How to make a relationship last | Love | Kylie Purtell - Capturing Life

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

How to make a relationship last | Love

I don't profess to be an expert when it comes to relationships. I'm a believer that there is always something more we can be learning, and I think that applies equally to love and life. 

Dave and I have been together for a while now. 12 years last Saturday, August 2nd, to be exact (6 of those married). It hasn't all been rainbows and unicorn farts over the years though. Like any relationship there have been ups and downs. No matter where we are in the cycle though, there is one thing we both know is vital for the success of a long-term relationship. Communication.

Communication is vital

Being able to talk to each other, relate to each other , listen to each other. It plays a fundamental role in sustaining a relationship and making things work. When I look at all of the people I know who have had relationship breakdowns or gone through divorce, there is almost always one thing in common that has lead to the breakdown: lack of communication from one or both partners.

Personally I'm not big on talking "feelings". In fact you'll more often than not find me writing my feelings as I am just not so great at expressing them face to face. When it comes to my relationship with Dave, it's something I've had to work on. It's so important to let your partner know how much you appreciate them. It's easy with the stress of life to focus only on what people haven't done for us, but infinitely more important to focus on what they have.

At the same time you need to be able to talk about the things that aren't so great. Life and love isn't all smiles and it's important to acknowledge that too. The trick is in how you talk about it. If you do feel like your partner hasn't been meeting your needs or the needs of your house in one way or another then you need to let them know. Just don't let them know in the heat of an argument, when you're both angry and prone to saying something you'll regret.

Talk about it when you're both calm. Explain to them what/why you need them to do (or not do!) certain things. Explain how they make you feel and what would help you to feel better. Communicating in this way is something that Dave and I have both had to work on over the years.


Now, if I'm being a bitch and need to pull my head in, Dave will tell me. He won't let the way I'm making him feel fester under the surface. He acknowledges that I'm under stress, but that he is only there to support me, and that my taking it out on him does neither of us any favours.

At the same time, I tell Dave when he has been doing something that drives me nuts. And while we do argue, we have both learnt to really listen to what the other is (and often isn't) saying. To think about it and take it on board.

Dave and I have both grown immensely since we first met at 20 and 21 respectively. We are not the same people we were during the first lustful, passionate throes of our relationship. By working on our communication skills we have managed to grow in the same direction, and be more in love today than we ever have been.

Kindness is key

I read an article back in June titled Masters of Love. Summed up with "Science says lasting relationships come down to - you guessed it - kindness and generosity". It was shared on FB by the lovely Kelly Exeter at A Life Less Frantic, an excellent blog; if you haven't read Kelly's words yet you really must!

This article spoke to me. The points the article made have stayed with me, bubbling away just under the surface of my brain.

I highly recommend you go and have a read of it for yourself. One it's main points is that researchers, after many years, have found that "Contempt is the number one factor that tears couples apart. " It solidified something that I have been thinking and working towards for more than a few years now. Probably since before we got married.

I've realised that the more I focus on the negatives I see around myself and Dave, the more there seems to be. Once I started to make a conscious effort to notice the positives, and to express my gratitude for the things that Dave does, the more positives I begin to find.

This is something Dave has always been good at. It's just the kind of person he is. It's taken me a little longer to get there. There are still days when all I see around me are the negatives. Now though, I make an effort to see and think about the positives as often as possible. To express my gratitude and communicate my love and thanks to Dave as much as I can.

Pin It!

The excerpt that Kelly shared on her FB page is the part that's really stuck with me the most. I find my mind has gone back to these words almost daily since I read them (bold emphasis is mine) -
Contempt, they have found, is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 percent of positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it’s not there. People who give their partner the cold shoulder—deliberately ignoring the partner or responding minimally—damage the relationship by making their partner feel worthless and invisible, as if they’re not there, not valued. And people who treat their partners with contempt and criticize them not only kill the love in the relationship, but they also kill their partner's ability to fight off viruses and cancers. Being mean is the death knell of relationships.
Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research independent from theirs has shown that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved. “My bounty is as boundless as the sea,” says Shakespeare’s Juliet. “My love as deep; the more I give to thee, / The more I have, for both are infinite.” That’s how kindness works too: there’s a great deal of evidence showing the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to upward spirals of love and generosity in a relationship.

