Relationship Series: Three Key Principles for Effective Relationships

Relationships are foundational to our experience as human beings. We need relationships to protect us from loneliness, hardship, and heart disease. They are not only foundational to our experience but key to our existence. They can bring us much happiness as we pursue our fullest potential as human beings.


But they can be hard to “do”! – especially intimate relationships where we put ourselves out there to be loved while at the same time risking hurt. The effort is worth it, however, because, beyond intimacy, relationships also affect our wider social lives in that they can help make our dreams come true, build up social and capital gains, and affirm and validate our own sense of self. We need our relationships to thrive and be adaptive in order to experience their benefits not only in the best of times but also in the worst.


Research confirms these claims with data collected for over 5 decades. As this relationship research continues to grow, marriage and family therapists use this wealth of knowledge for an idea of not only what healthy relationships are, but also how to achieve them. Couple therapists now have a wealth of knowledge that can inform and help partners understand, process, and change the pace of relationships to help them stabilize, heal, and grow. Research that includes popular approaches such as Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy and The Sound House Theory for Relationships teaches us that, in order to solve any relationship woes, three key principles need to be followed: Understanding, Process, and Pace.


Understanding: You can’t persuade others if you don’t take the time to understand them. The most powerful key to making a change for the better with your partner is to make them feel understood by you. Sounds easy enough! But this can be hard when you yourself don’t feel understood! Successful couple’s therapy can help both of you feel understood by one another.  Improvement depends on your ability to give and experience understanding in your relationship.


Process:  You can’t solve a problem at the same level of understanding as when it was created. One common mistake is to use the same approach over and over again to solve a problem, especially when that approach caused the problem in the first place. The best example is the “recurring argument” that couples tend to circle back to in their attempts to communicate and solve problems. This is a sure sign of a couple being stuck in a process and having no way out. A therapist trained in process can help couples get unstuck and find alternative ways to process problems. With such guidance, couples can achieve not only a better understanding of one another, but also new ways of addressing issues that commonly affect them.


Pace:  My piano teacher used to tell me that “Practice does not make perfect—it makes permanence! Therefore practice slowly.” The same applies to couple communication patterns. Couple communication dynamics are often perfected (negatively) through the pace in which these dynamics occur. These dynamics are often fast, reactive, and precise. This pace leaves little room for understanding and process. In order to have understanding and change your process, you must slow down your communication. Couples therapy often promotes this type of approach to common negative styles of interaction between partners.


By implementing these three key principles in your relationship, you can potentially derail some of the negative patterns of relating that keep your relationship from being healthy. If you are still feeling challenged after trying these things, give us a call or contact us through our contact page found on this website. A couple therapist at Saterra Psychological and Counselling Services is ready to help you and your partner reshape your relationship!


Written by: Mr. Dwight EA Thompson MSW RSW

Registered Social Worker & Psychotherapist (OCSWSSW)