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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

3 Simple Signs of a Strong and Healthy Relationship

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3 Simple Signs of a Strong and Healthy Relationship

In helping many people solve their relationship woes, I am often asked for the signs of a good relationship.

Well, what’s fascinating about relationships is the dynamics of two individuals coming together and staying together amid an array of perceptions and misperceptions.

Our relationships are not only influenced by our current actions but also by our past relationships and the life experiences that we bring forward into the current relationship. How we deal with misperceptions and misunderstandings determines the strength and health of our relationship and the level of happiness we are able to experience.

Much of the subconscious programming that takes place throughout our life causes us to sabotage our happiness by preventing us from engaging effectively, especially when we become emotionally triggered.

These mostly unconscious “scripts,” which we tend to run on autopilot, include our thoughts, words, and actions that result from these. Some may even refer to them as “baggage.” While we can rewrite these scripts and stop them from contaminating our relationships, we only become aware of them when we are in an emotionally empowered state.

So, what are the signs of a good relationship?

It boils down to these four essential requirements:

  • Emotional empowerment
  • Aligned attraction
  • Sexual functioning
  • You and your partner

While we can take it upon ourselves to develop as an individual, a strong and healthy relationship results from both personal growth and teamwork with our partner in order to resolve any problems.

Let’s take a look at how we can do this.

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1. Emotional Empowerment

A clear sign of a good relationship is that both partners stay focused on what they want to create and how they want to feel. It can be too easy to blame our partner when we’re not feeling good about ourselves or somewhat overwhelmed with the curveballs that life seems to throw at us continually.

You may have heard of the saying, “Making mountains out of molehills.” When we’re not in charge of our emotional state, that’s precisely what we do!

Someone also said, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.” Our words and the emotional power behind them are either being constructive or destructive in our relationships.

By trying to override your emotions and dredging up past situations, you may blow a current situation entirely out of context, keep retriggering yourself and your partner, and prevent essential issues from being resolved. Aside from that, it makes you feel disconnected.

As a reminder, allowing yourself to indulge in petty annoyances and sarcastic comments will likely drive a wedge between you and your partner. So, is that worth your attention?

When we focus on what we don’t want, we continually default to the old subconscious programming cultivated from our life experiences. These “scripts” can become self-destructive when expressed through negative rumination and self-talk or critical observations of our partner, rather than being the fun, uplifting, and naturally motivating partner that they fell in love with.

Many couples start competing against each other when they are emotionally triggered instead of supporting each other to create the best outcome. While we can quickly become obsessed with being right (or not being wrong), it’s essential to stay present, focus on how we want to feel, and align our words and actions toward that outcome.

Couples who enjoy a strong and healthy relationship consciously monitor their emotional states and can therefore influence the impact of their verbal and non-verbal communication in a positive manner. This offers a long-term benefit of enhancing their overall desire to be together and connect on more intimate levels.[1]

2. Attraction in Alignment

Known as the love and bonding hormone, oxytocin doesn’t just play an important role in intimacy. In truth, it’s also vital for increasing trust and attraction between two people. Synthesized in the human brain when you trust someone, the oxytocin molecule also motivates reciprocation.

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We’re living in an age where an individual’s independence is ruling the day, and the social codes of chivalry have become sadly redundant. However, it’s never a good time to become complacent in how we interact with each other and in respecting the environment we share.

According to Paul Zak, a neuroscientist and researcher at Claremont Graduate University, oxytocin is generated in the brain only after some concrete event or action, such as someone making way for you in the street.[2]

“When someone does something nice for you such as holding a door, your brain releases oxytocin, and it down-regulates the appropriate fear you have of interacting with strangers.” — Paul Zak

Suddenly, you feel like the person in front of you is not a threat. Then, according to Zak, this feeling disappears quickly for a good reason,

“If you just had high levels of oxytocin, you would be giving away resources to every stranger on the street. So, this is a quick on/off system.”

This has important implications for those in a relationship. Zak says:

“If you treat me well, in most cases my brain will synthesize oxytocin and this will motivate me to treat you well in return.”

In a relationship, our actions and behaviors are either attracting or repelling our partner. This is especially true when we have conflicting values. Common conflicting values include personal hygiene, health and fitness, and general tidiness.

It’s important to know and respect what’s important to our partner. After all, one of the real signs of a good relationship is having the desire to continually step up and live your “A” game.[3] When our partner takes the time to communicate something important to them, we need to acknowledge that it’s essential to keep a relationship long-term.

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While we like to think that our partner will be attracted to us no matter what, this is not realistic at all. “A” is for attraction, and we need to keep attracting our partner instead of being lazy and pretending we can get away with unappealing or inappropriate behaviors.

