10 Essential elements of a strong relationship

Whether you’re in a brand new relationship, or you’re heading for your golden wedding anniversary, there are some essential elements that help to keep a relationship strong.

According to relationship counsellor and clinical sexologist, Leandie Buys, “falling in love is easy”, it’s maintaining the love that takes effort.

“Just like maintenance on your house or maintenance on your car, love needs maintenance and nurturing to keep it going. It is absolutely normal for the ‘honeymoon’ feeling to fade. But it doesn’t mean that you’ve fallen out of love, or that you have decided to spend your life with the wrong person.”

Here are Leandie’s top 10 elements of a strong relationship:

1. Trust

Being able to trust your partner is essential. It’s not just about trusting them not to cheat on you, it’s about trusting them to do the things they’ve promised to do. This includes hanging up the washing, fetching the kids from school etc. Knowing that they’ve got your back no matter what, and that they’re there to help with the small things as well as the big things is key to a successful relationship.

2. Communication

Partners need to communicate more. Communication breakdown is one of the major reasons for relationship breakdown. Couples eventually get so tired of ‘fighting’ or ‘nagging’ that they just stop communicating altogether.

In my practice, couples often have to learn the skill of communication. They need to learn how to talk to each other effectively, and they also need to learn how to listen. Communication is not just about voicing your own opinion, but listening to your partner’s opinion too.

3. Intimacy

Physical intimacy and emotional intimacy are very important in successful relationships. Make sure your partner knows that you find them attractive, that you think they’re ‘sexy’ and that you enjoy being intimate with them. This is a huge boost to their self-esteem.

Over time, couples often allow other things (work, kids, technology) to distract them from their physical relationship, but this is a very important part of any relationship. It’s the one thing that only you two do together… hopefully!

4. A sense of humour

Every relationship has ups and downs. Couples need to be able to look back on situations and laugh at them. They also need to learn how to take themselves less seriously.

Laughing together – even at the silliest things – can really boost the emotional intimacy between a couple. When last did you and your partner laugh together? If you feel like you’re missing a little bit of fun in your relationship, why not rent a comedy that you both find hilarious for your next date night? Or watch some YouTube ‘fail’ videos together.

5. Sharing tasks

A successful relationship cannot rely on only one person’s efforts. Both partners in the relationship need to share the everyday responsibilities of life. Whether it’s taking the kids to school, grocery shopping or planning the monthly budget, these ‘unsexy’ tasks aren’t usually the things that couples day-dream about when they’re dating. But they become a part of everyday reality, and sharing the tasks between you will help decrease the strain on both parties and build a successful relationship.

6. Some getaway time without business or children

Sometimes you just need to get away from it all. Time to reconnect as a couple, just the two of you. Leave your distractions behind, and focus on each other. Dream together, enjoy some leisure time together.

Go on a hike, or if you’re on a tight budget, spend the weekend at home catching up on the latest series while granny babysits the kids. Just make sure that the time you spend together is quality time.

7. Daily exchanges (meal, shared activity, hug, call, touch, notes)

A quick “Love you” Whatsapp message, or a two-minute phone-call, or an email sharing a cute YouTube link can go a long way towards maintaining a strong relationship.

If you want to get really romantic, leave some love notes for each other to find during the day. Hide a letter in their laptop bag, or a cute message written on a serviette in their lunch box.

8. Sharing common goals and interests

Couples thrive in a relationship when they feel supported by each other. Working towards an individual goal with the support of your partner is great, but make sure you also have some common goals to work towards.

Whether it’s saving for a holiday, or training to run a 10km race together, having a common goal is a powerful part of a successful relationship.

9. Giving each other space to grow without feeling insecure

So your partner got that big promotion? They achieved that major goal? They passed that test? Be happy for them and support them in their success. We often feel insecure when we compare our goals to others, but remember that your partner will be there to celebrate with you when you reach your goals. Give them space to achieve their dreams and they will do the same for you.

10. Give each other a sense of belonging and assurances of commitment

There is nothing better than knowing that after a long day, you get to come home to someone who loves you.

Make sure that you and your partner assure each other of your love and commitment daily. If you’ve been married for years, why not hold a small event to renew your vows? Or write them a letter reaffirming your commitment.

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