Emotional Fitness

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10 Basic Truths About Keeping Your Relationship Healthy

It's easy to make relationships more complicated than they are.

I think it's easy to make things more complicated than they need to be. Here are some basic rules of the relationship road that will keep you headed in the right direction.

1. Successful relationships take work. They don't happen in a vacuum. They occur when the couples in them take the risk of sharing what it is that's going on in their hearts and heads.

2. You can only change yourself, not your partner. If you love someone and think that after a while he or she will alter behaviors you find uncomfortable, think again. If you want changes, put them on the table, so your partner knows what you need.

3. All arguments stem from our own fear or pain. When upset occurs, check out what's going on inside you rather than getting angry with your partner. Truth is that we usually aren't upset for the reasons we think we are.

4. Understand that men and women are very different. We're not from Mars or Venus; we're not even in the same solar system. Understanding and celebrating our differences will make living together more peaceful, interesting and fun.

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5. Honor each other in some way every day. Every morning, you have the opportunity to make your relationship sweeter and deeper by recommitting to your mate. Feeling respected and cherished by the one you love makes life much nicer.

6. Anger is a waste of time. Anger also is a relationship killer because it makes you self-absorbed and won't allow you to see the good. If you are annoyed with your mate, give yourself some time to calm down and then gently discuss what's going on for you.

7. Get regular tune-ups. Go to a couples workshop, talk with a counselor or read a relationship book together at least once a year. Even if you don't think that you need ideas, and the process alone will strengthen your connection.

8. Find a way to become and stay best friends. For some, this sounds unromantic, but for those who live it, most say it's the best part of their time together.

9. Be responsible for your own happiness. No other person can make you happy. It's something that you have to do on your own. If you feel that it's your partner's fault, think again, and look within to find out what piece may be missing for you.

10. Give what you want to get. Our needs change with time. If you'd like to feel understood, try being more understanding. If you want to feel more love, try giving more. It's a simple program that really works.

There are no guarantees, but couples who practice these techniques have longer and stronger relationships than those who are not proactive in their love.

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Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, columnist, and radio host. His latest book is The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.

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