Do you want the key to a mutually satisfying relationship?

The third stage of relationships, after romantic love and adjusting to reality, is often a power struggle. Disagreements deepen and become more frequent and minor annoyances become major irritants. This can be a slow process or an abrupt blowout. Couples often have thoughts of separating or divorcing once they reach this stage because their formerly loving relationship has become a 24/7 battle ground. Both parties often want the other person to change but are reluctant to change themselves. I often hear men claim they can’t (meaning they won’t) change until their partner changes. Both respect and trust decline and companionship, spending quality time together, also goes out the window.

And now to my question, “What is the key to a mutually satisfying relationship?” Most people don’t know the answer. Respect, trust, honesty, and good communication are common responses. They’re important to a good relationship but not the key.

The key to a mutually satisfying relationship is both partners have their needs met. Sounds simple, but it often isn’t. And unvoiced and unmet needs are quite often the reason relationships fail.

First, what are your needs in a relationship? What are you looking for? Sadly, most folks can’t answer this. It is answerable, but you have to do some homework on yourself. Are your needs realistic – or are they unrealistic? Are they really your needs or needs you’ve learned from someone else? Can you take care of them yourself or do you have to rely on others? On a scale of 1-10 where does each need fall for you? Do some internal digging and put your needs into words on paper so you can challenge them and explain them, both to yourself and to your partner.

Got that task done? Good. Now share them with your partner – using respect, honesty, and open communication. I often have couples do this exercise individually at home and then share their ideas with each other in session. This exercise doesn’t mean your needs will be met 100% of the time, that’s impossible. What it does mean is that each of you will understand (and hopefully respect) the other’s needs.

Relationships are hard work, and drifting apart often feels easier than making your relationship work. But long-term happiness, resolving the struggles, can result in life-long happiness for both. It all depends on how much time and effort you’re willing to devote to you and your partner.

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