Relationship Maintenance: How to keep it running smoothly
Relationships can mean many things to different people—connection, intimacy, understanding, fun—you name it! And just like the living people involved, relationships share similarities in needing care, nourishment, the space to grow, and maintenance in order to flourish.
But how do we maintain a relationship?
What do we do to keep the relationship close?
Relationship maintenance behaviors are associated with higher levels of satisfaction; these behaviors serve to communicate the depth of commitment and effort within the relationships.
This maintenance is linked to some important relationship characteristics, such as:
Satisfaction—the degree to which your relationship/partner meets or exceeds your expectations.
Commitment—related to investments, few alternatives, and high satisfaction.
Control Mutuality—the degree to which partners agree about which of them should decide relational goals and behavioral routines
Love & Liking—stem from each partner’s perception of positive/relationship-enhancing actions
Following the research conducted by Dr. Brian Olgolsky and Dr. Jill R. Bowers (2012), the role of the following five factors of relationship maintenance is examined in how it affects relationships in a positive way:
Openness—actively “opening up” and self-disclosing to your partner about your thoughts and emotions and providing a safe space for your partner to do the same.
Positivity—expressing an attitude of cheer and fun when interacting with your partner.
Assurances—behaviors directed toward love, faithfulness, and commitment.
Sharing Tasks—related to the equal allocation of tasks that you face as a committed unit.
Shared Social Network—the utilization of friendships and affiliated connections to support the relationship, such as spending time with friends and/or family.
However, just as no one relationship is the same, the five factors are broad and are but some aspects to relationship maintenance; listed below are more specific behaviors with some examples to take tips from:
Verbal affection (“I miss you,” “I love you,” and special nicknames)
Physical affection (hugs, cuddling, kissing, handholding)
Handling conflicts (handling disagreements and making up)
Sharing possessions (money, objects, high and low-cost items)
Informal talks (talking about light-hearted things, catching up about each other’s days)
Spending time together (eating meals, hanging out, going on dates)
Sharing media together (movies, TV shows, music, video games)
Deep talks (serious conversations, discussing problems and events)
Humor (laughing, telling jokes)
These behaviors are motivated by thinking about the other person as part of oneself; as the relationship progresses, we no longer think of ourselves as separate, but one. Maintaining close, interdependent relationships takes a lot of time and effort, but a healthy relationship/marriage calls for commitment across these varying behaviors.
What parts of your relationship can you purposely improve? Take a moment to reflect on the strength of the positive relationship characteristics already shown in your partnership. Try to give both you and your partner(s) the gift of recognizing aspects of your relationship where you shine as a unit; notice the areas for realistic growth and look for opportunities to use these listed behaviors to strengthen your bond. Find what relationship maintenance behavior work and keep with it; to the ones that you observe not working—let them go.
Thy Tran is a Counseling Intern at Enhancing Intimacy, providing low cost relationship and individual counseling to the people of Austin. Thy strives to help her clients gain the freedom and safety to explore themselves in all areas and stages of life. Thy is LGBTQ+ affirming, sex and body positive, monogamous and non-monogamous relationships aware, and seeks to provide high quality services to all, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, ability and/or socioeconomic status. Thy speaks both English and Vietnamese.
If you are interested in scheduling a free consultation with Thy, call us at 512-994-2588 to get scheduled. If you prefer to schedule online you can do so here.