacrifice, and acceptance.
Sometimes we’ve got to work dedicatedly on cultivating love in a relationship. It’s not always dramatically romantic like novels or movies. It’s based on sticking with the commitment to be with our partner through the thick and thin, the highs and lows of life.
It’s not based on just the youthful spark, It’s based on seeing both of you growing old together and raising a healthy, functional family.
The crux is, Lasting and Unconditional Love is far more practical and based on very conscious choices and decisions that we realize.
Establishing Healthy and Open Communication With Your Partner
Communication is the cliche of almost every relationship advice and “relationship tips for couples” kind of topics, and it is there for good reason.
Lack of healthy communication is the root of misassumptions and misinterpretations.
When there is proper communication in a relationship, it not only allows timely resolution to problems and conflicts but also allows you the opportunity to develop a better understanding of your partner.
No matter how close we are to our partner and how well we think we know them, they’re often still a mystery to us. In fact, curiously seeking to understand this ‘mystery’ is often what brings charm and attraction in a relationship.
A couple’s ability to have honest and vulnerable conversations is often what determines how deep and strong that relationship gets over time. Developing a deeper understanding of each other is one of the core elements of building a life-long relationship.
One of the prominent signs of a healthy relationship is to be able to sit and discuss even the most uncomfortable topics in a respectful manner.
A major part of establishing healthy communication that is actually fruitful, is Deep, Active Listening.
Active Listening in relationships is a topic on its own. I’ve written a separate guide on How to develop effective listening skills to drastically improve the quality of your relationships. You can check out the guide below:
Neither of You Should be Afraid of Each Other’s Reactions
Walking on eggshells in a relationship is never a good feeling. It’s emotionally tiring and suffocating.
It’s difficult to build a strong relationship when you or your partner are afraid of expressing themselves to each other out of the fear of getting an intense reaction.
If you have anger issues or face emotional instability at times, begin working on improving yourself immediately. Don’t let your partner or your relationship suffer because of your own internal issues.
Seek therapy or life coaching if you must. Don’t delay or it’ll eat up your relationship from the inside.
Forgiving Each Other’s Mistakes and Shortcomings
When you commit to a life-long relationship, you must become great at forgiving and moving on. There will be a lot of mistakes and mess-ups along the way. Your partner is not at all perfect. They are fallible human beings full of mistakes and errors, just like yourself.
If you don’t get REALLY good at forgiving, you’ll find yourself getting annoyed, hurt, frustrated, and stuck in your relationship very often, and at the littlest of things.
My parents were married for 33 years before my father passed on to the next life. I saw a lot of ups and downs in their relationship, but one of the things that kept them going was my father’s ability to instantly forgive and move on. Often before or without an apology.
He never expected anyone to apologize to him, and his ability to forgive and move on wasn’t just limited to his marriage, but almost every relationship.
He was rarely annoyed or frustrated and was very VERY patient with people, especially his household.
One of the life-advice he gave to me while he was on his death-bed was:
Dr. Ghulam Nabi
“Learn to stay patient and silent when the other person is angry. Understand the other person’s nature, and learn to forgive and move on. This is how I kept our marriage intact for so long so that you guys (we, his children) have an intact family.”
Having Deep Respect For Your Partner and Never Crossing The Boundaries of Respect
If you want to take away ONE thing from this guide, take this. Respect is the ultimate and most important thing in a healthy and lasting relationship.
Having deep, genuine respect for one another is the only thing that will keep you together when things are rough and it is the only thing that will help you to successfully resolve conflicts in your relationship.
This is something that cannot be faked or put on as a mask or a quick trick to make things a bit better in the relationship. This is something that must come from deep within. It must be genuine.
When you look at your partner or think of them, among other emotions that you might feel, there must always be a strong sense of respect. DEEP respect. If not then there’s a good chance that the boat of your relationship will rock a bit harder during the stormy winds of life.
But What does it mean to have Deep Respect?
Acknowledging, accepting, and even embracing that, in certain areas, your partner might have different preferences, choices, likes, and dislikes. Even your values and priorities might differ at a certain point as you “evolve” down the road. (again, we’ll come to that in a bit)
Having deep respect also means that you respect your partner’s imperfections, flaws, and weaknesses, knowing that you too are imperfect and flawed. Not thinking of yourself as better or smarter.
