As a relationship and dating coach, I strive to help couples build relationships that are mature, committed, passionate, and free of conflict.
Building this type of deep and passionate relationship with your spouse or partner requires a certain amount of knowledge. You need to know, for example, how to resolve simple conflicts and avoid screaming matches. You need to know how to avoid problems with infidelity or cheating, what your rights and responsibilities are within the partnership, how to keep your sex life healthy, and so on.
That’s where this article comes in. On this page, you’ll find the information and advice that you’ll need to build a healthy and mature romantic relationship with your spouse or partner. If you read the entire article and put my advice into practice, you’ll be well on your way to living happily ever after with the love of your life. Let’s get started, shall we?
PART ONE: What Does a Healthy Relationship Look Like?
Before we begin discussing how to build a better relationship, let’s first talk about what a healthy relationship actually is. I mean, it sounds pretty simple, right? But really, the ideal relationship – one that’s mature and committed, with a very strong bond between two partners – involves a number of different factors.
Let’s start with the obvious: A strong, mature, romantic relationship absolutely must be free of cheating, infidelity, and any other extra-marital flirtations.
Cheating ruins relationships – often irreparably. The loss of trust (arguably the most critical and fundamental component of a strong relationship) inevitable in the wake of this behaviour can destroy a couple’s bond in the blink of an eye; infidelity has absolutely no place in a healthy relationship.
Staying faithful and avoiding any ‘sinful’ temptations may sound straightforward, but many people have trouble maintaining their self-discipline. If you’re the type that often gets wound up in affairs or ‘flings’ when you’re in a relationship, then you need to address this issue before you do anything else.
Simply put, most couples never fully recover from an affair. While things may be okay in the long run, the impact that cheating has on the trust between you and your partner can take years to heal… if it ever does heal.
Total Trust & No Jealousy Issues
As I mentioned above, trust between you and your partner is absolutely critical to a happy relationship. Without trust, you’ll never really achieve a “mature” or “healthy” partnership, in fact you and your lover will regularly butt heads.
Trust is crucial for several reasons. For starters, it allows both you and your partner to breathe easily, meaning neither of you has to worry when the other person is off on a business trip, out late at the nightclub with friends, etc.
Trust also means that you and your significant other don’t ever feel the need to pry into one another’s private matters, secretly checking your partner’s emails and text messages, etc.
Another reason trust is so crucial is because it gives you (and your partner) the strength to quash any feelings of jealousy.
For example, let’s say your spouse is out of town for a few days, and doesn’t call you after a late night of partying. Your first reaction might be to become jealous, letting your imagination run wild and jumping to conclusions about your lover’s infidelity.
But, if there’s true trust between you and your partner, you’ll know that these feelings of jealousy that are running through your veins are not based in reality or past history.
If you and your significant other have always been truthful with one another, then you’ll know that these horrible fantasies of cheating and infidelity that pop into your mind when your spouse fails to phone you after a night out are simply that: stupid, unrealistic fears that are totally unfounded. Reminding yourself that your partner is trustworthy, you can sleep easily knowing that nothing sinister is going on. You will also be refraining from throwing wild and terrible accusations at your loving partner that may damage the balance of trust in your relationship in the future.
Finally, trust is critical if you want to establish a deep connection with your partner – the type of connection that builds life-long bonds and holds marriages together through thick and thin. You and your partner are a team, standing together to face all of the challenges life throws your way. Knowing that the other person “has your back,” no matter what, relies on a deep and ingrained understanding of trust.
In short, trust is everything, and you need to build a trusting relationship if you hope to live “happily ever after” with your partner.
If you and your partner are going to overcome the obstacles, arguments, and difficult times that you’re going to end up facing over the coming years, then you need to establish a level of equality.
Both you and your better half need to understand that relationships are a two-way street, and both halves of a couple need to have equal responsibilities and equal ‘rights’. That means accepting half of the household chores, half of the financial burden, and so on.
Being equal also means that you both share the burden of maintaining the health of your relationship. When fights occur, you’re both to blame. When times are tough, you’re both responsible for working through them. When your spouse is struggling with a ‘life issue’ (i.e. troubles at work, with their health, with their social life, etc.), it’s your job to be supportive and understanding. When the tables are turned, then the roles are reversed and it’s your partner’s turn to be there for you.
Both you and your lover must be willing to apologize when you’re in the wrong, and be equally willing to listen to what your partner has to say. Here’s a simple rule of thumb: spend half your time listening to what your spouse has to say. Your turn to speak and share your thoughts will come, but only after you’ve given your partner the same opportunity.
