The idea of getting into other relationships after a divorce may sound about as appealing as having a root canal.  Truthfully, the percentage of people who will remarry within 5 years of divorce is roughly 54%.  At some point when you are ready to look for love again, you may ask yourself “What contributes to relationships being successful?”

As a practicing marital and sex therapist, I am often confronted with this very question.  People are looking for a measure of what helps a relationship to survive long term. Couples are struggling with how to remain married with intimacy.  We desire intimacy and a relationship that thrives even through difficult growth periods.

What are the differences between relationships that defy divorce and those that may not withstand the challenge?

Relationships that withstand the test of time have a couple of common practices.  First, the individuals in these relationships function while standing on their own feet.  This means that they are not giving up their personal truths in order to be a part of a courtship and don’t sell themselves out to be in a relationship.  It also means that they have stepped away and developed some objectivity on what contributed to their last relationship(s) failing.  They understand at all times they are responsible for their actions and pay attention to this factor consistently to avoid repeating history.  They know what they want in, and from a relationship and share this with their partner recognizing that this evolves over the long term.

Second, building and beginning from a solid underlying friendship is essential in long term relationships because it breeds respect between partners.  Mutual respect builds into developing a true intimacy that can withstand difficult growth and change periods in the relationship.  Respect between partners is always a work in progress and needs to be tended to much as a garden needs water.  Understanding your worth and believing you are deserving of a great and happy relationship contributes to a solid friendship between partners.

Next, focusing on your own behavior rather than what your partner must change is very important. You don’t fix problems by fixing your partner, the change must come through them or else you need to evaluate if this relationship is a good fit for you.  Most of the time we believe we are “fed up” with our partner’s ways but in reality we are angry at ourselves for continuing to put up with it.  Being honest will help you understand that the problem may be your low tolerance for the ways of your partner and will help you to evaluate if you really can be in a marriage or long term relationship well.

In addition, recognizing that communication is very important and that non-verbal communication is about 93% of the interaction equation.  Often couples are saying quite a bit to each other through their “non-communication” or temporary lack of participation within the relationship.  For example, if you look at sex within a relationship, it is always the low desire partner that controls the frequency and intensity of sexual relations within the couple.  Sometimes not actively “participating” in a relationship serves greater purpose and can be viewed as anything but “accidental”.  Everything you do within a relationship counts as a move either towards or away from your partner.

Intimacy and sex play a key role in the developing and growing of relationships. Durable relationships are nurtured when the parties are willing to be vulnerable to each other.   In order to be vulnerable to our partners we have to have a solid understanding of who we are and what we want to accomplish both intimately and sexually.  Confronting your own desires about what you want will help to facilitate trust and generate excitement.  You can’t tell your partner to do what you don’t know you want them to.

Finally, the single biggest difference between couples who have happy, successful relationships verses those that don’t is that those who stick together happen to have solid predictability as to how their arguments end.  Being able to successfully move through and then past a disagreement will help to determine the longevity and happiness within a successful relationship.  Relationships are mutual agreements requiring renewal on a consistent basis

Education about relationships is pretty difficult to find.  After all, many of us have poor role models as to how to have a functioning relationship.  Recognize how you are contributing to the problems, know what you want within the relationship and communicate your needs to your partner consistently.  Understanding and increasing your knowledge base and the “how’s” to a successful relationship is a step towards victory and happiness in a long term courtship.

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