Are you One-Half of a Cohesive Couple?

It’s summer time, and for many that means a vacation – even if it’s just a weekend getaway. Summer typically incites our desire to wander, to adventure, and to relax.

On a recent hiking trip (followed by a trip to a professional development conference), I had the opportunity to think about what makes a couple cohesive. As I watched the nightly news in my hotel room, I learned of a heart-breaking racially-motivated crime, and I remembered: it’s in moments like this, when the world seems chaotic and unjust, that I remember to appreciate the people I love and draw them close.

That’s easy enough. Thank you for being there. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for making the insanity that exists in this world a little easier to bear. But we can’t rely on the drama of the nightly news to keep us “plugged in” and grateful for the person who is our anchor. And sometimes the person we’re sharing our life with is a part of the chaos – contributing to the insanity. Just what keeps a couple solid?

There are five specific behaviors that cohesive couples practice:

1. Trust

Trust is an essential component in the foundation of a cohesive relationship.

Trust can only happen when a couple is willing to be completely vulnerable with one another. There is confidence in both partners that the other’s intentions are good and that there is no reason to be overly self-protective or overly cautious or guarded around each other.

2. Conflict

It’s difficult, but important to embrace healthy conflict – with an atmosphere of trust.

Even though many of us may naturally try to avoid conflict at all costs, by doing so, we’re missing out on the kind of passionate engagement that is vital in any great relationship. All lasting relationships require productive conflict if you’re going to grow as individuals and as a unit. Learn how to do it in a way that's respectful, healthy, and puts the relationship (not your individual egos) first.

When a couple builds a foundation of vulnerability-based trust, conflict isn’t so threatening. It simply becomes an attempt to find the best possible answer or solution to a problem. Productive conflict around philosophical concepts, lifestyle habits, values and preferences is a natural part of any long-term relationship. Roll up your sleeves.

3. Commitment

When you have commitment, you at least have “buy in” on your couple-hood – despite any disagreements you might have. In the context of a cohesive relationship, commitment will give added clarity around decisions. Healthy couples understand that they must be able to commit to “the idea of us” even when the outcome is uncertain and initial disagreement is scary and strong.

4. Accountability

Do you have a “BS Detector” in your relationship? This has to do with calling out your significant other on attitudes, behaviors, or beliefs that might hurt your team of two. It also means being willing to be called out!

Let’s be honest: it’s uncomfortable to have anyone call you out on your “stuff” and no one relishes those difficult conversations. Highly functional couples overcome these natural inclinations, opting instead to ‘enter the danger’ with one another and embrace each other through it.

It can be a wee bit easier if you keep these tips in mind: