Registered clinical counselor Stephanie Davis defines a resilient relationship as “one that has a malleable capacity to stretch, to ebb, and to flow with whatever circumstances life may throw at it.”
According to Davis, these are relationships where partners hold equal space for each other, commit to developing effective communication skills, and work together to move through challenges.
Resilient relationships are dynamic: members are continually looking for ways to improve their connection and better show up for each other.
Fissures, fractures, and proactive solutions
Common problems that Davis sees in her office include a lack of connection or loss of intimacy, poor communication, differing views around childrearing, differing life goals, or extramarital relationships.
There are many ways that you can work to build resilience in your relationship to weather these experiences and more.
Seek professional help
Davis says that, often, couples only seek professional help when they’re already in crisis, but, ideally, therapy can be used as a tool to build connections and establish healthy communication habits before challenges arise.
She also recommends that people seek individual counseling, either alongside or before seeking couple’s therapy, to help them develop a greater sense of self-awareness and empathy.
Practise healthy communication
Good communication is the key to a resilient relationship. Davis recommends listening to your partner with all your senses, paying attention to tone, body language, and subtext. If the meaning of something they say isn’t clear, ask for clarification.
It might sound prescriptive to stop and summarize your partner’s thoughts, but what we think we’re hearing is often influenced by our own stories, emotions, and experiences, rather than our partner’s own feelings.
Explore alternative therapies
Although therapy is the gold standard to navigate relationship issues, there’s plenty of room to branch out—alone or together.
Acupuncture can help with anxiety, insomnia, depression, and chronic pain, allowing us to show up in relationships as more balanced versions of ourselves.
Couples’ massages can help to restore connection and affection, as can going on a just-you-two vacation or exploring spicier practices such as tantra.
Participating in discussion groups is another great way to get clarity and support. “I am a big fan of groups, as they tend to bring our greatest challenges to the surface real fast, yet are often met with compassion and understanding by others,” says Davis.
Red lines to avoid
If you’re looking to build relationship resilience, above all, avoid playing “the blame game.” Davis says it never resolves anything and, instead, perpetuates shame and discourages accountability. If your emotions are running high and you can’t control how you react to conflict, it’s best to take a break until you can find the space to engage in active listening once again.
By Isabela Vera