Navigating a relationship can be a tricky process; some couples merely weather the storms, while others sail smoothly, thriving in the sunlight and leaving a calm wake behind them. Diverse cultures and lifestyles, together with ever-increasing pressures on our daily lives can mean that relationships can be both challenging and rewarding.

Whether you're experiencing turbulence in a romantic partnership, or even having a bit of a bumpy patch, there is a massive difference between merely surviving, e.g., just getting through and doing the bare minimum to maintain the connection, and thriving in a healthy, worthwhile relationship.

Surviving the storms:

Life's challenges can sometimes feel like a stormy sea, testing the resilience of any relationship. In survival mode, couples can often find themselves just trying to stay afloat, firefighting issues as they arise without a longer-term strategy. This isn't healthy and people often find that resentment over the smallest issues can build up over time, if not tackled head-on. 

Common challenges such as work stress, financial pressures, cultural differences, or the stress of everyday family life, can all create waves that that can feel uncomfortable for all parties and turn any relationship into a rough ride.

Communication is vital:

I cannot stress this enough; when relationships become strained, communication becomes the anchor of a partnership. In relationships that are merely surviving, partners, relatives and friends will often communicate reactively, addressing issues as emergencies rather than cultivating open and consistent dialogue. Take the time to listen actively, express your feelings, and encourage your partner to do the same. If the lines of communication breakdown, you're going to have to work twice as hard to keep any relationship on an even keel.

Building resilience:

Thriving relationships weather storms by being resilient, but although this is vital, it's equally crucial to address the root causes of issues before they become an issue, rather than merely bouncing back from each wave of discontent. Seek to understand the underlying factors contributing to challenges and try to work together to create lasting solutions.

Tackling stress together:

There's no getting away from it; with the crazy pace of the 21st century lifestyle, stress can become a constant companion. Couples who are in survival mode often learn to cope individually, which can lead to emotional distance. Knowing this is half the battle! Try and find ways to manage stress collectively; sharing activities, hobbies, or simply spending quality time together can go a long way to rebuilding those bridges. If you know there are trigger points that cause arguments, for example, venting about work or colleagues, then agree to avoid the subject for the duration of your time together and instead focus on common ground, taking the positives where you can. However it's also worth keeping in mind that continually avoiding topics that are important to each other can also cause friction, so working with a counsellor to understand why they cause problems and how to work round this can also be valuable.

Thriving in a long-term relationship:

Any relationship, whether it's with a tricky relative, a long-term friend or a partner, will thrive in the spotlight of shared growth and a deep understanding of each other. To transform a relationship from surviving to thriving, you might want to consider these strategies:

Investing in growth:

A thriving relationship is built on the understanding that growth is a continuous process. Whether individually or as a unit, investing time and energy into personal and shared development is rarely a bad decision. Attend workshops or take classes to learn new skills together and set mutual goals for personal and collective achievements.

Quality Time and Shared Experiences:

Thriving relationships are built on more than just surviving day-to-day challenges. Make a conscious effort to spend quality time together, creating shared experiences that strengthen your bond. Whether it's exploring local attractions, trying new foods, or pursuing common interests, these shared moments contribute to a proper connection. 

Take turns to suggest things to do and places to visit, and make sure that you actively listen when you're having a conversation. So many of us rush ahead with our thoughts and when the other person is speaking, we're already formulating what to say before they have even finished! Real conversation happens when you give the other person time and space to express themselves freely and without judgement.

The journey of any relationship will encounter storms and tough times, as well as calm and fulfilling days together. While surviving is an essential skill, thriving requires intentional efforts, continuous communication, and a commitment to shared growth, whatever your relationship with each other. With mindfulness, purpose and resilience, anyone can transform their relationships from mere survival to a flourishing, harmonious and healthy partnership.

Working with a counsellor can give you the tools to better understand how to navigate your relationships and deal with your emotions during rough times. To find out more about counselling, please call 07305 920 437.