Acknowledging that everyone has their own unique strengths and weaknesses. And that you focus and emphasize on your partner’s strengths rather than criticizing and pointing out their weaknesses all the time.
It’s strange that so often we get stingy in respecting our significant other and harsh in passing judgments and making misassumptions.
It’s common to see people giving more respect, space, and open-mindedly acknowledging differences when it comes to other people in their lives such as co-workers, friends, acquaintances.
But when it comes it their spouse, all of a sudden they turn into a narrow-minded, control freak.
Developing deep respect in a relationship can begin with simply acknowledging that your partner is an individual human being and that you do NOT own them. Of course, there’s a lot more to it, but having this mindset is the very basic root of respect.
In terms of being on the same page, and having similar values, preferences, and priorities, these are the things that are to be responsibly sorted out before getting into a commitment. Once you’ve committed to your partner, embrace what comes as a part of the package (unless there’s some serious or morally questionable stuff involved).
One last thing to always keep in mind regarding respect is to never cross the boundaries of respect even when you’re in an argument or a fight.
We tend to go to the lowest of the low and try to find the meanest, most personal, and deeply hurting things to say during fights with our significant other. Not realizing that it might be doing permanent damage to the relationship even if later we sort things out with them.
Respect is almost a sacred thing and is very fragile. Make a promise to yourself to never cross this line in a fight or an argument.
Embrace the Evolution of You Two
As time goes on, we gain more knowledge and new experiences of life and we can’t help but evolve through that.
Often evolution is a sign of growth. We grow wiser as we age which might lead to drastic changes in the way we operate and deal with things.
Evolution can also mean drastic changes in one’s beliefs, perspectives, personalities, and character traits.
That person you fell in love might not be the exact same person 10 or 20 years from now. The tiny little things that you might love about your partner might not stay the same as life goes on.
Ever heard of the phrase “You’re not what you used to be”. Yep, that old classic complaint we get to hear from many couples who’ve spent a good share of summers and winters together.
This statement usually comes from a sense of loss. That we miss our partner the way they were before. Or in other words, we haven’t yet fully and openly accepted the change and still clinging on to the past.
Honestly, changing and evolving is not all that bad after all (as long as it’s not in a very negative direction). One of the greatest qualities we humans possess is the ability to adapt and transform with the flow of life.
Each and every one of us goes through great mental evolution within our lifetime. We are constantly on a journey of discovering life and discovering ourselves, whether we do it consciously or unconsciously.
You both will evolve throughout your lives, and so will your relationship. The way you love and care for each other might change as well.
It’s impractical to expect people and circumstances to always remain the same. You both will probably go through a lot in life and those experiences will shape you both in unique ways.
The best-case scenario in a relationship would be to evolve and grow together. But even if you grow in your own specific journeys different from each other, that is all fine as long as you both respect each other’s growth and evolution.
Also, keep in mind that this journey of evolution and growth might not always be a walk in the park. Things can get a bit rough at times and your feelings towards your partner might fluctuate during those phases of life.
But if you have set a strong foundation for your relationship, things will eventually settle down and get better. After all, being in a committed relationship is about sticking together through thick and thin.
“…And live with them in kindness. For if you dislike them – perhaps you dislike a thing and God has put much good in it.”Quran 4:19
Make Your Relationship Breathable
One of the biggest mistakes people make at the beginning of a relationship is getting too attached, clingy, and emotionally dependent on their partner.
They feel like they have to ALWAYS be in each other’s presence and do EVERYTHING together. Over time, this begins to suffocate both, and this is one of the main reasons many relationships turn toxic (checkout this In-Depth 18 Step Guide on How to Fix a Toxic Relationship).
I’ve said it before in the other guide, I’ll say it again here, always remember that you DON’T own anybody. Not your spouse, not even your children. They are separate individual people who deserve that their individuality and space is respected.
Instead of trying to control each other and trying to make your partner another copy of ourselves, we must learn to embrace the uniqueness they bring to the table.
A bit of diversity is what makes a relationship interesting. When both of you bring your own set of interests, traits, hobbies, and perspectives into your relationship. That will not only make the relationship grow and be more dynamic but also allow each of you to learn from each other and explore new territories.
Let Go of Insecurities
A big part of giving each other space is to allow your partner to have fun and have a good time without you.
