Relationship basics: Have your forgotten the fundamentals of a great relationship?

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By: Richard Nicastro, Ph.D.

You often hear struggling athletes say that they have to "go back to basics." After years of repetition, it's easy to lose sight of the fundamentals they need to stay on top of their game. Often they need an outsider's perspective (i.e., a coach) to help them determine which fundamentals they've been neglecting.

Many couples fall into the same trap. There are many reasons why relationships lose their footing, but often couples who end up in trouble lose sight of certain relationship basics. And once those basics are forgotten, a formerly-solid relationship is at risk for spiraling out of control.

Let's take a brief look at some relationship basics. Some of these might sound familiar to you; to keep your relationship healthy, it's often not a matter of learning new things but holding onto tried-and-tested wisdom.

Relationship Basics: The 7 C's

1. Commitment

Commitment is about hanging in there, for the good times and the bad. Commitment lets your partner know that you are serious about the relationship; it's the foundation that allows trust to develop and intimacy to flourish. Most importantly, commitment allows you to place the relationship above your own needs at times.

2. Communication

You don't have to become a chatterbox to effectively communicate. Simply check in with each other once in a while. Find out if the relationship is working for your partner by asking questions like: "How are things between us? Is there something you need from me that you're not getting?" When couples stop communicating, they become roommates instead of soulmates and might ultimately get their needs met elsewhere.

3. Compromise

The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway. ~Henry Boye

Relationships, even the very best of them, are complicated and often challenging. Couples who know how to get through the rough patches and still have fulfilling unions know how to compromise. A competitive, "I need to be right" attitude is the death knell to compromise. Practice give and take, and learn how to meet each other half way.

4. Connection

Intimacy is all about connection: emotional, physical and for some, spiritual. When you show your partner that you are committed, and that you are working on becoming an effective communicator who is willing to compromise, the basis for a deep connection has already been set. Discover what makes your partner feel close to you and communicate what you need in order to feel close to him/her. Not all roads to connection are the same—become aware of and respect these differences.

5. Contribution

To be in a rewarding relationship you have to contribute something. What do you need to bring to the relationship table? You have to bring yourself to the relationship. Intimate relationships involve risk and vulnerability, and often couples begin to hide emotionally from each other when the relationship doesn't proceed smoothly. This was evident with a couple I coached: The husband was somewhat subdued with his wife but was "the life of the party with his friends and other couples." He stopped bringing his sense of humor and capacity for joy to his wife after five years of marriage. How do you contribute to your relationship?

6. Companionship

Whenever I interview couples who've been together for some time and are content with their relationship, one thing continually stands out as important for these successful couples: They are great friends and they like each other. Frequently, couples forget to nurture this part of their relationship and the cost for this omission is substantial. Friends often have similar interests and engage in enjoyable activities together. Do you and your partner make a conscious effort to play together?

7. Compassion

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. ~Mark Twain

Compassion is the ability to listen deeply and show sympathy and understanding to your partner. Couples who practice compassion and kindness continuously feed love and send each other vital messages of caring. You would think that it's easy for couples to shower each other with compassion, but this isn't always the case. So often couples begin to take one another for granted and stop behaving in ways that demonstrate unsolicited kindness. As one husband recently said, "With all the stress I'm under, I don't have the luxury of always being compassionate…" The assumption that you need heaps of time or that you need to be in the "right place" in your life in order to show compassion to others is not only incorrect, it's a dangerous assumption. Make compassion a necessity in your relationship, not a luxury. Weave it into the small acts of your daily life and you won't even need to create extra time for it.

While there are other important elements that go into creating a healthy marriage or relationship, periodically re-visiting these seven basics will give your relationship the tune-up it needs to stay vibrant and strong for years to come. For added benefit, review these with your partner and see what your relationship strengths are and areas that might need some extra attention.

To discover ways to create a deeper, more intimate relationship visit and sign up for Dr. Nicastro's free Relationship Toolbox Newsletter.

As a bonus, you will receive the popular free reports: "The four mindsets that can topple your relationship" and "Relationship self-defense: Control the way you argue…before your arguments control you."

Richard Nicastro, Ph.D. is a psychologist and relationship coach who is passionate about helping couples protect the sanctuary of their relationship. Rich and his wife Lucia founded LifeTalk Coaching, an internet-based coaching business that helps couples strengthen their relationships.

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