Keys to a better relationship

By Norman Araiza

There are many keys that open the door to a better relationship. This article is limited to three that I see neglected most often in seasoned relationships.

It’s no secret that the more frequently loving gestures are made between partners, the stronger the relationship. Yet in many relationships, gestures that were once considered loving, like making breakfast for your partner, may become commonplace, habitual and expected and the loving part is lost for both.

So what is a loving gesture? It’s any action done solely for your partner’s anticipated pleasure or enjoyment. It might be a back rub, an invitation to a performance our partner might enjoy or something as simple as a warm smile for no reason at all.

I think it was Carl Rogers who defined love as “When the welfare of another becomes as strong as the self, then a state of love exists.” If we can accept Rogers’ definition as correct, then if we love someone, their happiness should be as important as our own. At the risk of sounding idealistic, imagine a relationship where both parties are practicing “random acts of kindness” towards one another with conscious, loving gestures aimed at making our partner’s day a little more pleasant. If we made a habit of doing that would our relationship be different? I’ll let you answer that.

Couples I see come to me with hope still looming but with great fear that their relationship has failed at some level. What I see most often is that they have failed to value the relationship. Valuing the relationship is essential to preserving it. What we don’t value we tend to lose. Expressing that value once a year on Valentine’s Day clearly is insufficient.

Celebrating the relationship doesn’t mean that they have to do anything elaborate but something must be done at regular intervals to demonstrate, if only to themselves, that this is something they value. One happy couple I know makes a habit of using greeting cards as a vehicle for expressing their love. Other couples I know plan romantic getaways for a night or two in B&B’s or other spots to celebrate their relationship. Other couples plan hedonistic adventures for a night at home alone, where the most pleasure-producing activities are planned. It might involve a special night where all the senses are indulged, enjoying special foods, wines and chocolates teamed with favorite music and perhaps culminating in a sensuous, steamy bath using aromatics and oils to relax the mind and spirit. Partners may bathe each other, give each other facials and focus on pleasuring their partner. The emphasis need not be sexual but should be sensual.

But the greatest balm that can be administered to any relationship is the simplest, which is, giving positive feedback about how we feel in their company and having them in our lives.

In past articles I have written about happiness, comparing it to a muscle. Some of us exercise our happiness and some do not. As we exercise our happiness it grows in strength. Making a habit of telling our partners about the heights of happiness we are allowing ourselves to experience simply because they are in our lives, brings our happiness into awareness and reconfirms our relationship in a powerful way. A small comment like “I’m really happy today being with you,” validates the relationship and sets the tone for a more connected evening. Just as we can exercise our happiness we can also develop the skill of finding joy. Sadly, many of us have unwittingly practiced finding unhappiness or disillusionment. The key to this process is looking for the joy and finding it. Then all we have to do is share it.

Norman Araiza, M.A. is an American-trained psychotherapist enjoying a limited practice in San Miguel. He is available for consultation at 152-7842 or


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