A lot of people have a limiting belief that “once you’re married, you have no life of your own”. Really?! No wonder why so many people have such a negative mental association with the concept of marriage.
It’s extremely important for the health and sustainability of the relationship that both of you DO have a life of your own. Have your own friend circles and gatherings, keep your hobbies and things you are passionate about, and make sure to keep growing as an individual.
If you’re not growing on an individual level, it will be very hard to grow in the relationship.
One of the most common things I’ve experienced in my coaching practice is that people “lose” themselves after marriage. Their sense of identity becomes so attached to the relationship with their spouse (and later on with their kids) that they don’t even know who they are as an individual.
They get so disconnected with themselves that they initially find it hard to indulge in self-care activities and spend time by themselves. Their sense of Love becomes so dependent on their spouse and children that they find it strange at first when I introduce them to the concept of self-love.
To simply put it, allow yourself and your partner to go out with friends or other relatives without each other. Give each other space to breathe and have some time for themselves. This will NOT make you less important for them.
In fact, your partner will deeply appreciate you for this and it will only increase your respect and your sense of maturity in their eyes.
Develop Bonding Rituals
Bonding rituals are acts and behaviors that deepen your connection with your partner, ignite passion and intimacy, and keeps the spark alive.
Things like deep hugs, staring into each other’s eyes (lovingly of course, and Not out of anger, hopefully), romantically holding hands, lots of pecks and kisses. Things of that sort (I’ll come to the comprehensive list of bonding rituals in a bit).
Many of the bonding rituals are nothing out of the ordinary, and when I suggest someone to develop these rituals and habits in their relationship, they sometimes get underwhelmed saying that “most of these are an obvious part of an intimate relationship and we USED to do many of them at the start of our relationship.”
Can you see what’s wrong in this statement? Let me elaborate.
First of all, after spending a couple of years with their spouse, many people get desensitized and underestimate the power of such little, often subtle relationship habits. Considering them “obvious” and “ordinary” is where the problem lies.
With this attitude, even if someone does practice bonding rituals, there’s a good chance that they’re doing it half-heartedly and out of formality rather than deeply emphasizing the essence of it.
Secondly, in the last part of the above statement, “we used to do many of them at the start of our relationship”, is a telltale indication for why many people lose spark after a certain period.
Many of us naturally indulge in such bonding behaviors at the start of our relationship which makes the relationship so rich and intoxicating during the honeymoon phase. But since we often do it unconsciously, we rarely notice how such bonding rituals and behaviors play such an immensely important role to keep the spark alive in a relationship.
As life gets busy, we unknowingly drift away from such deep bonding rituals, and after a certain point realize the loss of spark and wonder what actually went wrong.
If you observe couples who have been happily married for several decades, you’ll notice these subtle bonding behaviors and display of affection towards each other even at older ages. That’s one of their secrets to keeping the spark alive and feeling like lovers even in their 70s and 80s.
This is also one of the key secrets to falling back in love with your partner and feel attracted to them once again after you’ve had a not-so-loving phase in your relationship. Take notes on this.
List of Bonding Behaviors and Rituals
The following bonding rituals not just help cultivate a deeper sense of intimacy on a physical level but also on an emotional and spiritual level as well. Let’s not forget that your spouse is your life partner, your lover, and also your soul mate at the same time.
Here are some activities to enrich your love-life in all these areas, and as you do them, forget about the external world, its worries, and its matters. Forget that time exists and just allow yourself to deeply indulge in the moment and be fully present and attentive with your partner.
- Deeply and lovingly gaze into each other’s eyes for several minutes. Eye are the windows to the soul. Allow yourself to dive deep into your partner’s eyes. Holding hands while doing this is a plus.
- Make it a habit to kiss and caress your partner on random occasions throughout the day.
- Verbally express your love often and be generous in complimenting. Keep reminding your partner every now and then how much they mean to you and how grateful you are to have them in your life.
- Our choice of words plays a huge role in how we feel about something or someone. From now on, in your mind, replace the word spouse or partner with lover. Just try saying it to your self that “he/she (your partner’s name) is my LOVER, and I’m his/her LOVER.” Notice how weirdly good it feels to say that. Start thinking of your spouse as your lover consistently and see how it subtly enhances the quality of your relationship.
