• Sophia-Joelle Oswald

​3 Relationship Skills That Will Level Up Your Love Life

Photo Credit: Dahcia Lyons-Bastien

At the start of any relationship, things tend to be thrilling and easy. You hang out and get to know nearly everything about each other. As relationships continue to grow, they require more energy and effort to thrive. If you want your relationship to be strong, taking precautions to care for it is important. The same goes for platonic relationships. If you’re not in a romantic relationship these skills can still help improve your bonds with family and friends.

1. Relationship Maintenance Strategies

In 1991, a study identified five relationship maintenance strategies: assurances, positivity, openness, sharing tasks, and sharing social networks.

Assurance – Being comfortable enough to ask questions and communicate how you feel is a big part of assurance. Having regular conversations about how much you love each other and stopping any doubts is a good habit to get into. This may be a bit more important at the beginning of a relationship. As you come to know each other better you'll find it won't be needed nearly as much, but it is still nice to hear.

Positivity – You'll face many hardships together, but being able to enjoy life and stay positive will help during the tough times.

Openness – Knowing you can freely share your thoughts and feelings is important. Make sure you both create an environment in which each other feels safe to share without judgment.

Sharing tasks – Placing equal responsibility on household chores and to-do lists brings balance to a relationship. You can both cook, clean, take out the trash, and perform other duties.

Sharing a social network – While it's healthy to honor your individuality and have your own friend groups, it's just as healthy to have friend groups that you share. This can be particularly helpful when you need to reach out for advice, ideas, or extra support.

2. Romantic Competence

In 2015, Dr. Joanna Davila gave an excellent TED talk on developing skills for healthy romantic relationships. She explained three important skills that should be learned in order to create romantic competence: insight, mutuality, and emotion regulation.

Insight involves awareness, understanding, and learning. Believe it or not, this all starts with you. Knowing yourself is key to a healthy relationship. If you find yourself taking your stress or anxiety out on your partner, it’s time for some self-realization. Learning from your past mistakes will provide you with the insight to help prevent repeating them in the future. Insight can also aid in determining what's right for you in regards to your relationships.

Mutuality is understanding each other’s needs and honoring them as essential. It's about putting in an effort to make sure your partner’s needs are fulfilled and also communicating your own needs in a manner in which you're both heard and valued.

Emotional regulation involves self-control and regulating your feelings so that you respond to stressful situations instead of reacting to them. Training yourself to respond in a calm manner will allow you to get through tough times sans added stress and bickering

Dr. Davila believes that using these skills regularly allows couples to generate healthy relationships. Towards the end of her talk, she brought up the example of mind reading. Many couples desire their partners to just know – but they aren’t superheroes. There is no way for anyone to always know what someone is thinking. In situations like this using insight, mutuality, and emotional regulation will help you better understand and communicate your needs with each other.

3. Love Language

Understanding each other's love languages can also an important aspect of maintaining romantic relationships. Created by Dr. Gary Chapman, the five love are words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. While they may seem self-explanatory on a surface level, each love language taps into the depths of what someone needs to feel valued and appreciated. For example, people whose love language is gifts doesn't mean they're gold-diggers any more than someone whose love language is quality time means they're needy.

An understanding of your own love language and that of your partner can foster a deeper connection and allow you to really see each other. While you're at it, you may want to also consider discovering your apology language and taking their anger assessment.

One thing to be mindful of is that sometimes what you think is your love language is actually a dysfunction that stems back to unhealed trauma. Our founders Wesley and Kharissa Forte talked about this very thing back in 2016 for a series they did on marriage.

Life gets in the way sometimes and people grow apart. Sometimes the passion fizzles out and it’s time to call it quits but other times people just get so busy that they forget to put in as much effort as they did in the beginning, and that’s totally fixable. If you’ve gotten a bit lost but you both want your relationship to work, it’s time to reassess your priorities and start putting in that effort again.

There is only so much maintenance you can put into a relationship if your partner isn’t as invested as you are. Both of you need to be open to learning and growing together. If you have found someone who is willing to take the journey with you, then instilling these practices can help ensure your relationship is strong. Maintenance is vital for any relationship to thrive.

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