Say what you will about 2017 (and there’s definitely a lot you could say), but last year brought with it a renaissance for the wellness and self-care movement. It’s beginning to be universally accepted that how you treat your body and your mind plays a large part in determining your quality of life. The same can be said of your relationships and, with the increased focus on ourselves, it can be easy to forget to prioritize our partners’ needs.
No one needs another statistic on failing relationships, but in order to make them work, they require maintenance and care. “Relationships are one of the most complex things on the planet,” Kiaundra Jackson, a licensed marriage and family therapist, explains to me. “Each relationship has a unique set of problems.”
I spoke to Kiaundra about why she decided to dedicate her life to helping couples, and what her tips are for a thriving relationship.
HB: What made you decide to specialize in couple’s therapy?
KJ: I wish I had some cute story to share with you about how I decided to specialize in couple’s therapy, but I do not. Unfortunately, my desire to help couples came from the lack in my own personal life. Growing up, I did not see any healthy relationships around me. In fact, my own parents were divorced and, to date, no one in my family has successfully remained married. I made helping couples all over the world my personal and professional mission in life. I want to continue to help couples prevent divorce, heal after affairs and keep families together.
HB: What are some of the primary issues couples face in relationships?
KJ: The primary issues I see couples face in my private practice are what I call the ‘3 Relationship Killers:’
1. Communication Issues: There is little to no active listening, they’re not tuned into their partner’s non verbal communication, and there is defensiveness when disagreements occur.
2. Money Issues: Savings, spending habits, and long-term financial goals cause discord.
3. Sex: Wants, desires, frequency of intimacy, and infidelity are major problems that come up around sex.
HB: How do you define “relational wholeness” and what advice would give couples to help achieve that?
KJ: Relational wholeness is when two individuals have a healthy relationship by connecting through reciprocity with each other on a physical, emotional, sexual, and spiritual level. Couples can achieve relational wholeness if they are interested in putting in the time, work and energy needed in different areas of their relationship. Relational wholeness is not perfection, nor some magic solution. It requires an intentional effort on both ends to make sure your partner is cared for.
In my book, ‘The Art of Healthy Relationships,’ I discuss 7 components every relationship should have to thrive. They consist of: Trust, Support, Respect, Honesty, Accountability, Cooperation, and Safety. There are several areas relationships need, but these are a few that are essential to growth.
HB: What are some tips that couples can implement to establish better communication?
KJ: There are many techniques that one should implement to have effective two-way communication in their relationship. However, there are some things that you should also be avoiding like the plague if you want to establish better communication. Poor communication accounts for one of the major reasons why couples split, so that is an area to stay on top of at all times.
This is one of the most common questions I get asked, which is why I created the FREE download ‘Couples Edition: The Do’s and Don’ts of Effective Communication’ available to anyone.
HB: At what point in a relationship should couples who are struggling begin to consider therapy?
KJ: Statistics show that couples go to therapy between 5-7 years too late! That means couples are waiting years and years after issues arise to get help. If an issue arises and it cannot be resolved between the two individuals, then seeking therapy should be a priority and not a last resort. If the same issues pop up over and over again, or if there are some things that continue to go unresolved, then that is an indicator that couples therapy is an option.
The key thing to remember about couples therapy is that it is not a quick fix. If issues have persisted for years, then it will take some time for the issue to be dealt with. Often times, couples do not stay in therapy long enough to see the lasting results due to the commitment level or financial constraints.
HB: Do you believe any relationship has the potential to be saved? If not, what signs should people look for to determine whether this is a healthy situation for them?
KJ: I do not believe all relationships should be saved. There are some individuals who are not meant for each other and the relationship should have never begun in the first place. There are other situation where abuse (verbal, sexual, physical, emotional) are present which also does not constitute a healthy relationship.
Signs that may be indicate this is not a healthy situation is: if safety is compromised on any level, if your personal boundaries are consistently being crossed, and if you are restricted or forced to change who you are–including what you wear, who you associate with, and where you go.