- Give a relaxing and soothing massage to your “lover”, especially after they’ve had a long and tiring day. Head massage, shoulder massage, feet massage whatever they like.
- Speaking of long and tiring days, show special consideration when your lover has had one of those days.
Make them some relaxing hot chocolate or a cup of coffee.
Help out with their extra chores.
Forgive and let go of any grumpiness they might have had due to stress and tiredness.
Give them full attention if they want to talk about their problems or give them space if they want to be left alone and prefer some quiet time with themselves.
- Have deep, long, and spiritually connecting hugs. Hug each other in silence and feel the presence of each other for several minutes.
- Try rhythmic, synchronized breathing. Hug your partner deeply and breathe either with them or follow their rhythm, meaning that you both either inhale deeply and exhales fully, together. Or you inhale as your lover exhales, and as they exhale you inhale deeply.
Experiment with both these patterns and notice what feels best for both of you (obviously you’ll have to communicate with your partner and explain to them before you do this).
- When you lay together in bed, place your ear on your lover’s chest, and listen to their heartbeat. You’ll be amazed at how profound and intimate this little thing can be to deepen your connection with your lover on a spiritual level.
- Spoon with your lover often. Spooning is such a deeply intimate position to hold each other and provide a deep sense of comfort and security to the person that you love so dearly.
- Share a meal and eat in the same plate. (don’t do this if you’re really really hungry or your lover won’t be your lover anymore once you’ve gulped the entire meal leaving them with an empty plate).
- Give gifts more often. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on buying expensive stuff. Sometimes little yet considerate gifts can have a lot more value than throwing away money to buy overpriced branded stuff.
The key in giving gifts it to know your partner’s likings and what they value, and giving the right gifts at the right time making them feel how much you think and care for them and how much they mean to you.
That’s the essence of giving gifts.
- Play Together. Life can get pretty bland and boring when we are too busy in rut of everyday life. Make things a bit interesting and take some time out for fun. Loosen up at bit and get into playful activities. Let your inner playful child unleash no matter how old you get. Get into hobbies that you both could share that’ll allow you to learn and grow together at something.
- Make sure to go on dates no matter how long you’ve been together, but before you go get ready to go on the same old date in the same old restaurant eating the same old meal, hear me out.
Research has shown that going on the same old pleasant yet bland and boring dates might not be enough to keep the spark alive in your relationship.
You’ve got to make your dates interesting! Change things up a bit and get into activities and places that might be a bit new and thrilling for you both. That could include enrolling in an art class, hiking, going camping with some of your friends, exploring a new place, going to an amusement park, or as simple as trying out a new restaurant.
Letter Writing During Conflicts
Conflicts are bound to happen in any relationship. The key to healthy relationships is the ability of the couple to resolve conflicts effectively and respectfully.
When there is a heated argument or a conflict regarding a sensitive topic, talking directly might not be as fruitful in many situations, as whenever the topic comes up, both start to speak simultaneously trying to defend their position without hearing each other out.
In such a scenario, letter writing can work wonders to resolve conflict and deepen understanding between the couple, as each will have some time to reflect and ponder without the urgency to respond immediately.
You don’t have to keep letter writing limited to conflicts. You can write love letters and pour your heart out in expressing your love and affection for your spouse. Just imagine how much quality and richness this little old fashioned ritual can add to your relationship.
Things You Must Never Do – The DON’Ts in a Healthy Relationship
Generally, the more experiences we have in life and the more wisdom we gain, the more we realize that there are certain things that we must never do. Most of us have that list of “DON’Ts” or “NEVER TOs” on our fingertips.
This is especially true when it comes to our relationships. Through the hurts and the pains of our relationships, we consciously or unconsciously learn (hopefully) many such insights and distinctions that might help us build a healthy relationship down the road.
Below we’ll look into some of the major things that one must NEVER do in a relationship.
Learning from the experiences of people I’ve counseled and coached over the years and reflecting on my own personal experiences, I’ve come up with this short list of things that can turn a good relationship into a toxic one within no time.
Unfortunately, these are also one of the most common things found in most of the unhealthy and toxic relationships so they must be avoided at all costs.
A wise person not only knows what to do, but what Not to do.