This article has made me even more determined to direct as much kindness towards Dave as I can. To focus on the positives and to show my thanks and appreciation for all that he does. It's all too easy to get caught up in a negative cycle, and I truly believe that along with communication, kindness is the other most important thing to sustain not just a long-term relationship, but a loving one too.

It seems I'm not alone in thinking that communication and kindness are the foundations of a successful relationship. When I asked the following question on Facebook a little while ago, two of the most common answers were, you guessed it, communication and kindness.


The idea of kindness begetting kindness is something that I am going to make a concerted effort to model to my girls. Not just for the benefit of our mother/daughter relationship, but also for the benefit of their future relationships. What they see demonstrated between Dave and I will have a profound impact on the relationships they form for the rest of their lives, and I'm trying to be more mindful of this moving forward.

I know that if Dave and I continue to work on communication and kindness then it will stand us in good stead for getting through the next 12 years and beyond.

What do you think is the secret of a lasting relationship?  Have you been guilty of focusing too much on the negatives rather than the positives, like me? And if you could use only one word to describe the secret to a happy, long-term relationship, what would it be?

28 comments:

  1. Wow, that's so interesting! Husby is home with a cold today, and now I'm worried I made him catch it! We're just coming out of some pretty intensive baby years and have only just started getting out of the house together. Just spending that time hanging out and listening to each other is wonderful and has contributed to our connection repairing itself where it was looking a bit tattered at times. It's so easy when you have little kids to start to see your partner purely on a functional level (who's picking up the kids, whose turn is it to make dinner, why didn't he hang out the washing....). Just having time to reconnect is wonderful. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Love this article Kylie, really well written. Everything you mention is so true. For me communication is often where I fall down, by the end of the day once the girls are in bed asleep, the last thing I feel like doing is talking with my husband!! It's a vicious circle x

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great piece Kylie - Communication is the key - and I think finding out how to best do that with your partner is very worthwhile. My hubby needs to hear something and then go away and think about it. Now that I know this I don't harass him quite as much for an answer.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I don't think there is a secret, I just think taking each day as it comes and trying to be the best person you can be helps as does communication, respect and rekindling the fire often x

    ReplyDelete
  5. LOL - that is definitely the right word as far as I am concerned - communication !!! A and I have been married for nearly 27yrs and that doesn't come without it's up and downs and ways to negotiate the difficulties along the way. Communication for me is absolutely key. A doesn't talk much but when he does, I try really hard to listen - but it's not always just about the words - it's also about the actions. The hand holding when we are out or watching TV or driving in the car, it's the hugs as you walk past each other in the passage way, it's the tender kiss on your forehead for no particular reason except you came in from outside.
    Thank you for a lovely, well written article !
    Me xox

    ReplyDelete
  6. Communication and really spending time with each other facing each other is so important. I love the advice in this article and it's something I've been thinking about too lately.

    ReplyDelete
  7. So I was speaking to my godfather on Friday and he told me, he's nearly 70, that men just need a bit of softness. They are suckers for a bit of nice. So each day instead of being a cranky cow when hubby gets home I fake it until I feel nice and there is less crank around here, for now.... xx

    ReplyDelete
  8. I definitely think that communication is key, especially when it comes to how you are traveling as a couple. Paul and I recently had a sit down about just that, and one of the things that came up was that both of us are really 'good' at clamming up and not talking, which just lets things fester. Although I don't suggest using the deli section in Woolies to practice it..especially if it involves calling your partner a big baby :/

    ReplyDelete
  9. I agree, communication is key to a successful and long lasting relationship. Compromise and working as a team is also what has helped us survive so long. You and your Dave have such a beautiful relationship. I can see a lifetime of happiness together in front of you.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Great post Kylie.
    I know I need to work on communication. I often think things through and then speak, but boatman is the opposite. It's taken us time to work with each other on that.
    I love the reminder to be kind. Always something to focus on.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great advice there. I agree on communication and kindness being important --- probably why I'm currently single! Somehow I seem to attract guys who are avoidant and don't want to communicate. Or else I withdraw like I did with my ex to protect myself. My ex and I were very critical towards one another --- just seemed to bring out the worst. It's a lovely reminder through your post...

