What does it take to build a healthy relationship?

Finding true love requires careful thought and understanding of what makes love.

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Often, people write to me asking if love really exists. Truthfully speaking, finding true love requires careful thought and understanding of what makes love. It is important to move from fantasy to the real world of making relationships work—relationships that will endure the challenges of this life.

Fantasy and attraction may characterise a relationship seasonally. However, this is not everything when it comes to relationships. Matters become complicated when we discover that we are all people with flaws.

Many have confused love with infatuation and in the end, felt that they were cheated by their partner. Being a religious man, my belief is that “Even if I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

A great starting point in knowing true love is to identify the reason that draws us to a particular person. People get attracted to each other for many reasons—some out of curiosity and selfish motives while others out of genuine love. When the thing that gets us together is temporal—like sex, the relationships survive on that. My worry is that; this is not what was intended in what makes up a healthy relationship.

I suggest that we plan to love others for who they are. Building friendships that communicate lasting values of trust, respect, endurance and faithfulness is not easy. This journey is part of building a firm foundation in a relationship. It is said that “What we sow is what we reap.” When we are selfish, the relationship is most likely going to be characterised by the same.

A good litmus test is whether a couple can detect and look for the source of the cracks that emerge in the relationship. The break-ups or silence we see in relationships speak a lot about the lack of the essential ingredients in building a firm foundation. For example, comprises and lack of genuine disclosure can affect such a foundation. We need to let go any desire to hide things from each other and instead communicate openly and truthfully. In addition, defining for yourself what you will be looking for in a spouse is key.

Healthy relationships must embed a culture of self-evaluation in their interactions. First, when you are together, what do you talk about most or what preoccupies your time? Do you ask anything about their background, past friendships, family history or future plans? General talk that does not get to the meat of the relationship may never lay the foundation needed.

Second, what makes one or both spouses determine what is right? If there is a feeling of inconsistency, then there is need to involve intellect in dissecting issues instead of cover-ups. It is important to remain focused on what matters. Keep the main thing the main thing instead of putting too much focus on temporal gains. It is also necessary to explore issues instead of sharing what you desire to see prematurely.

Deep and lasting connections take time to build and requires: honest disclosure, time spent together, prioritising each other, setting clear goals together and painting the picture of the kind of relationship they should have.

I suggest that each spouse should work at: First, depositing little but intentional thoughts and actions in a spirit of gratitude. Second, giving each other unsolicited emotional, spiritual, or physical support. Third, concentrating on value adding actions so as to keep the relationship vibrant. Fourth, being each other’s keeper by defending them from outside aggressors. Lastly, showing empathy as you avoid speaking the wrong things behind your partner’s back that are meant to demean or embarrass them. True empathy works wonders—your partner needs it. Since we all have blind spots, we need the input of others if we are going to maximise on the indifference.

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