Avoid Negatively Assuming Your Partner’s Intentions
Giving your spouse the benefit of doubt is one of the prominent traits of a healthy relationship. Whenever you’re not sure about why your partner did something or acted in a certain way, instead of assuming the worst, as in “he doesn’t love me anymore” or “our relationship is ending”, make efforts to think of other possibilities that might not be so intensely negative.
Negative assumptions will only make your life difficult. When you decide to spend the rest of the decades with your spouse, you’ve got to trust their intentions and have a more understanding approach towards them.
When your partner comes home grumpy, instead of assuming that “he/she doesn’t like to see my face anymore”, be a bit more kind and empathetic to assume that they might have had a rough day at work.
If your wife is on periods and feeling irritable by the tiniest of things, understand that she might be going through some biological stuff that she can’t fully control.
Never Talk Bad About Your Partner To Anybody
If you have some complaints with your partner (and we all do at some point), instead of back-biting (yep, that’s what it is) talk to your partner directly about it. It might not be the most comfortable and easy-going conversation, but it’s a lot better than talking behind the back of the person that you love.
When people complain about their love-life to others, they are essentially damaging two very major things that hold any relationship up, Trust and Respect.
When we talk behind someone’s back, we are breaking their trust. Whether they find out about it or not, it is going manifest in the relationship in some form.
The other damage it does is that you begin to lose respect for your partner. Obviously we can’t talk badly behind someone and then have a deep respect for them at the same time. This doesn’t go together.
Remember, what you think and feel for your spouse is equally important for the health of a relationship. As we discussed earlier, having deep respect for your partner is elemental for a successful love-life.
So, if you have something that has been bugging you with regards to your spouse, instead of complaining to anyone else, communicate with your partner directly about it.
I’m Not suggesting that you get into a habit of complaining to your spouse about anything and everything. That is NOT how you build strong relationships.
What I’m suggesting is you figure out a way to talk to your spouse about the things you’re having problems with, in a calm, collected, and proactive manner. In a way that will clear out any misunderstandings, potentially resolve the issue, and in fact, aid in strengthening your bond and understanding of each other.
Never Physically Hurt Your Partner
We don’t have to discuss it in detail to know that physical abuse is one of the worst and most damaging things for a relationship.
It’s traumatizing, disappointing, degrading, and heart-breaking. NEVER go near that territory.
Never Make Your Sex-Life A Casual Topic of Discussion Among Your Friends
Physical intimacy is a very private, personal, and almost a sacred thing between two people who are deeply in love with each other. Don’t spoil its sanctity by casually discussing it with other people.
One of the psychological reasons for feeling unfulfilled on the intimate side of things is comparing others’ intimate experiences to ours. Your friends telling you how wild it went down last night and telling intricate details on how attractive their partner looked, can easily overshadow your own little romantic moments.
Keep your sex-life personal no matter how hard your friends or family try to pry-in out of curiosity. There are some things that best remain behind closed doors.
Never Disrespect or Humiliate Your Partner In Front of Others or in Public
There will be instances when you might disagree, get annoyed, or get into an argument with your partner outside your home. It might be at a family gathering or at a public place.
No matter how heated things might secretly get between you two, never disrespect, humiliate, or abandon your partner in public. Disrespecting and getting into a fight with your spouse in public is a big blow to your relationship and potentially your partner’s self-esteem.
By the end of the day, you’ll both feel embarrassed in front of everyone and spoil both of your images. So it’s not worth it to have such a catharsis on your partner out in public anyway.
Have patience and keep a low profile during such instances. You can settle the argument on your way back home.
Never Bring up Your Partners Weaknesses and Vulnerabilities During Arguments
An intimate relationship is supposed to be a safe haven for opening up about one’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
Everyone has some weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Since we are often a bit sensitive about them, we tend to hide them from the world by putting our guards up and be reserved from most people regarding those things.
However, when it comes to intimate relationships, we openly share parts of ourselves that were once very personal and hidden from the world. We let our partners enter our vulnerable space, exposing our imperfections to them, trusting that they will respect it and never exploit, judge, or abuse it.
Whenever couples get into a fight and they bring each other’s vulnerabilities into the argument, they damage the trust of their partner on a subconscious level which creates distance and encourages them to keep secrets and not be fully open to their spouse.
If this pattern continues, it creates more and more distance and reduces mental and emotional intimacy between the two as time goes on.
