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The 3 R's of Maintaining a Strong Relationship: Essential Tips for Couples

Tips for maintaining a strong relationship

Romantic relationships are often exciting and almost perfect at the start, but over time, many couples find themselves wondering what happened to the spark in their relationship. As the newness fades and the honeymoon period wears off, negative patterns can develop, leading you to question if your partner is truly the right person for you. However, it’s important to remember that sustaining a strong bond is less about compatibility and more about the hard work and mutual effort both partners put into the relationship.

There may be many external factors and life events that naturally strain any relationship over time. It’s important to recognize that there’s no such thing as a perfect relationship. However, there are steps you can take to strengthen your bond and feel secure in your relationship, ensuring it can weather any storms.

First of all, how do you define a strong relationship?

  • A relationship isn't consistently positive; it ebbs and flows like a wave. Each partner navigates challenges in their own way—sometimes as a unified team, other times individually.

  • The strength and health of a relationship aren't measured by the frequency of disagreements or the content of the arguments. It's not about avoiding conflict altogether but how quickly and effectively couples bounce back and collaborate to resolve issues.

  • A strong relationship is characterized by the ability of both partners to rebound from disagreements promptly and work together as a cohesive team to address challenges.

A strong and secure relationship is where each partner can engage in what I call the 3 R's.

Firstly, the ability to RECOGNISE misattunement or disconnection in an otherwise harmonious relationship is crucial. This can look like:

  • Acknowledging that you are both in disagreement or have differing opinions over something.

  • Recognising when you have engaged in fight/flight/freeze responses or reactionary emotions. For instance, raising voices, shutting down and not responding to your partner, criticising or blaming the other, etc. It is normal and natural for us to get triggered and have extreme reactions from time to time. But letting these reactions unchecked becomes a problem in your relationship.

  • Identifying when you are both feeling disconnected or unable to communicate effectively or resolve issues without feeling triggered.

  • Recognising also involves reflecting on yourself and on your own actions that may have contributed to the misattunement, disconnection or conflict, and exploring the why behind your actions.

  • Reflecting tentatively on your partner's actions: why could they have acted the way they did, and what might be an unmet need for them?

  • Recognising any external circumstances that may be causing stress on either of you.

Once you have recognised and reflected, the second step is to attempt a REPAIR. All relationships have struggles, conflicts and issues from time to time, but ones where problems are frequently unresolved are not very healthy.

The steps to REPAIR a rupture are:

  • Invite your partner to re-address the disagreement together, expressing your willingness to listen and understand them.

  • Listen to what your partner shares with an open mind.

  • Validate their feelings and empathise with their hurt.

  • Offer a sincere apology if your actions have hurt your partner.

  • Once your partner feels fully heard and acknowledged by you, express your deeper feelings softly and clearly to your partner. (It is important to remember that when sharing your feelings, you are expressing using "I" language and not blaming your partner).

The third R is RECONNECT.

  • Both of you take full responsibility for your own actions in the disagreement.

  • Work together as a team to discuss how you will address similar issues in the future.

  • Do things that help you reconnect and rekindle your loving connection, whether it's spending time together, going on a date, having sex or comforting each other with a hug.

Healthy and strong relationships are marked by a couple's ability to RECOGNISE ruptures (big or small), REPAIR the rupture together and RECONNECT after a disagreement in positive ways.

If you struggle with being able to address issues collaboratively or reconnecting after a disagreement, there may be many contributing factors:

  • family history of relationship breakdowns

  • An insecure attachment style formed from negative childhood experiences.

  • breach of trust in this or past relationships

  • mental health issues for one or both partners

  • grief, loss or trauma that impacts the couple and family relationship.

If your relationship has complex negative patterns that inhibit your ability to repair and reconnect after ruptures, couple therapy may help you address these issues in a safe environment.

I use the Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) approach, based on attachment theory to help individuals and couples develop secure relationships.

To find out more about how I can assist with your relationship, schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation by clicking on the link below.

Shobana Suresh (Registered Clinical Counsellor)

Shobana has received training in EFT at the Australian Centre for EFT (ACEFT), and currently working towards certification as an EFT therapist, by the International Centre for Emotionally Focused Therapy (ICEEFT).

Individual & couple therapy appointments are available in Blacktown, Sydney and online. 

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