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Feb 28, 2024

Building a Solid Foundation for a Healthy Relationship

Sheila Tucker

Photography By

The art of relationship building requires careful planning and patience, the right skills, and a touch of artistry to create something that withstands the tests of time and weather.

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They tentatively enter the therapy room, unsure if they should look cozy on the sofa or be true to themselves and sit in separate chairs. Thoughts of “What will the therapist think?” and “How did we get here?’ swirl through their heads.

“Please sit anywhere,” I say, interrupting their internal chatter. “No, I can’t read your mind,” I interject. “It’s common for couples to overthink their seat of choice on their first visit. Go with whatever is most comfortable. Really. It doesn’t matter.” 

A collective sigh and a sense of relief falls over their faces as one opts for the sofa and the other for the club chair. I make my usual introductions and then ask one of my typical first-session questions: “What are your greatest hopes for our session today?”

As I note their answers, it occurs to me that building a solid relationship with one’s partner is a lot like constructing a sturdy home. The art of relationship building requires careful planning and patience, the right skills, and a touch of artistry to create something that withstands the tests of time and weather. The art of relationship building is a nuanced dance that combines curiosity, communication, and a sprinkle of humor. Plus, I love metaphors. 

The Blueprint: Shared Values and Goals

Drawing a blueprint of your new home or remodel requires everyone to be on the same page. It’s a vision of its creators, aligning values and aspirations. In relationship speak, this involves identifying shared or complementary values and goals.

Consider this the blueprint for your collective future. Questions to consider are: What are your individual and shared goals? How do your values align or complement each other? Or even, what are your greatest hopes for this session? 

Like any successful project, a solid relationship requires a clear plan and a shared vision. 

The Foundation: Trust and Communication

Any architect will tell you that a strong foundation is essential for the stability of any structure. In the realm of relationships, trust and communication form the bedrock upon which everything else is built. 

I suppose you could see trust as the glue that binds individuals together. Like a well-made cement mixture, it requires time, consistency, and vulnerability to cure just right. 

Meanwhile, communication is the support that connects hearts and minds. It’s not just about speaking your mind but also about active listening and a whole lot of curiosity. Imagine communication as a two-way street, where understanding and curiosity flow in both directions. 

You lay the groundwork by being open, honest, and genuinely interested in what your partner has to say. A relationship without effective communication is like a home with missing support beams – unstable and likely unable to weather a tropical storm.

The Construction Phase: Patience and Understanding

Oh, the construction phase. Brace yourself for the challenges that inevitably arise during the building process. If you’ve ever built a home or remodeled a space, you’re probably well aware of the additional time and resources it can take. 

Much like construction projects, relationships inevitably encounter unforeseen obstacles, unexpected weather conditions, and occasional setbacks. This is where patience, curiosity, and understanding become your trusted tools.

Patience is the virtue that often holds your relationship together during challenging times. It’s the ability to weather storms without losing sight of the bigger picture. Checking in, becoming curious about what you’re experiencing during these times, and seeking clarity all help to lay the groundwork for increased understanding. 

Keep in mind that imperfections are part of the construction process, and what matters most is your commitment and consistency to weathering the ups and downs together.

The Decor: Shared Experiences and Laughter

Now that the structural work is nearing completion, it’s time to add the finishing touches – the decor that makes your relationship uniquely yours. Shared experiences, whether grand adventures or simple moments of joy, contribute to your connection.

Laughter, often underestimated, is the vibrant paint that brings color to the walls of your relationship. A shared sense of humor can turn the mundane into the extraordinary and transform challenges into opportunities for amusement. Finding the humor in everyday happenings will create goodwill to draw upon during those complicated times. 

You might even discover that laughter is the secret sauce to keeping your relationship light-hearted and resilient.

The Maintenance: Regular Checkups and Repairs

Even the most well-built structures require maintenance to stay in tip-top shape, and relationships are no different. Regular checkups are essential to ensure that your connection remains strong and healthy. This involves taking the time to reflect on your individual and collective needs, addressing any issues that may have arisen, and making necessary repairs.

Think of relationship maintenance as an ongoing process rather than a one-time task. Regular communication about the two of you, date nights, and expressions of love and appreciation are the tools in your maintenance kit. 

Just as a home undergoes inspections and repairs to ensure its longevity, your relationship benefits from the attention and care you invest in it.

A Masterpiece in Progress

Relationships are the masterpieces that tell the story of our connections with others. Building a solid relationship is a continuous, evolving process that requires creativity, dedication, and a willingness to adapt. Your relationship is a masterpiece in progress – one in which you and your partner have an opportunity to create lasting moments of love, trust, and shared experiences.

Leaning into the metaphors, the couple speaks openly about their hopes for their relationship and reimagines their early dating days. They noticed their communications were less about them and more about household management and children. Remembering how they’d made it through the hard time before, they began to see a path forward. 

As we wrap up our session, I suggest they practice embracing their relationship with curiosity, a sense of humor, and a playful spirit. “Slow down, get curious, and check in with yourself and each other seeking clarity, and don’t forget to add a little fun,” I advise. “Each moment together is an opportunity to grow goodwill within your relationship.”

Disclaimer: Reviving a relationship can be hard work. And sometimes, no amount of rebuilding will salvage its brokenness. If you find yourself repeating the same patterns that just aren’t working, it might be time to contact a therapist or your church’s counseling center. If I can be of any help, please let me know. 

Sheila Tucker is a licensed marriage and family therapist and owner of Heart Mind & Soul Counseling, tele: (843) 592-3998

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