Relationships: It Takes Two

Updated on September 18, 2017
juleslmft profile image

Jules Ker has worked as a behavioral health therapist for 12 years. She treats children, adults, and couples.


What Is a Relationship?

According to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, there are several definitions of the word relationship. One definition is that a relationship is a "romantic or passionate attachment". A second definition describes a relationship as "a specific instance or type of kinship". This article is going to focus on all types of relationships: romantic ones involving a spouse/significant other, friendships, and those involving family members.

What Do You Mean I Have To Work At It?

As mentioned in a PsychCentral article titled 8 Myths That Could Kill Your Relationship, many people falsely believe that once they become involved in some type of relationship, particularly a friendship or romantic relationship (family relationships are less of a choice), they no longer need to put any work into the relationship. It's as if some how the relationship is magically going to sustain itself and everything is going to be just as good as it was when the relationship first started.

The truth is relationships take work and most of it is not that hard, especially once you start doing it. You wouldn't just buy a new car and then never get the oil changed or have it serviced in any way and expect it to keep running great, would you? The same goes for relationships. You have to put effort in to get something out.

Not only do relationships take work but they need effort from all parties involved in order to keep things running. Here are a few of the possible outcomes that could occur when only one person is doing all of the work (or most of it) in an attempt to improve a relationship.

  1. The relationship goes nowhere, as in little if nothing gets better. It can feel like being stuck on an endless hamster wheel with no way to get off. The relationship may continue but everyone will likely become more and more dissatisfied with the relationship as time goes on. This could lead to a situation where two people co-exist in the same space but otherwise lead separate lives.
  2. The person doing the work makes improvements and their partner/friend/family member gets inadvertently left behind. In some cases, the partner/friend/family member may see that they are being left behind and may decide to start making some changes as well and the relationship might continue. In other cases, the person being left behind might not care that they are being left behind or might not have the resources/skills to catch up. This may lead to the end of the relationship.

Basic Principles For A Healthy Relationship

If you are reading this article, then you are probably looking for some ways to know if your relationship is ok and what you can do to fix it. The following will provide some basic guidelines for ways to keep your relationship in good shape.

1. Speak kindly to each other. Yes, this means that even when you are upset with each other you need to try and refrain from speaking harshly to each other. That old saying "If you have nothing nice to say, then don't say anything at all" applies here. However, it is ok to express your feelings to each other if you can do so in a respectful manner. Here is an example: Instead of saying "You jerk. I can't believe you came home late again. Now dinner is ruined". You could try saying "I was really hurt when you didn't call to tell me you would be home late from work because I was really looking forward to sharing the special dinner I cooked for you".

2. Notice the positives. Make a point of verbally acknowledging these things. It can be as simple as telling your loved one "The garage looks really clean" or "Dinner tastes good" or "We sure do have fun when we are playing games with each other". In addition, not only should you notice the good things that are happening in the relationship but take time to notice the good qualities your partner/friend/family member possesses. This might require that you make a written list of qualities your significant other has that you admire.

3. Give each other space. This applies during times when you are frustrated with each other but also when the relationship is doing ok. During an argument or moments when one person is angry, giving each other space allows each person time to calm down and thus be able to think more clearly. The rest of the time, space allows you to not get sick of each other. That doesn't mean you should never do anything with each other (see points 4 and 5) you just need to know when a break is necessary.

4. Spend time together. Yes, this seems to contradict what is being said in number three. However, it's really hard to be in a relationship with someone if you rarely spend any time with them. Spending time together can be as simple as going for a walk after dinner or having coffee together in the morning. It can also include more lavish things such as a fancy dinner or a weekend getaway. Spending time together as a couple or with friends means the kids are not invited so higher a babysitter or find a family member to watch the kids during these moments. Yes, you can spend time with your children and your spouse/significant other all together but that's considered family time not couples time. The same goes for spending time with friends. If you are truly spending time with friends, then it means friends only and no children unless you are arranging a play date and it's discussed ahead of time as being just that.

5. Have your own interests/hobbies. While it's true that you should have some shared interests with your loved one, you also need your own hobbies and interests. This makes it easier for you to give each other the space talked about in number three. If you or partner/friend/family member don't have separate hobbies, then it's time to develop some. Start by making a list of activities you could do by yourself that seem interesting. It can be things like taking pictures, knitting, painting, putting together puzzles, etc. Then start doing those activities on a regular basis.

If you feel you need some more assistance with managing your relationship, you can check out some of the books listed under the For Further Reading section. In addition, as always, you can also consult a licensed professional in your area for further assistance as well.

If your relationship was going through a rough patch, would you consider seeing a therapist?

See results

If you answered yes to the above question, how long would you try therapy before quitting if the relationship wasn't improving?

See results


Relationship. (n.d.). Retrieved July 27, 2017, from

Tartakovsky, Margarita (2011). 8 Myths That Could Kill Your Relationship. Retrieved July 20, 2017 from

For Further Reading

What Makes Love Last? by John Gottman, Ph.D. and Nan Silver, published in 2012: This book shows readers how to identify signs, behaviors, and attitudes that indicate sexual and other forms of betrayal, and provides strategies for repairing what may seem lost or broken (description taken from the product page on John Gottman's website -

The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman, Ph.D. and Nan Silver, originally published in 2000, updated in 2015: This book lists signs that your relationship may be in trouble. It also provides a series of activities that can be completed to help couples get their relationship back on track.

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert
This is a great book. It has lots of activities to help build your marriage and several quizzes that help you know what areas you need help in. I use it frequently with clients.
What Makes Love Last?: How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal
What Makes Love Last?: How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal
This book is also great. It offers some nice guidelines for how to have a conversation with your spouse and keep it as conflict free as possible. I have used this information with clients as well.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)