Welcome to Better Sex With Dr. Lexx, a monthly column where sex therapist, educator and consultant Dr. Lexx Brown-James shares expertise, advice and wisdom about sex, relationships and more. Approaching education about sex as a life-long endeavor — “from womb to tomb” — Dr. Lexx (AKA The #CouplesClinician) is your guide to the shame-free, medically accurate, inclusive and comprehensive conversations for you, your partner and your whole family.
We always hear about the big “red flags” regarding relationships and when you should end them —but little about when or how to keep relationships healthy, fulfilling and lasting. Relationships can be hard to navigate and can be full of pitfalls — but there are things to look for and do to ensure relationship longevity.
According to John Gottman in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, there are seven principles that predict long term relationship success.
Here’s the summary and some ideas of what you can look for or do:
Share (and stay curious!)
The first stages of dating can be the most fun. There is new energy and you are constantly learning about each other. Keep this curiosity up. People are consistently growing in new and interesting ways. Learning about your lover and sharing your observations allows you to use a checks and balances system to know you are on the right track to knowing who they are.
You want to ensure you understand who they are and how they desire to be loved. Using the checks and balances, by communicating what you believe you understand also helps them to know you get them, you see them, and you value them enough to keep learning more.
Feed your fondness and admiration
Expressing gratitude — even for the smallest things — goes a long way to building connection. Offering sincere compliments not only feels good to your lover but can also remind you about what makes you value this person. Showing you care and expressing the positives when they are genuine is integral to bonding. Expressing your fondness and admiration enhances the base of your friendship. Friendship is the ultimate green flag for relationship longevity.
“Friendship is the ultimate green flag for relationship longevity.”
Dr. LExx Brown-James
Turn inward, instead of away when things get hard
Sometimes things are hard — but when your partner is shown that you can love through anger, it shows how much you value your partner. When you turn away from your partner during conflict, isolation can cause further friction. Often, without context, isolation can communicate to your partner that they are not valuable, wanted, or important. Every person tells themselves a narrative when feeling rejected and it is up to us to ensure we tell ourselves the narrative we desire to share. In times of conflict with a lover, it can feel safer to recoil because vulnerability feels at an all time high. Instead, reaching out and showing vulnerability takes great strength and demonstrates your desire for true intimacy.
Let your partner influence you
Sharing decision making is a way to show respect in your relationship. Even in relationships where there is the belief that one shall lead and another must follow — there is still shared decision-making based on those values. Further, a lover might share something with you that is beyond your wildest dreams. Being malleable and flexible helps support relationship growth and health as new experiences, energy, and team-building become a part of your relationship lexicon. A partner willing to share their hopes, dreams, desires and invite their lover into them demonstrates a lover who wants you around.
Solve your solvable problems
According to Gottman, 69 percent of conflict is not resolvable. So, as a team, you must examine which problems are resolvable and which can be solved. Through managing conflict, de-escalating, compromise, accepting what cannot be changed, acknowledging influence and self-soothing, most couples can solve issues that have seemed insurmountable.
In every relationship there are times when gridlock happens. Gridlock is described as a persistent argument. It might feel like you are spinning your wheels and you keep having the same argument over and over again. This is often when people seek out therapy. During gridlock, there is no compromise because at least one person’s core values are at stake. An example might be that one person wants to raise their child Catholic and the other Muslim. It can also be something small, but whatever it is — it is not easily reconcilable and does not come with easy compromise.
To get through gridlock, lovers have to become investigatory and curious. Gridlock occurs because dreams, values or someone’s sense of self are being lost. When core pieces of ourselves are at risk, we tend to fight for them, thus having a persistent conflict. The goal when there is gridlock is to understand your partner’s dreams and what they want for themselves and you all as a lovership. This is important in getting past gridlock together with everyone feeling valued, heard and un-compromised.
Create shared meaning
Relationships are more than gender roles, sex, and going about the day-to-day check-ins. Creating rituals — an inner life with one another — helps solidify a lasting, personalized relationship culture. With shared meaning, there’s appreciation for what is done in a relationship and a greater building of what it means to have this person as a true part of your family.
Looking (and creating) these green flags can help relationships survive the pitfalls, miseducation, and challenges that other relationships struggle to overcome. As with everything, find what works for your lovership and use that information to further your happiness.
Before you go, check out some steamy movies to stream with your partner or solo:
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