20130304-075007.jpgThe best way to ensure a healthy marriage — or relationship — is to make sure you regularly trade back rubs.

Not necessarily the physical kind — though those are great to give and receive too.

No, what I’m talking about creates the foundation for a healthy, growing relationship. Because if your relationship isn’t growing, it’s stagnating or worse — declining. Relationships, like anything you want to succeed in life, need constant attention and care. Failure to attend to them regularly, and they may whither and die.

Each letter in the acronym BACK RUB stands for something vital to a good relationship:

Believe. To believe in your spouse means to show him/her that you see him/her as a competent and capable individual. This has a positive psychological impact on your spouse’s self-esteem. Daily responsibilities require planning, decision-making and action. It is essential to understand that nobody is perfect. Performance-driven esteem comes and goes. Communicating belief in your spouse helps removes fear of disappointment.

Affection. Affection is demonstrated through both verbal and physical touch. Affectionate words express love, desire, thankfulness, and appreciation. In the book “5 Love Languages,” author Gary Chapman discusses the language of “words of affirmation.” He writes that these words are to be encouraging, kind and humble.

The other form of affection is physical intimacy and touch. This is one of the strongest bonds between a husband and wife. Physical intimacy is not just sexual touch. It is any touch that promotes closeness and acceptance of your spouse. Sexual touch is perhaps the most important type of affection. Healthy physical affection has a lasting impact on the emotional and psychological well-being of a marriage.

Compassion. This involves providing support, empathy and sympathy when your spouse has struggles, hurts and losses. Do this by giving your time, your presence and your comfort. Caring and comforting promotes relational security that helps provide reassurance that your spouse is your priority.

Kindness. Kindness is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” Kindness requires being mindful of how you talk and help your spouse day to day. It is also the filter you use when you are in conflict. Remembering to be “kind” even in disagreements help preserve the relational integrity that can help your marriage thrive.

Respect. Feeling disrespected is one of the complaints I hear most often from couples in my work as a therapist. They seem to find the word hard to define. Merriam-Webster defines disrespect as “to show or express disrespect or contempt for.” Does this clear up what “disrespect” means? Not really. I have found it helpful to define it this way: It is personalizing an attitude or behavior that one spouse shows toward another.

Read more: Daniel Libstorff, PsychCentral

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