Most importantly, you both have an equal obligation to maintain the strength of your love and the health of your relationship. If things aren’t going well and arguments are frequent, you both have to accept responsibility to fix it. Keep this concept in mind any time you’re interacting with your partner: Everything in a relationship is 50/50, and there are no exceptions to that rule.
If you and your partner are going to overcome the obstacles, arguments, and difficult times that you’re inevitably going to face over the coming years, then you need to establish equality.
Plenty of Privacy, Alone Time, and Freedom
Again, this isn’t rocket science: if you want to stay together for the rest of your lives, you need to respect your partner’s sphere of privacy, their right to have time away from you, and their freedom to do what they want (within reason).
You may think that it’s completely unacceptable for your partner to withhold their Facebook password or not want to give you the spare key to their safe deposit box. But these small bits of privacy are completely reasonable, and you don’t have the right to demand access to every aspect of your partner’s life.
We all need a bit of privacy, and both you and your partner deserve that opportunity when it’s necessary. (I don’t advocate the idea of keeping secrets or living secret lives, but if you and your partner trust one another, your partner wanting a bit of privacy should be perfectly acceptable.)
Similarly, your spouse or partner deserves the right to spend some time apart from you. It’s not healthy to spend every waking moment together, and you both need to have separate social lives that you can escape to from time to time.
It’s rarely appropriate to demand that your partner not hang out with a friend, go to a party, or do something that’s important to them. Just like you’d want the ability to hang out with your buddies or spend some time alone without feeling guilty, your partner has this right too.
That ties into the concept of freedom, which is also an element of any mature romantic partnership. You and your partner should both feel free to live your lives the way you see fit. Yes, you need to take your partner’s input seriously, and no, you can’t always do whatever you want… but you also need to feel free to live your life independently and without the fear of your partner criticizing every decision you make. [RELATED: Fear of Commitment: How to Identify & Overcome It]
PART TWO: What You Need to Do
Now that you know how a healthy, robust romance should work, let’s talk about how you can go about building this type of relationship with your partner.
This section will hopefully provide you with actionable items that you can implement to improve the health of your relationship and the depth of your romantic connection.
Keep in mind, though, that no-one is perfect… and you’ll probably never be able to actively practice all of these things in your everyday life. The important thing is that, when you’re facing a situation in which you’re unsure of how to handle it, you think back to the key concepts I’m about to discuss and apply them as best you can given the situation.
It’s also worth mentioning that it sure makes things a lot easier if your partner “buys in” to these concepts too. At the very least, it’s a lot easier to build trust, resolve conflicts, and enjoy a deep bond with your significant other if he or she is equally as interested in building a mature and committed relationship.
In some cases, you may find that your partner is unwilling to do what’s necessary to improve the health of your relationship. If that happens, you need to be patient, and try to explain to them the importance of being reasonable, mature, and responsible – even if it causes more friction in the short term.
In the unlikely event that your partner is totally unwilling to put in the effort, or they seem highly irrational and inflexible on the subject, you may need to eventually deliver an ultimatum, such as: “I’m only looking for a committed, mature and loving relationship… so if you’re not willing to do your part to achieve that, then maybe we need to re-think whether or not this relationship is going to work in the long term”.
I’m not suggesting that you should dump your partner or spouse just because they don’t do all the things I’m about to recommend. But, if you’ve spent many hours talking rationally to them and trying your hardest to work through your troubles, and you’re not getting anywhere, eventually you’ll need to: a) seek help from a mediator, counselor, or therapist; or b) move on and find someone who wants the same type of relationship that you do.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
I know you’ve heard this a hundred times before, but open and 100% honest dialogue with your spouse or partner is paramount. The two of you should – no, you need to feel completely comfortable discussing any subject together, no matter how uncomfortable.
That means you don’t shut down your partner if they bring up a topic of conversation you’re not fond of… you don’t jump to conclusions before fully understanding your partner’s point of view… and you give one another the necessary opportunities to share feelings without fear of rejection, arguments, or other negative consequences.
It’s very important that you create an environment in which both you and your partner are comfortable to share your feelings, thoughts, dreams, and fears. If one or both parties feel like they’ll be judged by their partner or think they’ll “get in trouble” for bringing up a certain subject, then there are sure to be communication problems around the next bend.
Another important piece in the communication puzzle is the ability (and willingness) to listen and approach all topics with an open mind. As I’ll mention in a moment, the simple fact of the matter is this: You’re not always right! Don’t approach discussions with your partner thinking that their point of view is wrong, that their opinion is stupid, or that their feelings aren’t important.
Any time you’re talking with your spouse, no matter what the topic is, it’s always best to listen until you completely understand their point of view. If you need to, ask questions to clarify that you fully understand their position.
