Why do some people have the kind of relationships that can survive tough times and stress, while others falter at the first sign of trouble?
We all know someone who has one of those enviable relationships that stays rock solid no matter what life throws in the way. What is it that sets these people apart?
It’s not an exact science as to why some relationships last and others don’t, but there do seem to be certain factors that increase the likelihood of survival. Research has shown that the most resilient relationships tend to share some common characteristics that help to build their durability. So, what can we learn from these super-powered partnerships?
Why do most relationships end?
It’s interesting to first step back and understand the reasons why a relationship might end in the first place. There are a million legitimate reasons why someone might want to get out of an important relationship, but broadly speaking most relationships end because one of three things happens:
1) A gradual distance forms between the two partners – they simply just grow apart and no longer share the same focus or viewpoint anymore.
2) A significant or traumatic incident happens that literally just destroys the relationship, such as death, injury, an affair, financial distress, disaster or other life-changing event.
3) An element of competition is introduced, or in other words, something or someone comes along that demands more time, attention or love from one of the partners.
These things are challenging and damaging for most relationships, yet the outcome is never a sure thing. Some people are simply more resilient to this kind of adversity and can find the strength to ride it out.
Because people are at the heart of every relationship, if both partners contribute strength and resilience, it follows that the relationship itself will also be stronger. But what do these people do differently?
7 characteristics of resilient people
Plenty of research has been done to look at how people react under extreme stress and, not surprisingly, the people who cope the best in a bad situation all share a similar set of characteristics. Let’s check them out:
1) Active optimisim
This isn’t just a general hope that things will turn out well. It’s living in the complete belief that your actions, or those of both partners working together, can change the outcome. In a relationship, this also means a tendency to avoid critical, cynical or hurtful comments towards each other.
2) Honesty and integrity
Resilient people tend to believe that honesty is the best policy, so will ‘fess up when they’ve made a mistake. Not only that but they’ll take responsibility for their actions, regardless of the outcome, and are prepared to forgive themselves and others when things don’t go to plan.
There’s no room for indecision in a resilient relationship. Resilient people are willing to take decisions, even when things are risky or the options might be unpopular. Sometimes that can even include making decisions that will cause anxiety or discomfort for a while. It can even mean taking the brave decision to end a relationship in order to protect the long-term resilience of each person.
This is about sticking to your guns and persevering, even when you’re faced with setbacks, discouragement or disapproval from others. It’s about working hard as a team to reach the same goal. Sometimes, though, it can also mean recognising when a change of direction is needed, in order to ensure the ongoing stability of a relationship or to overcome a specific issue.
This is where both partners are able to regulate their behaviour and resist any temptations that could jeopardise the relationship. Typically, the most resilient people will engage in activities that support the health and wellbeing of both people in the relationship, even if that means delaying gratification in some way.
6) A good network
Resilient people nearly always have a solid supporting cast around them and put lots of effort into nurturing this ‘connectedness’ right across home and work life. The most resilient relationships in this mix are the ones where communication is open and honest and where it’s okay to have those difficult conversations that others might shy away from.
This is where the relationship has a collective sense of calm about it because both partners are able to think outside the box. It means that judgement and blame are kept to a minimum, and both individuals stay open to suggestion and innovation. In times of adversity, both partners would work together on new ideas or ways of solving a problem, rather than rejecting things out of hand.
Strong relationships take work
Man is not an island! We thrive on having meaningful interactions with our fellow humans and we all need the positive support of others. The growing epidemic of loneliness among people of all ages (and the resulting symptoms of unhappiness and ill-health) show that we need to fight harder than ever to maintain resilient and rewarding relationships.
Successful relationships don’t come easily. They take work and ongoing co-operation from both sides. Nothing can stop the ups and downs of life from happening, but the people who approach their relationships in a positive, open-minded and collaborative way are most likely to be the ones who can ride those waves and stay happy in the long-term.
Share your experience
We’d love to hear your thoughts on what makes a successful long-term relationship? Why not pop your comments in the box below and share your ideas.