Now that the most romantic day of the year has passed, and relationship reality is setting in, you need to face crunch time and ask: is your relationship really as solid as you’d like to think? Do mutual trust, respect and admiration stand strong when challenges arise? Can you discuss anything with your partner? There are helpful questions to ask if you’re looking for a continually successful relationship, says a leading psychology expert.
“Like building a house, our relationships need a strong foundation to weather day-to-day challenges,” says psychology expert Dr Mary Casey. “When trust, respect and admiration are there, so is love – these make up the foundation. When these qualities wane, cracks can begin to appear – firstly in our communication with our partners, then in the way we feel around them.”
Dr Casey has developed an 8-point checklist to help you identify any potential cracks in your relationship, along with easy solutions to fix them.
Dr Mary Casey’s 8-point relationship checklist:
1. Do you know each other’s needs?
Dr Casey says if you don’t know each other’s needs, you can’t meet them, which breeds resentment. The first step is that you each know your own needs, so you can communicate them. “We can often forget what we want and need. Make a list of them and express them lovingly – in writing if you find it too confronting. Let your partner know it is important their needs are met too.”
2. What are your partner’s likes and dislikes?
Remaining aware of them keeps the passion alive. “When we love someone, this is one of the first things we want to know. As time passes, sometimes we become complacent and forget,” Dr Casey says.
3. Are you often angry with each other?
Angry outbursts don’t nurture relationships. “Any anger we feel is solely our own ‘stuff’. Identify what you really want to communicate which you may not be,” Dr Casey says. “If your partner is having angry outbursts, there is something that he/she isn’t being honest about. Have clear boundaries as to what you will and won’t accept, and let them know bad behaviour comes with consequences.”
4. Do you spend intimate, quality time together?
“When we lack a deep understanding of each other, we can often avoid being intimate and instead always have other people involved in the relationship or physically present in our lives,” Dr Casey says. “Living our true selves in our relationships deepens mutual understanding and negates the need for input or interference from others.”
5. Is your sex life wonderful?
If not, then what’s missing? Don’t shy away from discussing this together. It can bring you both closer, as it is an intimate subject which involves telling the truth.
6. Is there something you can’t discuss with your partner?
Dr Casey says you need to be able to discuss any topic without fear, anxiety or hesitation. It’s also important you’re able to speak up at any time. “If you can’t, this may be your problem and something you need to learn to do, regardless of the response. If a certain subject angers or frustrates your partner, then they need to learn to discuss it,” Dr Casey says.
7. Are you happy to listen to each other’s opinions and agree to disagree?
“If either of you get frustrated in getting your point across, learn new skills to grow your confidence and self-worth. Surprising as it is, it is these qualities that make it easy to allow others to have their own opinions,” Dr Casey says.
8. Do you both contribute to all your finances and their related issues?
Regardless of whether you are at home or working, if you both agree the workload is equal, all the finances and decisions should be done together. It is ignorant to allow just one person to do it all, as it leads to inequality and resentment in the long-term. The person not involved may also feel controlled and totally dependent on the other person.” Dr Casey says.
She concludes that while denial is a defence mechanism that helps us cope, it can also create an ongoing struggle in our relationships which Mary believes can, at some point in the relationship, manifest as illness. Facing the truth can be painful, but in the long run it can bring us peace, happiness and relationship fulfilment.
Dr Casey is the author of The Healing Power of Truth (29.95), and How to Deal with Manipulators ($69.95), Casey Centre.