Tools to Maintain Your Union

Couple relationships often start with excitement, fluidity of connection and spontaneous acts of mutual pleasing. As with anything else that initially sparkles, relationships that are not well maintained may tarnish with time. Ongoing relationship maintenance is essential to prevent this occurrence.

Most people accept that objects must be regularly maintained to continue to function properly. Relationships are organic, defined as: “the systemic arrangements of parts into a whole.” Yet, the “parts” in relationships, i.e. the mates, continue to grow and evolve and are forever changing. Thus, the maintenance of the interaction between the partners requires ongoing adjustments to achieve a smooth and satisfying connection for both individuals.

Researchers Laura Stafford and Daniel J. Canary of Ohio State University found five relationship maintenance behaviors that were most effective in creating and maintaining a satisfactory couple relationship: 1. Being Positive, cheerful and upbeat while abstaining from criticizing the partner. 2. Providing each other assurances of their commitment and love. 3. Being open and self-disclosing. 4. Having an active social network. 5. Sharing tasks fairly and to the satisfaction of both partners without either mate feeling over or under benefited.

In The New Rules of Marriage Terrence Real lists his five tactics for cultivating lovers’ energy in a long-term relationship. “1. Reclaim your romantic time with each other. 2. Tell the truth. Be fully open to each other. 3. Cultivate sharing. 4. Cherish your partner. Appreciate each other at least once a day. 5. Share a commitment to relational practice.”

Pairs in couple therapy do report some of the issues stated above. However, perhaps the most important emotional issue that partners express is needing to know that they are still valued and loved by their mate. Though some of the manifestations of a happy union include practical aspects such as sharing responsibilities and having a good social support, intimately, the heart and mind connection is centered on being liked, appreciated, respected and loved.

In therapy, partners who are able to express their love, respect, appreciation, admiration and desire for their mate are more likely to easily resolve their relationship issues and restore their marital harmony than those who withhold expressing their love.

When we perceive that we are liked in business, work, family or friendship we tend to believe that we will receive better service or accommodations. Conversely, when we doubt the other’s positive intent toward us we are more likely to be guarded, mistrusting and experience greater challenges in achieving a satisfactory outcome.

To facilitate all human interactions we are wise to voice our confidence in the other’s competence, positive intent and ability to maximize outcome satisfaction. If we can do so with others, we can certainly will ourselves to do so in our relationships.

Tools for relationship maintenance:

  • Daily verbalize your appreciation, admiration and love for your mate and your enthusiasm about your union.
  • Express your frustrations in language you could hear best if it were addressed to you.
  • Model accommodating behaviors with consideration and love.





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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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