Protect your marriage

Josh Willink/ Good communication and a commitment to growth are two of the four fundamental areas everyone should look for in a partner.

Gwen Randall-Young
Psychology for Living

What do you look for in a partner with whom you will share life, and possibly children?
Falling in love and planning a wedding are incredibly romantic activities, very often undertaken while wearing rose-colored glasses. All the gifts make it seem like Christmas, but there is an important gift that you must give to yourself, and that is the gift of awareness.
You would not buy a car without brakes, or a house with a leaky basement, so why would you commit to a relationship where something fundamental is missing? Let’s look at those fundamentals, assuming that you’ve already screened for major dysfunctional problems.
1) First and foremost is good communication. We’ve heard this a zillion times, but what does it really mean? It means that you can talk openly to one another, without fear of criticism or anger. It means that you feel heard and understood. It also means that most times you feel closer to one another after having talked. It also means that you are honest with each other. If you do not have this kind of communication, then you won’t be able to work through issues related to finances, sex, etc. and then you will have more problems than just communication!
2) Next, there must be some kind of commitment to growth. This comes from the understanding that a relationship is not a static thing, but is ever changing, and we must grow in order to keep up. We all have blind spots, and must be willing to learn and expand our awareness. If you don’t grow, you may wake up one day to a partner who says he/she has outgrown the relationship. By then, it’s usually too late to catch up.
3) There must also be shared goals. You need to be able to look ahead and have some sense of where you are going, or you will surely end up somewhere else. These goals can be revised as time goes on, but they must be talked about, for if you each have a different idea of the future, then you are on a collision course.
4) Finally, you must both have the ability to handle conflict. Conflict is inevitable, in fact it is often the signal that change is needed. If it is not channeled appropriately, it becomes a destructive force, and eats away at the relationship. There are a multitude of books on the subject of conflict resolution, and if they don’t help, you can seek counselling. 
If you concentrate on these four fundamental areas, then you are well on the way to having a relationship that you can celebrate!

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.