Everyone wants to form strong relationships built to last through the bumps and bruises of life, but, as the country’s divorce rate shows, it’s not as easy as it seems. There’s no magic formula for the perfect relationship, but psychologists have identified seven qualities that seem to be at the heart of resiliency. Drs. McCormack, Strouse and Everly put forth these qualities as common links of resilient individuals, but they can also be used to guide our understanding of resilient relationships.
1. Honesty: A relationship cannot thrive without individuals honestly expressing their feelings, desires and needs. This quality also encompasses a mutual commitment to trust, loyalty and forgiveness.
2. Flexibility: A common reason cited for the dissolution of a relationship is, “We grew apart.” People change as they grow, and couples need to be able to accept one another’s changes in order for the relationship to survive.
3. Perseverance: This quality is also described as tenacity, even in the face of unexpected setbacks, failure or discouragement.
4. Decisiveness: Relationships require action, not just maintaining the status quo. At times, couples need to take concrete action in order to grow their partnership, whether it be seeking counseling when troubles arise or one spouse quitting a job that is too demanding.
5. Active optimism: Our beliefs have incredible power over our lives, and often just believing something is enough to make it happen. Couples who have an innate confidence in their relationship keep it afloat with this positive optimism. This also causes partners to assume the best in each other and avoid criticism.
6. Self-control: Couples who have the ability to do difficult things for the good of the relationship are able to delay gratification for a greater good. They know that good things come to those who wait. They are also able to avoid temptation or things that would harm their relationship.
7. Calm, collaborative problem-solving: Psychologists call this quality présence d’esprit which encapsulates an attitude that resists blaming during conflict but rather seeks novel, cooperative solutions.
While these qualities cannot guarantee a happy relationship and they are certainly not the only factors that make up a happy partnership, they can certainly help to guide our thoughts about our relationship foundations and increase the likelihood of a long and happy journey together.