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks for such a good reminder about the key elements. Mr Vick and I are in a bit of a rough patch. Blerg. It's all a bit combustive but I know it's mostly due to stress, fatigue and not enough one on one time. We are learning to be better communicators and we've come along in leaps and bounds compared to where we used to be. We were kids when we first started going around together (17 & 21) so we've really matured together. I think we could learn to be a little kinder to one another rather when one is in struggle town. I think it's important to spend just a little time a day together to check in. Even if it's just a cup of tea and a chin wag or holding hands on the couch watching some rubbish TV otherwise the couple part can get lost. Most importantly the desire to want it to work is the most important part and I know even when we're real snappy at one another we still have that and want to always get better :) Thanks for this post x

    ReplyDelete
  13. Firstly, congratulations to you and Dave on the anniversary and to you both for being aware and committed enough to realise there is work behind all long term successes. If I had to use one word (guessing love is a given), the first one would be respect. Closely followed by kindness and communication. Can't wait to read this article. The thing the excerpt said about sickness and health protection....just wow.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I really need to work on my kindness and seeing the positives. I could easily tell you 10 things that annoy me about my husband, but would take much longer to tell you 10 things I love. That is just sad and really, not on! Communication has torn us apart and built us back together more times than I can count. It is something that doesn't come naturally to most, so requires a lot of work. And we often need reminders to work on it!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Some days are easier than others to focus on the positives rather than the negatives I have to say. And then Dave usually gives me a verbal bitch-slapping and I realise what I've been doing.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thanks Twitchy! Respect is definitely a big one too, and I think it goes hand in hand with kindness, we can't be kind if we aren't respectful of our partner's either. It's a really good article, I think you'll like it x

    ReplyDelete
  17. Its so hard with two small ones isn't it. They are just so demanding of us during the day that we don't have much left for our partners later on. One thing I try to do is make an effort to spend an hour each evening just hanging out with Dave, watching TV or chatting on the lounge, even if it means I have to put off doing some other stuff and go to bed later, it's worth it to just have that adult time together xx

    ReplyDelete
  18. I definitely went through a few guys like that before I found Dave. He really is the one who taught me what a kind and respectful relationship should be like. That's not to say he's perfect, but he has made me work harder to be worthy of him and to repay him the kindness and respect he's shown me.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thanks Jess. It's funny how you have to adapt and teach each other about something that we see as so basic normally, communication. I think it also takes time to figure out what works best with the other person and then to learn to adapt our approach accordingly.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Definitely compromise and being a team. I know especially when it comes to parenting, working as a team is essential and it's something that Dave and I always try to do, to back each other up and support the choices and discipline that the other makes.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Bahaha, I think many a relationship has been tested in the deli section of the local supermarket. There is just something about grocery shopping with your partner that brings it out!

    ReplyDelete
  22. I think that is so true. And I love the idea of faking it till you make it. Some days I am in such a foul mood and I have to consciously make an effort to be nice to Dave and not take my bad mood out on him. Often just making the decision to do it and can help change my mood for the better. Your Godfather sounds like a wise man!

    ReplyDelete
  23. The article really sticks with you, doesn't it? Dave and I have made a real effort since having kids to spend at least an hour in the evenings together, just hanging out and being with each other, even if it's just to sit and watch and discuss something on TV.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Dave is the same, he doesn't talk a great deal, but when he does I know it's important and that I really need to listen and take on board what he is saying to me.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Yep, trying to be a better person is definitely important. Some days just suck but we need to just get up every day and try again.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Thanks Annaleis. Yep, working out the best way to communicate with each other is a big part of it. How someone processes what we say is just important as how we say it I think.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Thanks Carla. I find it really hard some days too, having small ones just drains you of every ounce of patience and energy and it's often our partners who bear the brunt of the frustrations at the end of the day. I think just being able to acknowledge that is a step in the right direction. xx

    ReplyDelete
  28. Hahaha, Dave doesn't get sick very often, but now every time he does I am so going to be analysing my behaviour towards him in the lead up to it!


    I've found the last couple of years really hard in maintaining the spark in marriage, babies really do suck the life out of you (sometimes literally when it comes to breastfeeding!). Now that Zee is a little older and we can leave her for longer periods we've been making a real effort to do a few things just the two of us. I've actually just booked us a super fancy room in a hotel in the city as a belated anniversary getaway and I can't wait to spend an entire 24 hours reminding myself why I fell in love with Dave in the first place!

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...