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11 Characteristics of a Happy and Healthy Relationship

11 Characteristics of a Happy and Healthy Relationship
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Each and every day as a therapist, I talk to couples who are having issues. Issues serious enough that they have reached out for help. My job is to help them come to a decision about whether to move forward together or separately, which can be difficult. Sometimes, I have found, love and communication are not enough to stay together.

This article will help you understand what IS enough to stay together — what’s required to create and maintain happy and healthy relationships.

1. Get back on track with communication

No relationship, romantic or other, is going to proceed without conflict. What ends up getting the relationship back on track is good communication. Communication, therefore, is the single most important factor in the health of a relationship because it represents the relationship’s ability to self-correct. But what makes for good communication? Entire books could be written on this, but for now let’s keep it simple:

  • Preemptive: Easier to be upfront because then problems can be spoken about instead of experienced.
  • Consistent: No point in communicating some of the time, or only on certain issues; it only works if it’s always happening.
  • Honest: Good communication is a trust-building act, bringing you and the other person closer (see below). Dishonesty has the opposite effect.

2. Start with trust

A relationship must have a foundation of trust to succeed. I could make a logical argument for why this must be the case, but instead, imagine what it would be like to have a relationship with someone you fundamentally mistrusted. Not enjoyable, am I right?

A lack of trust often initiates a vicious cycle. The one who is distrustful often causes the other partner to become secretive, even about things he or she does not need to hide, just to secure some privacy and control. This gives the suspicious person more to suspect.

Overall, a lack of trust or a breach of trust is one of the most difficult situations to overcome in a relationship.

Learn how to build trust from this article: 5 Things You Can Do To Build Trust Quickly

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3. Align on core values

Core values can be defined simply as those you cannot tolerate a partner NOT to share. Most relationships can have healthy disagreements about a wide variety of subjects, but each person has their “non-negotiable” beliefs. For some, this might be politics; for others, it might be whether to have children; between friends, it might be a matter of ethics.

Whatever your non-negotiables, it is important that your partner share them; otherwise you will constantly feel as if you are compromising on a deeply personal level.

However, keep in mind that not all beliefs are set in stone. If both people are willing to hear each other out, they might be surprised at the compromises they discover.

Check out these tips if you think you and your partner are slightly different from each other: How to Stay Together When You Are Different From Each Other

4. Use intimacy as a gauge

Although intimacy often stands in for sex in the psychological community, it can mean much more than that. I would define intimacy as an ability to communicate in a uniquely interpersonal level with another person, which can certainly happen between friends and family members as well as romantic partners. One subset of intimacy is sex, though, and in a romantic relationship this is one of the major readings of its health and happiness.

Sex in a relationship is similar to flossing, in that people who floss tend to live longer. It is not that flossing increases your life expectancy directly, but rather that those who tend to floss also tend to care for themselves in other ways, all of which lead to a longer life. Same thing with sex: a healthy sex life does not equal a healthy relationship, but it is an indication of many other positive things going on in addition to the benefit it brings by itself.

If your sex life is not where you’d want it to be, use it as a starting point to figure out what part of your relationship could change for the better.

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5. Nurture vulnerability

One of the cherished things about being in a close relationship is that you can share things with another person that you do not share with anyone else. As a therapist, I am acutely aware of how much this contributes to our mental health. Simply being able to confide in someone about all the small and big things of your life is of enormous value — and the major reason why we enter into relationships in the first place.

Being able to share intimate details relies on a willingness to be vulnerable. This is a two-way street. Both you and your partner must develop an ability to be open as well as accept, nurture and respect the other’s openness. Vulnerability depends on this positive, reciprocal cycle.

You can find more benefits of being vulnerable here: Accept Yourself (Flaws and All): 7 Benefits of Being Vulnerable

6. Discuss the future: Children

Surprisingly, sharing a common past does not necessarily result in better relationships across the board. But sharing a vision of the future is essential in certain key areas: children, finances, and lifestyle. All of these are intertwined, of course, but it is important to understand your partner’s vision for each of these things.