One good way to ensure that you don’t misinterpret one another is to repeat what your partner says using different words. So, if your husband tells you that he thinks it’s not fair that he has to go to yoga class but you don’t have to watch the hockey game, clarify by saying something such as: “So you think it’s unfair to have to do things I like if I don’t take part in the things you like?
Maintain a Sense of Humility
This ties in to the previous section on communication, because achieving an open and honest line of communication with your significant other depends on both parties retaining a certain semblance of humility.
If you always enter into a heated debate with your spouse with the assumption that you’re right and they’re wrong, nothing will be achieved through communication. You need to understand, and be willing to accept, that you’ll often be wrong. Or, as is often the case, that you’re not wrong but rather that your argument is not the only ‘correct’ way of seeing things.
You’re probably wrong about half of the time. If you aren’t willing to accept that, then you need to work on reigning in your ego.
Be Ready to Lose, and Be Willing to Admit Fault
No need to really spell this one out for you, because the title says it all. It’s important that both you and your spouse be willing to admit when you’re wrong, and be open to ‘losing’ a debate if your partner’s argument is more reasonable – or if it’s just in both your interests for the argument to come to an end!
Look, we all hate to be wrong. It’s very hard to come to grips with the fact that you may have been totally wrong and out-of-line after a 2-hour marathon argument with your significant other. But if you can admit fault and accept being wrong every so often, it will make your partner value your opinion that much more.
After all, if you try to admit guilt whenever you see that you were out of line or being unreasonable during a confrontation with your partner, it will make him or her more open-minded when you don’t admit to being wrong or being at fault. If you never admit to being wrong, then your partner will think you’re closed-minded and unwilling to own up to mistakes or irrational behavior.
You’re going to lose some arguments. You’re going to be wrong a lot. Your spouse is going to have a lot of good points and insightful opinions that have never crossed your mind. Simply understanding and accepting that is a big step towards resolving conflicts and building trust.
Swallow Your Pride and Say Sorry
Even in those cases where you are 100% certain that you’re being level-headed and your partner is being a stubborn, irrational dickhead…. you should still be willing to say sorry (and mean it).
As I mentioned earlier, admitting guilt and knowing when to accept fault is a hugely important element in building a healthy relationship with minimal conflict. But equally important is the ability to apologize (in a heartfelt, meaningful, and no-strings-attached manner) after arguments or conflicts have taken place.
While apologizing is more important when you’ve been an idiot, it’s still a meaningful gesture that shows your partner that you want to move past your disagreements and heal any metaphorical wounds that have arisen from your butting of heads. [RELATED: 8 Ways To Resolve Relationship Conflicts]
So, even if you’re not willing to accept your partner’s opinion or admit to being wrong, consider saying sorry anyway.
Apologizing is something that requires a lot of integrity. When someone is willing to apologize even when they’re not wrong or at fault, it shows their strength of character and their commitment to maintaining a healthy, trusting, and conflict-free romance with their partner.
And, here’s a quick hint: if you ever find yourself being so stubbornly committed to your righteousness that you’re not willing to apologize – even if it would kill the argument in its tracks – then ask yourself whether ‘being right’ or ‘winning’ is more important than your relationship. Unless you’re a masochistic breakup junkie, the answer to that question will be no, and you can then proceed to choke down your pride and say sorry for the sake of your partner and your relationship.
Be bigger than the argument. Accept fault – or at least accept partial responsibility for the conflicts that you and your partner may have – and say sorry. If your partner reciprocates, then it’s unlikely any single debate will create lasting damage to your bond or your marriage.
Don’t Be a Hypocrite: Share the Burden
If you demand that your partner do something, or insist that they don’t do something, then you should be willing to practice what you preach. This isn’t a complicated concept, so I won’t over-analyze it, but it’s worth mentioning that you and your partner should both be willing to make sacrifices in the name of your relationship.
Being in a committed relationship with someone involves certain responsibilities. These obligations, which are unavoidable when you’re sharing your life with someone, need to be shared equally.
You have a right to certain things, too: you have a right to honesty, a right to know the truth, and a right to have your opinions heard and understood. Make sure your spouse lives up to these obligations – and be willing to do the same for them.
No relationship can exist without sacrifice, but that’s not a problem if both you and your partner accept this and each live up to your ends of the bargain.
Practice the 4 C’s: Calm, Cool, Collected, and Composed
Who is the most laid-back, worry-free, unflappable personality you can think of?
