Saturday, April 7, 2007

12 Things Your Relationship Should Have to Succeed (1) by Elaine Sihera

Some time ago, after I met the guy I called the 'love of my life', and labelled him '11% short of heaven' (because of the score we kept getting on every relationship quiz we did), I was fascinated to find out why we had clicked together so amazingly, despite our different backgrounds, etc. The love between us was so awesome, I spent quite a while reflecting on why being with him enhanced my happiness and sense of worth so much. I began to list the things I liked about him and our interaction and realised that everything I was listing were the things that I valued the most. I began to put them in order and then had a Eureka moment! It literally flashed in my subconscious that some of the things I liked about him were values which represented the essence of me on three levels: the things I cherished, the things I felt comfortable with, that confirmed who I was and aspired to be, and the things I desired from a partner to enhance my happiness.

I began thinking that I couldn't be unique in this process. That this list must be universal to everyone, but, obviously, the priorities would be different, depending on our gender, culture and perspectives. Your values can be anything that makes you happy. However, while you can be flexible about the bottom 6, or bottom 50% of your list, you cannot compromise on the top half. You will simply be very miserable. In fact, why not make up your own list, then use it to assess your 'failed' relationships, rating each aspect out of 10 to see how your former partners measured up. You should get a score out of 120 if you use a similar list to mine below. You could be in for a big surprise, but are guaranteed greater understanding of what makes you tick. These are the 12 values any relationship should have, in my priority order.

1. Communication: I am a wordsmith and if I cannot have a good conversation with my spouse, the relationship is doomed before it begins. I need to communicate in all forms: telephone, face to face, email, texts. I am very interested in my partner, I want to share his dreams, aspirations, achievements; I want to comment on life and current issues; I want to read a poem to him now and then, get his opinion, or tell him that he is magnificent. So, this, for me, is the most important aspect. Once communication goes, everything else is not far behind.

2. Attraction/Chemistry: You have to feel attracted to that person, feel a strong rapport, feel the urge to hold them, be close to them, have a need for their company. If you don't feel drawn to them, or have no wish to see them, what kind of relationship is that? People don't seek each other to stay apart from one another: that can be done as single people. We are not talking about being claustrophobic and in their face. We are talking about desire and desire is an essential part of attraction and chemistry. That's how we get that elusive 'Wow' factor. If it feels lukewarm at all, don't go there! Sometimes, things take a little time to develop between two people, but you should still have that butterfly-in-the-stomach feeling when you see that person.

3. Interest and Attention: If a person really cares about you, they will be interested in you: in your thoughts, your dreams, your vision, your hopes, your pain, your hurt and your needs. Interest is the essence of attraction because we should be curious enough to want to know about that person. Communication and interest are strongly linked because where there is very little communication between people, there is little interest too. People tend to talk about themselves, making constant statements rather than asking questions, mirroring their partner's topics or encouraging their dreams and efforts. If there is no interest at the dating or honeymoon stage, there will be no interest later on either! People who are only interested in themselves will not be interested in anyone lelse. And we cannot change people into what we want. We can only enhance what they already have. PLEASE bear that in mind, ladies!

4. Honesty and Trust: Once the lies begin, trust goes out of the window. Some people might put this value as their no.1 but my reasoning is: what's the point of having honesty if you cannot communicate to someone and there is not much attraction between you? Having honesty and trust still won't get you anywhere in that sort of scenario. If you sense the person is not really being honest at the beginning, as a gut instinct, it is most likely they are being economical with the truth. It is difficult to stem the flow of lies once they begin so set a high standard to start. For everyone, honesty and trust has got to be a high priority in any relationship.

5. Humour and Positivity: This is one of my essential values. No doom and gloom person for me. Positivity keeps us in good spirits and our bodies in good health. There is nothing worse than a misery guts or a whinger. It really kills motivation to be with someone who finds it hard to smile. I love my smile and I love to keep it bright with lots of laughter. There is no great action in being gloomy, but a smile can make someone's day. My guy has to have some humour and a positive outlook on life which we can both share because it will keep us happier and living longer. However, I do try to avoid those who pointedly set out to make me laugh. Usually that becomes boring after a while because it loses its spontaneity and becomes a chore to prove something. So long as the couple is behaving naturally and don't take themselves too seriously, the jokes will come. There is no need to force them.

6. Reciprocity: The dictionary define this beautiful word as, "Exchanging things with one another for mutual benefit," and it is a very useful word to know. I prefer to use the simple give and take. If your relationship is NOT reciprocal, it means there is one taker and one giver in it, or two takers. If there are two givers, it will be reciprocal because each person is looking out for the other. A simple litmus test of reciprocity in your relationship is this: when you tell your partner something positive, or tell them you love them, or do something loving for them, what do they do, exactly? If they remain silent, they do not respond, or they tell you that they won't reply when you 'solicit' or 'fish for' compliments, that's a sign of control and insecurity and you'll be the loser. A lack of reciptocity is the biggest killer of spontaneity in a partnership which usually leads to resentment and then tit for tat. Once that loving feeling is replaced with revenge, or the desire to hurt instead, that's the beginning of the end.

These top 6 are non-negotiable for me. If they are not there in abundance at the start, the relationship is not going to get any better. Yes, some people do grow more loving after a few years, but only if the positive foundations are already in place. People's basic personality seldom changes after marriage or setting up together. We all come with our unique imprints of life which give us the values we choose to live by. We tend to add to what we have or subtract a little from it, but we seldom ever ditch a value completely and start over again with someone else's value. For example, if you are basically generous, you might start off a little cautious until you see what your partner is like, and then you might choose to pamper her, or hold back if he's a spendthrift. But a mean person will not suddenly become generous because they are in a relationship, though they might temper that meanness with random acts of kindness, perhaps to impress. They will remain basically mean.

The next 6 values, I can be more flexible on, and be more compromising, because no one will fulfil everything I seek 100 per cent.

ELAINE SIHERA (Ms Cyprah - and is an expert author, public speaker, media contributor and lifestyle columnist. The first Black graduate of the OU and a post-graduate of Cambridge University. Elaine is a CONFIDENCE guru and a Personal Empowerment, Relationships and Diversity Consultant. Author of: 10 Easy Steps to Growing Older Disgracefully; 10 Easy Steps to Finding Your Ideal Soulmate!; Money, Sex & Compromise and Managing the Diversity Maze, among others (available on as well as her personal website). Also the founder of the British Diversity Awards and the Windrush Men and Women of the Year Achievement Awards. She describes herself as, "Fit, Fabulous, Over-fifty and Ready to Fly!"

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