One of the most common scenarios is a married couple who cannot agree on whether to have children. As you can imagine, both people feel very strongly about having or not having children. The heartbreaking thing is that there may be love, good communication, trust and shared values, but over time the couple cannot find a compromise for this extremely important life decision.

7. Discuss the future: Finances

At first, it is difficult to see how finances have anything to do with a relationship, but among couples and even among friends, differences in attitude toward money can create a serious rift.

Two friends who have two very different attitudes toward spending, for example, will have a hard time deciding what to do together. A couple in this situation will have a constant stressor on their hands, especially if finances become tight.

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While it is not absolutely necessary to have identical attitudes toward money and spending, it is an important topic to discuss.

8. Discuss the future: Lifestyle

Lifestyle is sort of a catch-all phrase that includes aspects of life outside of children and finances that a couple will have to negotiate. This includes big things like how to spend leisure time or whether to be exclusive sexually as well as seemingly little things like diet or sleep. The point is that we all have preferences and needs, and when another person enters the picture with their own preferences and needs, we are forced to compromise.

When it comes to lifestyle, I have found in my practice that those who meet in their younger years have a harder time adjusting to their partner’s lifestyle. This is probably because our preferences and needs crystallize as we age. Couples who meet when they are older have a greater knowledge of their likes and dislikes, and tend to factor this into whether they would be compatible with each other.

9. Find a balance between dependence and independence

As mentioned in the trust section, the ability to rely on each other is a sign of strength. In fact, a relationship will stagnate without it. But as with everything, there must be a balance.

Too much dependence is just as tiring as too much independence. Without any dependence, neither partner feels as if he or she is part of a team, whereas with too much dependence, one or both partners is likely to feel overwhelmed.

In short, each member of the relationship has the responsibility to maintain a balance between relying too much on the other person and not relying on the other person at all.

10. Remember friends and family

This is an often-overlooked feature of a happy relationship because much of the beginning part of the relationship does not involve family and friends. Two people get to know each other by themselves and find they are beginning to form a strong relationship. But then comes the next stage when that person meets the other important people in their lives.

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Couples tend to forget that how they fit into each other’s friends and family groups is important. As with core values, the important thing here is tolerance. Even if the person does not get along perfectly with your family and friends, is it tolerable? Can everyone basically get along?

Of course, the more seamlessly they fit into your circles the better, but this only really becomes a problem when the fit is so bad that you hesitate to bring them around.

11. Maintain commitment

In the beginning of most relationships, very little commitment is needed. Everything is rosy and you cannot imagine anything going wrong. I see many couples who are just coming down from their dating or marriage highs and are lacking one key component: a commitment to each other.

Commitment may be defined as a willingness to stay with the other person through times where it is no longer fun or easy to do so. Successful long-term relationships weather many such periods. Here are some other things to keep in mind about commitment:

  • Commitment is easier when we appreciate qualities in a person that do not change with circumstance — when we appreciate their sense of humor, for example, instead of their salary.
  • Too much commitment can be harmful. It can cause many people to stay in abusive relationships far too long. Healthy commitment is keeping a perspective on the qualities of the person that you love, whereas unhealthy commitment is elevating commitment itself above your happiness.
  • Commitment is also a two-way street: it is more sustainable to stay committed to someone who is staying committed to us.

Hopefully you have recognized each item on this list as at least a factor in your relationship. Problems are especially troublesome when you or your partner are not even aware of them.

If an item or two on the list jumps out as being problematic in your relationship(s), return to item #1: Use communication to get back on track. Communication or the relationship’s ability to self-correct is always the starting point for change.

Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

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More by this author

Josh Zlatkus

Mental Health Therapist in Private Practice

Is Relationship Counselling for You? Find Your Answer Here 11 Characteristics of a Happy and Healthy Relationship

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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