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Let’s face it:  Relationships can be messy and unpredictable.  They are hard and complicated.  It is never what we expected.  There are highs and lows.  But in the lows, we can be tempted to cower in fear.  Imagine what it would be like if we approached our relationship with the courage of a warrior!  We could actually have a relationship of heroic proportions.

To do this heroic work it is imperative to give the relationship the attention it deserves.  Your relationship needs to be nurtured; to be actively worked on.  Developing a deeper level of understanding of each other and insight into your self is the key to greater connection and intimacy.

The question is, “How do we achieve that?”  Below are some ways to create a rich, fulfilling and successful relationship.

  1. Be yourself. Drop the façade.  Be willing to risk being vulnerable, sharing ALL aspects of who you are.
  2. Actively listen to your partner from a place of neutrality and non-judgment. If you have formed your defense before your partner is finished talking, you are not listening.
  3. Be curious about what your partner is saying. Before reacting, ask questions to get a deeper understanding of what is being said. Don’t assume.
  4. Don’t believe the stories you make up. Your interpretation of events and feelings are what you make up in our head. Focus on what IS to get closer to the truth of the message being conveyed.
  5. Stay open. Fear shuts us down.  When you are vulnerable, true connection to the other is possible.
  6. Don’t personalize. Consider that your partner’s upset may have nothing to do with you.  Old wounds might have been triggered and that they are projecting them on you.
  7. Stop looking for perfection. What you call “high standards” is a mask for our own feelings of inadequacy.
  8. Establish interests outside the relationship. Expanding as an individual brings a renewed energy into the relationship.
  9. Embrace the messiness. It gives us the gift of growth.
  10. There is no right or wrong. There is no objective truth. Respect that your partner’s truth is equally as valid as yours.  It is your truth, not THE truth.
  11. Be willing to move into a place of empathy. Let your partner know you respect what they are saying, that you understand them and imagine walking in their shoes.  This grows compassion. Note:  This does not mean that you have to agree with them, only that you understand their experience.
  12. Don’t blame but take responsibility for your choices and actions. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements when communicating.
  13. Find a compromise and sometimes sacrifice. Negotiate your needs. Compromise means you are working as a team.
  14. Be willing to “stretch” yourself in order to meet the needs of your partner. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but the results will speak volumes.
  15. Be tolerant of each other’s shortcomings. What bothers you about your partner may be what you need to change in yourself.
  16. Do what you say you are going to do. Trust is built on keeping your word and following through.
  17. Be willing to forgive. Your anger and resentment will only hold you captive to the pain.
  18. Practice the five to one rule. For every one difficult interaction, express five positive interactions to counterbalance the negative one.
  19. Have fun, play and laugh. This is a prescription for creating joy and fulfillment.
  20. Be Kind. Small kindnesses and considerations pay huge dividends.

To make it easy, choose one from the list and focus on the one until it becomes automatic.  This won’t be easy.  With patience, commitment and courage a loving and healthy relationship is possible.

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Rebecca Kahane holds a Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology from the University of Santa Monica and is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has over 20 years of experience as a clinician, specializing in teens, individuals, and couples and maintains a private practice in El Segundo, California. Rebecca has had extensive training in couple's counseling, using a specific approach that has shown to be highly effective in the treatment of couple's issues.On a personal note, Rebecca has been married for over 24 years. Rebecca and her husband raised his two children and have a child between them. Rebecca and her husband also have three playful doggie companions. As an "empty-nester" Rebecca became a Pilates enthusiast. In 2012 she became a Certified Pilates Instructor. Rebecca can be reached at (310) 925-0607