The Quran has used the analogy of a garment to describe the profoundness of a husband-wife relationship, as in ‘they are like a garment for each other’.
“They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them.”Quran 2:187
If we look into the characteristics of a garment/clothing:
- It conceals our imperfections and secures us from being exposed.
- It protects us from harsh weather and surfaces.
- A cozy garment brings comfort.
- It adorns us. We feel more confident and beautiful wearing it.
- We take care of our garment and protect it from staining and damaging.
- The right garment fits the wearer as if it was meant for them.
- The way we carry ourselves in a particular garment also matters a lot in terms of how well the garment suits us. If someone themselves is smelly and dirty with hair all over the place, a good garment won’t bring much beauty and grace, until they take care of themselves and their cleanliness.
There’s a lot to learn from this one simple yet deeply profound analogy.
Never Insult Your Partner on a Personal Level
Having occasional fights and arguments is but natural in any relationship. Not that you should look forward to it, but it’s almost unavoidable and it’s kinda okay.
What is NOT okay is “personal attacks”. When people take the fight to the point of insulting the other person on a deeply personal level. Name-calling/abusive language and pointing fingers at the other person’s identity is never okay.
Just remember that it’s not the fights or arguments that make a relationship toxic, it’s HOW you fight and argue.
There’s a more civil and respectable way to fight and have arguments within limits, and then there’s a way of lashing out at the person, making sure to get under their skin, saying the most hurtful things one can find and tearing the person(and the relationship) apart in the process.
Do you see the difference?
Never Compete With Your Partner
Competition and partnership are two opposite things. You can’t compete with your significant other and then expect them to be your partner as well and be supportive in your endeavors
Here we’re not talking about the little “healthy” competitiveness where both people bring out the best in each other and set mutual challenges to grow together as individuals and as a couple.
Here we are talking about the competitiveness born out of insecurity and envy. When people compete to prove a point and feel more worthy. When they want to show that they are better than the other or that they are “right”.
Sometimes, such unhealthy competition and insecurity can also be on a professional level.
You and your spouse must be on the same team for things to work out. Never lose sight of that.
That can sometimes mean stepping back from one thing and letting your partner handle it so that you are able to manage the other important stuff.
In short, have each other’s back!
Never Drag a Fight / Issue / Argument For Too Long
Resolve your conflicts as soon as you can and as fast as you can. Don’t drag a particular issue for weeks and months. Sit down, and talk about where things are headed.
Talk out all of your reservations and conflicts regarding a particular issue in your relationship, and decide either to fix it together or to accept it and settle with it if you don’t find common ground between you two. But Never drag an issue endlessly.
Do you know what happens when you drag a problem endlessly? Your partner gets desensitized and eventually stops caring about things. You eventually become a nuisance for them and you begin to lose respect and value in their eyes. Your words don’t hold any weight after a certain point.
I’ve seen it happen over and over again in so many relationships when a person has this particular issue in their relationship and their partner initially tries to make things a bit better according to their own capacity. But the person never acknowledges or appreciates their partner’s subtle efforts to be better.
They just keep holding on to the problem, not showing flexibility, acceptance, or forgiveness. Not at all ready to let it go and move on.
Eventually what happens is that their partner sees them as a lost cause and stops giving a darn about anything. They stop caring and stop responding to arguments since they know that their spouse is not open to come to the middle ground or be open to any possibility other than what they’re holding in their mind so stubbornly.
Never Try To Control Your Partner’s Freedom
One of the major signs of a toxic relationship is controlling behavior. Trying to control where your partner goes, who they talk to, what they do in their spare time, how they should walk, dress, and eat, and a long list of “shoulds”.
There’s a difference between politely and occasionally giving a suggestion, and imposing your opinion on to the other person.
Exercising your inner wisdom will help you see the subtle boundaries between what’s okay and what’s not.
Never Compare Your Partner With Other People (Especially of The Opposite Gender)
Comparing your partner, especially with other people of the same gender, as in comparing your wife to other women or husband to other men, is a real blow to the self-esteem of your partner and to the overall health of your relationship.
Often the comparison is not even coming from any bad intentions. We might want to suggest something for our partner’s betterment and well-being, and as an example, we begin talking about how that XYZ person is so good at whatever stuff.