The first one that comes to my mind is James Bond. When 007 gets himself into a bind, with a laser beam threatening the destruction of his genitals, he doesn’t break a sweat. He doesn’t start yelling and throwing things. There’s no panic, only a stoic, reassuring, and composed demeanor.
Why am I talking about James Bond? Well, because his reaction (or lack thereof) to Dr. No’s testicle-frying laser beam can serve as inspiration for you when you’re in conflict with your significant other. Mr Bond is totally calm under pressure, never panicking or getting rattled, and for this reason he’s in a better position to accurately analyze his situation and find a way out of trouble that will find his nuts intact.
First of all, no constructive discussion can occur if one or both parties resort to screaming, breaking things, and generally throwing a temper tantrum. Nothing good will come of that sort of raw emotion, and it’s critical that you postpone any real conversations or debates until both you and your partner are calm and thinking clearly.
If your partner has a tendency to overreact and throw a fit when things get heated between the two of you, it’s very important that you stop the conversation in its tracks and clearly explain that you’re only going to talk about this when he or she has calmed down and is willing to enter the conversation with an open mind and a clear head.
If you tend to ‘lose it’ frequently – and I’ll be the first to admit I’m guilty of raising my voice and slamming doors shut on the rare occasions my wife and I have a serious disagreement – then you must be able to escape the situation until you can calm down.
One easy way to defuse these sorts of situations is to talk about it with your partner before it ever happens. When you’re both happy and on good terms, bring up this topic and explain what you think you and your partner should do if an argument turns into a screaming match. That way, neither you nor your spouse will be offended when you simply walk away from an argument that’s gotten out of hand, and you’ll never have any confusion about why one person just walked out on an important discussion.
By retaining a calm and collected demeanour during disagreements or tough times in your relationship, you’ll be doing two things: a) showing your partner that you value their opinions, want to listen to their arguments, and want to understand their point of view; and b) avoiding the type of hurtful, escalating, and often pointless arguments that develop when one or both people lose their cool.
Be Willing to Sacrifice; Embrace the Compromise!
As I just mentioned, relationships require you to make certain sacrifices: You sacrifice some of your freedom when your decisions are shared with a spouse or partner; you sacrifice the right to date or flirt with other members of the opposite sex; and you sacrifice the right to always come first when decisions are being made.
But, if you treat these sacrifices, responsibilities, and obligations that accompany a committed relationship as part of a bigger “give and take” exercise, they’ll become a lot less painful.
What I mean is that, while you’re giving up certain freedoms by agreeing to share a home, a family, and a life with someone else, you’re also enjoying the privilege of benefitting from those same things. If you’re willing to compromise on certain things, you can then use that leverage to obtain something else.
I’m not suggesting that you and your boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse need to keep a tally of “who’s owed what”, or strive for complete and total fairness at all costs. I’m simply saying that being willing to compromise can not only defuse an argument and solve a problem, it can also earn you the right to request similar compromises from your partner on a separate occasion.
So, if you pick your battles and only take a stand when things are really important to you, then the inherent sacrifices that you need to make when in a relationship will be far, far less painful. Sometimes, it pays to give in to the less important issues and reserve your “veto” for things that are truly close to your heart.
This article is far too long already, but there are two things that I must mention before signing off…
Remember That Relationships Require Constant Maintenance
Every relationship, no matter how committed the couple or how deep the bond you share, needs constant upkeep. You can never assume that your marriage or your relationship will stay happy and healthy without any work on your part. Like everything else in life, there’s no point at which you can simply “stop trying” or “stop caring” if you want to maintain the bond between you and your lover.
It’s very, very important that you never forget this. If you decide to stop putting in the effort, then your relationship will slowly degrade and your bond will fade.
Love is a beautiful thing – beautiful like a fine Picasso painting, or a brand new Ferrari gleaming in the sun – but it’s not invincible. Even the most flawless painting requires constant care and upkeep to prevent fading or damage, and even the shiniest and fastest Ferrari needs an oil change every now and then to keep the engine running smoothly.
Take time to spoil your partner every now and then.
Make them feel special. Make sure they know how much you love them. Do this regularly, starting today, and don’t stop until you take your last breath. It’s a struggle at times, but if you and your partner both put in the work, you’ll enjoy a happy, healthy, and lasting bond that most people can only dream of.
Additional Scholarly / Peer-Reviewed Resources:
- Improve Your Relationship (Tools From Neil Rosenthal)
- Understanding The 3 Stages of Marriage (University of Florida)
- What Does Research Tell Us About Healthy Relationships? (University of Texas, PDF)
- Marital Education Programs Help Keep Couples Together (American Psychological Association)
- Role of Communication in Healthy Relationships (PBS)