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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
Women, remember that men usually prefer a straightforward delivery. (Having spent so much time in the workforce, an increasing number of women are expressing a preference for considerate but direct communication as well!) A truthful, logical explanation will likely resonate stronger and be more memorable for your man.
Men, remember that women typically want to hear a positive framing of your explanation.
5. Results & Rewards
The result and the reward is having a satisfying relationship that enhances who you are as a person and who you are as a duo. If this isn’t the outcome you’re enjoying (or at least have the hope of achieving), then it’s pretty hard to prop up the relationship with the four pillars on this list!
Whether you use the label “boyfriend/girlfriend,” “lover,” “life partner,” or “husband/wife” to describe your relationship, staying accountable and staying focused on the common goal (staying together) is key. The best strategy is to encourage trust by being trustworthy; to be brave enough to allow space for healthy conflict, to hold commitment as your highest principle and value, and practice the give-and-get of accountability.
If you’re struggling with this (or some part of it) in your relationship or simply wishing to find someone you could put these tips into practice with – I can help. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s talk about the type of dating coaching or matchmaking services (or even couples' coaching services!) that will be right for you as you strive to become one half of a cohesive couple!