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Special St Valentine's Day edition - The 5 Cs to a healthy relationship

Published:Wednesday | February 10, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Wendel Abel - I AM WHAT I THINK

1 Commitment: Commitment to each other and to the relationship is an important ingredient in a healthy relationship. Many of us want a committed relationship but don't express this clearly. When friends are committed to each other, they will work at their relationship and do everything to prevent separation, break-ups and divorce.

In a committed relationship, we don't constantly issue threats of leaving or demand that things be done on 'my terms only'. Each person also recognises that in spite of the challenges, he or she will be there for the other person.

2 Communication: Good communication is critical in a healthy relationship. Each individual should be able to communicate his or her needs, dreams, desires and concerns in an open and honest manner. I have found that the lack of clear and honest communication is one of the greatest barriers in many relationships. When you can communicate freely and openly with your partner, you will truly become soulmates. If it's difficult to have a sober conversation, it could be time to seek professional help.

3 Care and concern: Care, concern and love are important factors in every relationship. As human beings, one of our greatest needs is to be loved. This need goes to the heart of our relationships encompassing the need to be appreciated and accepted completely and unconditionally. Sadly, many people have not found love in their relationships.

4 Compatibility: When people have common values, interests, goals, vision and a common sense of purpose, it is easier to enjoy a healthy relationship. The greater the differences in a relationship, the greater the level of tension and conflict. Couples with great differences have to work harder to sustain the relationship. It is, therefore, important that we explore and identify our attitudes towards sex, religion and politics in a relationship. No relationship is ideal and no one is perfect, but it is crucial that couples put on the table the things that are important to them, and sometimes you might have to agree to set some things aside if they are not that important. For example, one woman recently told me that she decided, with her boyfriend, early in the relationship not to discuss politics as they realised that they had different political beliefs.

5 Compromise: The act of giving and taking is another important ingredient in a healthy relationship. A relationship is about two people coming together to form a working unit. We come into our relationships with our individual weaknesses and personal baggage but, at the same time, we also contribute our personal strengths. If our relationships are going to survive, we must be prepared to compromise, it cannot be on our terms all the time.

We must be willing to give up our need for control sometimes; we must recognise that we should not spend a lifetime trying to change our partners into something that we want them to be, and we should be willing to forgive and move on sometimes. However, in the process, we should never compromise our need to be happy. Do not sacrifice your happiness by trying to make another person happy. We all deserve to be happy, that is the essence of life.

Dr Wendel Abel is a consultant psychiatrist and head, Section of Psychiatry, Dept. Of Community Health and Psychiatry, University of the West Indies, 977-1108; email:

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