There is a ton of stuff written out there about this very topic, because it is something that directly impacts the quality of our everyday lives. Sharing space and being part of a disconnected, lonely relationship is very different to how it feels when we are part of a loving and caring partnership.
If both you and your partner have each other's best interests at heart, you're going to have a lot more trust, confidence and motivation in working through conflicts with an open heart and mind. If you live in an ongoing, stressed relationship, however, the walls naturally develop which keep you from feeling close and safe with each other. It can ultimately affect your own sense of well-being, your self-esteem and confidence, the way you feel about your partner, and your outlook for the future.
I believe we all have healthy, basic needs in our partnerships to help us grow and flourish as individuals and as a partner: respect, validation, intimacy, love, interdependence and support. Each one of these qualities is vital to the healthy functioning of a committed relationship. Respect says, "my ideas and your ideas are equally important, and both need consideration." Validation says, "I'm willing to listen to your point of view and try to understand it, even when we disagree." Intimacy says, "I want to spend time with you and put effort into our relationship to create closeness and safety." Love says "I adore you and am committed to you, even during moments when I may not like you". Interdependence says "it's important that we have a balance of time spent apart and together. We will support each other in pursuing our own needs to have individual interests, friendships, educational and career dreams, and time for self-care." Support says, "I have your back and I'm there for you."
The health of our relationships is the most evident in the middle of a disagreement, when the needs and wants of two different individuals conflict with one another. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is the moment of truth. Is there a spirit of mutual cooperation and respect for self and partner, or is there a spirit of blame, defensiveness, contempt or attack? How do your disagreements get resolved, and does there tend to be a focus on 'winning' or 'being right'?
No one is perfect in relationships... that's an impossible standard. Every one of us, at times, have been dishonest, manipulative, selfish or unkind to our partners. We all have insecurities and flaws that contribute to pain and disconnection. While It's definitely easier to see those things in our partners than in ourselves, seeking answers to what separates us requires healthy reflection on both ourselves and our partner, and on the patterns or cycles of behavior that keep us locked in to unresolved problems and following resentments.
As John Lennon so eloquently wrote: "Love is the flower you've got to let grow." Much has been written about the purpose and power of love,; I see it as the force that binds us to our partner. I think it's important not to take it for granted, but to cultivate its growth by strengthening mutual respect, validation, intimacy, love, interdependence and support.