All of this might be coming from a totally innocent place and good intentions from your side, and you might not even be comparing your partner directly but only giving the example of the other person.
But that’s not how your partner might take it.
Comparison can ignite a sense of insecurity in a relationship and spoils the sense of comfort of knowing that “my partner thinks highly of me”.
When someone feels that they’re constantly being compared to other people who are better than them, that might keep them on their toes all the time and question their own adequacy.
I hope you can see how mentally, emotionally, and spiritually draining that can be for someone. And that is never healthy for any relationship.
Never Keep Secrets
If there’s something that you’re trying to hide from your partner (other than the fact that you spilled milk all over the floor last night which ruined your wife’s favorite carpet and that is the reason you had to roll it up and send it for dry-cleaning the next morning) you should reconsider what you’re doing with your life and your relationship.
And I’m not even talking about disloyalty here, that’s the worst-case scenario.
Often, keeping small and even innocent secrets just because you don’t want to face your partner’s not-so-positive reaction, can breed mistrust in the relationship.
Aim at building up your relationship to the point where you both can share and talk about stuff openly and don’t have to hide it out of the fear of reaction.
Know your partner enough to be able to communicate even the most uncomfortable things with wisdom, in a way that would be a bit easier for them to take in and digest.
Blaming always leads to a Victim-Mindset or victim mentality. A victim mentality is when you perceive things as a helpless, hopeless victim who cannot do anything to make things better.
Usually, as you can tell, it’s not a very empowering way to run your brain and handle the situation.
It often ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy, making you feel stuck and feeling like you can’t do anything, when in fact there might be something that you could do to make things better but are unable to see due to this mindset.
A simple yet profound way to get out of this mindset is to ask empowering and proactive questions to yourself.
“What can I do on my part to make things better here?”
“What are my share of mistakes that I could improve upon?”
“What is in it for me to learn and grow as a person?”
Take Responsibility for Your Happiness
Approaching a relationship with the expectations that getting married will fix your life and get you out of unfulfillment, that your partner is responsible for your happiness, and that all of your life’s problems will magically disappear and you’ll live happily ever after, is like placing a mountain’s weight on your partner and your relationship.
Your partner is not your savior or messiah, and your sense of identity must not be dependent upon your partner. Take responsibility of your happiness and well-being, and aim at becoming a complete and fulfilled person from within first.
When both people in a relationship are responsible enough to carry their own weight mentally and emotionally and are emotionally healthy, they rid their relationship off of the burdens and toxicity that codependency brings.
Blaming and victim mentality, however comforting it might seem at the moment, never brings anything good to the table and is always self-destructive.
When people put blame on others for their own misery, they are essentially avoiding the responsibility of themselves and their well-being. As a result, they give away whatever power and charge they potentially have over their life.
Never forget that you are an individual person with an individual identity regardless of how many years you’ve been married and how many kids you have.
Now, What’s Next?
You might want to bookmark this guide and keep coming back to it every now and then, so it may serve as a guide (hopefully) whenever you need it in your love life.
Setting Boundaries In a Relationship
You might also be wondering that I didn’t talk much about setting boundaries in a relationship in this guide. Setting boundaries the right way is one of the most important parts of developing a healthy, strong, life-long relationship and that is an entire topic that needs its own separate guide.
So I invite you to check out this guide on setting and maintaining healthy boundaries in a relationship:
A Complete Guide on Setting Boundaries in a Relationship (COMING SOON)
How To Fix a Toxic Relationship
If you’ve ever faced toxicity in your relationship, you might want to check out my other in-depth guide on How to Fix a Toxic Relationship.
I consider this guide as one of the cornerstones of this blog, read by thousands of people every month, and probably one of the most in-depth guides on this topic you’ll find on the internet. You can find it here:
Healthy Relationship Habits
Also, check out my other article on healthy relationship habits that every happy and successful couple must have:
15 Healthy Relationship Habits That Most Happy Couples Have (COMING SOON)
I hope this guide served you well and you’re taking away something good from this for your relationship. I pray and wish you well on your journey into a life-long, fruitful relationship.
Talk to you in the next one!
An artist by nature, a writer by calling, a psychologist by passion. Someone who has dedicated his life to exploring deep human potentials, spirituality, and timeless wisdoms of life with a hunger to share those experiences and knowledge to help others find meaning and improve the quality of their lives.