Any unresolved issue can build up resentment and undermine the quality of a relationship. However, the thought of approaching a challenging topic can increase stress and anxiety to the point where it is nearly impossible to clearly communicate the problem without it sounding like an accusation or blame.

Due to the fear of retriggering our partner by bringing up the same topic repeatedly, we often delay dealing with the issues that are of utmost importance to us. Over time, it can result in frustration, annoyance, and disconnection. We are sentient beings, so this type of emotional resistance can often be felt by the other person.

Furthermore, we usually communicate a part of a request out loud and then complete the reasoning behind it internally. Unfortunately, our partner doesn’t hear this internal monologue, so they have no idea about the extent or importance of our need. Therefore, many problems aren’t fully discussed, and the main issue remains unresolved.

“Prolonged stress and anxiety are like poison to oxytocin,” Paul Zak said. The underlying biological hypothesis is that stress — particularly the type that does not have a clear ending point — inhibits oxytocin release.

In a healthy relationship, both partners can retain the desire to step up and continue to attract each other through verbal and non-verbal communication. Try remembering the following:

  • Every person has their own preference for how things are done, so effective communication requires actively listening as well as clearly communicating your needs.
  • Before talking about an important matter, make sure you have your partner’s full attention. Then, try to keep your words focused in the here and now.
  • Instead of rehashing a similar experience from your past for context and risking triggering each other emotionally, get to the point and explain what you want at once. If you feel uncomfortable doing that, try starting a request with “I like it when…” or “It makes me feel…” You may also ask, “How can we work together to create a win-win situation?”
  • If something is important enough for your partner to mention out loud, then you must respect, consider, and adhere to it whenever possible. For example, if a partner is brave enough to open up about their need for sexual intimacy to feel more connected, it may be an issue that needs to be addressed in your relationship.

According to psychiatrist and Emory University professor Larry Young, increased intimacy can strengthen your connection as a couple, especially when you combine it with other rewarding experiences that get your brain’s reward system going.[4]

Verbally appreciate your partner’s effort in supporting your needs and make sure to retain your individuality and interests outside the relationship to keep your mutual attraction.

3. Sexual Function

Sex is the one thing that differentiates a strong, healthy relationship from a platonic friendship. Sexual intimacy is one of the most important signs of a good relationship and has often been described as the glue that holds a relationship together.

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Sexual intimacy allows two people who seek the ultimate connection with each other to come together. However, intimacy problems can lead to separation, loneliness, and disconnection — feelings that can eventually tear a relationship apart.

Unfulfilling sex leads to an increase in stress hormones which results in a lowered libido as sexual intimacy becomes a souce of discomfort on all levels. A common cause of a low libido is, for example, sexual function issues such as early ejaculation and erectile dysfunction challenges in men; and orgasmic dysfunction for women.[5] An unwanted sexual technique such as hard and fast or constant changes of position can also be off-putting.

While work stress, children rearing, and communication issues can all lower your libido and affect your overall desire for sex, a sexless marriage or relationship is not favorable for the vast majority of couples long-term.

One of the most important things for women in a relationship is to experience a sense of connection or feel loved and close to their partner. But this is where things can become tricky pretty quickly, considering women naturally have much higher levels of the bonding hormone oxytocin than men. For men, higher levels of oxytocin are generated through intimate connections.

What is the takeaway here, you may ask? Our hormones influence our behaviors, and oxytocin is said to be responsible for allowing us to experience love. In reality, studies have also shown that oxytocin can even work as the brain’s “moral molecule.” The more intimate moments we have, the more our bodies release the said hormone.

This is especially important for a male to feel more connected and attentive toward his partner. Research indicates that a man who is often sexually intimate with his beloved can produce increased levels of oxytocin.[6] In turn, it boosts his desire to hold and connect with his partner and stimulate positive social interaction.

A positive sign of a strong and healthy relationship is both partners’ desire to be intimate with each other. If either of the partners has little or no desire for initiating intimacy, then they need to address the issues mentioned in this article to restore intimacy in order to enjoy a truly fulfilling partnership.

Final Thoughts

The most important sign of being in a strong and healthy relationship is that you feel happy within yourself and in your connections.

While it’s not always possible to stay happy and connected with someone, ensuring that you are emotionally aligned with yourself and aware of your partner’s needs will go a long way to guarantee the health and longevity of your relationship.

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After all, compelling narratives also cause oxytocin release and can affect your attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.

More on Maintaining a Healthy Relationship

Featured photo credit: Candice Picard via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Jacqui Olliver

Psychosexual Relationship Specialist

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

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

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

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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