There are a lot of books out there on relationships. Many of them start with a number. A hunt through the “relationships” section of the bookstore will turn up 5 love languages, 7 principles for making a marriage work, 8 dates and more. When our book comes out in February, “The 5 Core Conversations for Couples” will be there as well.
As a therapist, Julie has spent years working with couples, families, and individuals who need help with relationships. We all, at one time or another, struggle with our romantic relationships, friendships, our relationships with children, parents, and co-workers.
The people that come to David’s office most certainly are there, first and foremost, because their relationship with a partner is at risk or already irretrievably broken. It doesn’t end there, though.
If a person is looking to divorce, you can be certain that her other relationships are also affected. Divorce inevitably affects someone’s patience as a parent, can lead to stress at work, disconnecting from friends and even parents.
We have spent a lot of time over the years talking about what we see in our two offices, our clients’ struggles as well as their successes. We have come up with what to us looks like a three-link chain to relationship success. And guess what? We can use not only a number, but each link begins with the same letter!
It is not rocket science, but here goes:
The first link to our chain is communication. Couples who communicate regularly, openly and honestly have a much higher likelihood of staying together, and not making the move from Julie’s couch to David’s office and divorce court.
The second link is the connection. Stay connected to your partner, what he or she needs and wants, when he is upset or happy, had trouble at the office or a falling out with a friend. That emotional connection and understanding of each other are integral to a successful relationship.
The third link is consistency. Try to be even and balanced in your relationship with your partner, avoid the pendulum swings from over the top highs to mind-numbing lows.
People in Julie’s office often complain about a partner from whom they don’t know what to expect and spend their lives walking on eggshells. Was it a good day at the office? Is she going to come home angry or tired or upset?
By the time they get to David, the imbalance in the relationship has been redirected to: “I’ve had enough”, “I can’t take the mood swings every day” or “One day he’s fine, he next day he is horrible.”
Not knowing what to expect from a partner causes anxiety and anxiety cause stress. Stress in a relationship builds and often leads to divorce.
A couple came to see Julie for a month or so ago. She asked them when the last time was that they some quality time together, without interruption of kids’ work and technology. They both looked at each other and couldn’t remember.
Between parenting their two young children, and working full time, neither could remember when they just did something for the two of them to visit, talk or laugh. Life had gotten away from them.
Julie broke out the 3 C’s. She understood that their lives were busy but told them that if they didn’t find time to get busy communicating and connecting, the next appointment one of them would make would be with a divorce lawyer. They had to find time for themselves, not just once, but consistently.
The couple returned to Julie’s office a few weeks later and told her that after they left the last session, the two of them did not rush home but instead went to lunch together. They talked and laughed and decided that they would meet on the porch that night after the kids were in bed.
The wife told me that the lunch was “flirty and fun”; it led to their planned get together on the porch that led to “some great sex” as well, according to the husband. The two of them have decided that they will meet for lunch every other week.
We understand that it’s not always simple. Relationships can be hard, exhausting even. We get that. We do think, however, that if you keep those 3 C’s in the chain-linked together– communication, connection, and consistency – your relationship stands a better chance of adding an S to your 3 C’s– success.