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What Makes a Good Relationship?

All people change over time. People sometimes say that their partner has changed. 'They're not the person I met all those years ago!' No - they're not. Chances are both partners have changed in many ways – in their interests, confidence and attitudes.


Most couples go through a number of stages in their relationships:

In love ...

This is a time when couples wear rose-tinted glasses, and idealise each other. They can't spend enough time together, and make light of any differences between them. Love will conquer all.

Recognising differences ...

Eventually couples move on to the next stage of their relationship. This can happen early in their relationship or sometimes not for a year or two. Couples begin to be aware of the differences between them, and become more realistic in their view of each other. Arguments that are more than lovers' tiffs will often occur.

The earlier experience of being in love and the bonding together of the couple now come into play and serve to re-assure couples that their relationship will survive.

I want to be me ...

Most couples in the third phase are learning how to be individuals and much of the energy of the two partners goes into establishing their own lifestyle - as parents, in their work and in their interests outside the home.

This is often a time when the relationship seems to coast along and the partners want less from each other. They know the relationship is there, and it is safe to be busy in the outside world.

Together by choice ...

The fourth phase is a process of finding each other again, of seeking greater intimacy and deepening the relationship.  The partners now have a stronger sense of themselves as individuals. They are choosing to be together, to be dependent and intimate at times, rather than needing to be together.

This phase represents the end of the journey from being "in love" to "loving". There is a growing balance between 'I' and 'us'. The relationship is based on choice rather than depedency - two partners, who are not afraid to be independent, who choose to be together and to be intimate.

Relationships can also change

  • if children arrive - and as the children go through various developmental stages and eventually leave home
  • if there are financial pressures
  • if work demands and responsibilities change
  • when one or both partners retire from work

Some couples face unexpected changes like:

  • illness
  • disability
  • unemployment
  • living apart caused by,for example, employment

All changes present their own challenges to couples, but are easier to cope with if the relationship is solid.

What does a good relationship need?

  • respect
  • honesty
  • trust
  • love
  • companionship
  • mutual emotional support
  • intimate expression
  • economic security

are all important parts of an adult relationship.

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