Since my husband and I retired there seems to be a lot of tension in our relationship. We have not yet worked out the details of how much time we spend together and how much time we spend apart, who does what chores, etc. I know these are just details of the bigger picture. Can you give us some guidelines as to what the bigger picture really is so we quit focusing on these little details for a while?
Every relationship is different. And, luckily, there is no single way to have a healthy relationship — what fun would that be? But then you might ask yourself: How do I know if my relationship is a healthy one? Or, what can I do to improve my relationship?
For guidance in these areas, you can look to the hallmarks of healthy relationships. Below are eight signs that a relationship is working well:
Emotional support: You and your partner can take refuge in your relationship during times of distress or need, feeling a sense of comfort and relief from connecting with each other.
Feel accepted and loved: Both you and your partner feel fully accepted and loved for who you are. This is true even when you disagree.
Appreciate the relationship: You both value your relationship and hold it as a priority in your lives. You also devote enough time to nurture and enjoy it.
Secure base: You both feel supported as you explore your individual goals outside of the relationship. It's important, however, that the activities are not destructive to the relationship, such as a spouse being so involved in a hobby that he or she has no time for the marriage.
Trust: You and your partner trust each other to act in ways supportive of the relationship. You also trust each other to be emotionally available when needed.
Comfortable with sharing: You are both comfortable with sharing your most private thoughts and vulnerable feelings. In addition, you are comfortable with depending on each other (interdependence) and maintaining your separate personal needs and identities while simultaneously allowing each other in close as a support.
Individual self-worth: You each have a sense of self-worth that is separate from, though supported by, your relationship. In a healthy, happy relationship, partners don't have to choose between feeling close and being able to be themselves.
Effective and caring management of conflicts: You talk about distressing events or aspects of your relationship in a mutually respectful way.
You attend to each other's distress, helping to ease it, and then move on to solving your problem as a team.
As you look at these signs, carefully consider each of them. Are they characteristic of your relationship? Do they suggest ways you can improve your relationship? Or does reviewing them reinforce just how happy you are and how much you have to be grateful for?
Now you can work out those little details of how much cooking or eating out happens each week, who does the grocery shopping, and who does the dishes.
NANCY TURNEY received a bachelor's degree in social work and a certificate in gerontology. If you have a specific question you would like answered in this column, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Turney at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA, (818) 790-0123, ext. 225.