Great relationships don't just happen. And as we're often reminded, they're the result of hard work, commitment and trust built over a lifetime of interaction. Since there are no short-cuts, it pays to be mindful of the basic attitudes and qualities that create strong, successful marriages, families and friendships. See how you measure up in our list of must-dos and must-avoids!
A = ADJUSTMENTS
Successful relationships are all about adjustment and compromise. The happiest couples will tell you there's no way to forge a lasting relationship without give and take. Adjustments are a necessary part of living together, and it's something both parties need to make. Don't insist on your way all the time or try to force people into behaving how you think they should.
B = BLAME
Pointing the finger of blame is often what we do to deny our part in a conflict. The problem with this is it never solves anything and it nearly always triggers a negative reaction. When you're playing the blame game, you get the other person on the defensive, which makes it difficult for him or her to think rationally about what you're saying (even if you've got a valid point!) and respond in a positive manner.
C = COMMUNICATION
Good communication is the foundation of all healthy relationships. Make an effort to communicate rationally and be sensitive to the other person's point of view, feelings and state of mind. Don't forget communication involves listening as much as expressing your own thoughts, feelings or views.
D = DESIRE
Contrary to what popular culture dictates, sexual intimacy goes beyond mere physical gratification. So while passion and desire are important aspects of a loving relationship, it's only within the context of marriage (where there is a foundation of real trust, commitment and loyalty) that you will feel truly connected to your partner and genuinely loved.
E = EMOTIONAL IQ
Paying full attention and really listening when someone is talking is the key to identifying emotionally with him or her. Building a close rapport with the important people in your life comes naturally when you learn to show sincere concern for them. As the saying goes, people don't care how much you know, till they know how much you care.
F = FORGIVE & FORGET
Hurt by something a loved one did and can't get over it? If the relationship is worth salvaging, and if you yourself are struggling with anger and bitterness, it's time to try forgiving and forgetting. Cut yourself and your partner some slack. It may be a one-off mistake that he or she committed in the heat of the moment. Resolve the issue and move on - you owe it to yourself.
G = GIVE 100% OF YOURSELF
The more of yourself you're willing to invest in relationship, the more fulfilling it becomes. Your commitment and willingness to work at it, no matter how tough the goings gets, is the most obvious way to build a strong marriage. It will mean sacrifices of time, effort and emotional energy, but the lifetime rewards are well worth it.
H = HONESTY
This is the cornerstone of all successful human relations, whether personal or professional. Without honesty, there is no trust, and without trust there is no growth. Watch your motives, though, and see that honest words are always spoken in a loving manner for the benefit of the other party. True honesty is never an excuse to attack another person's weaknesses or destroy their confidence.
I = INDEPENDENCE
Everyone needs space to grow and evolve, so learn to appreciate other people's individuality. Clinging to a partner and spending every waking moment together may seem romantic at first, but you'll soon find that you need some form of interest independent of one another to keep the relationship fresh and exciting.
J = JEALOUSY
This green-eyed monster rears its ugly head in even the best of relationships, when the insecurity is not addressed at an early stage. Jealousy clouds rational thinking and provokes ugly words or actions that leave lasting scars. While it may be linked to a loved one, it is never motivated by love, but rather a fear of not being loved. Constantly reassuring your loved ones of your affection and devotion helps to keep this damaging emotion in check.
K = KINDNESS
Never underestimate simple acts of kindness in showing someone how much you appreciate and love them. Finding opportunities to do little favors, extend thoughtful gestures and pay heartfelt compliments to those around you keeps you from taking people for granted.
L = LAUGHTER
Take time to laugh and share simple pleasures with your loved ones. A sense of humor is a great tool for defusing tense situations and lightening the pressures of daily life. The most treasured memories often include an element of joy in them.
M = MANNERS
Simple courtesies such as saying 'please' and 'thank you', minding your table manners or putting another's needs before your own are often allowed to slip as familiarity sets in. Politeness and consideration always make others feel valued.
N = NURTURE
Seek to nurture others through encouraging words, sharing in their successes and reinforcing their value and self-worth. The knowledge that someone believes in you and your dreams is a powerful affirmation and it paves the way for deep, meaningful friendships.
O = OPENNESS
Avoid rigid mindsets or expectations which are a sure-fire recipe for disappointment. No one is perfect and we all have quirky traits, so keeping an open, easy-going attitude towards a loved one's peculiar habits, without trying to change them, will save you ( and them) lots of unnecessary stress.
P = PATIENCE
Patience is vital in any successful relationship. It's the one quality that no couple can do without, for better or for worse, and the extent of one's patience can determine how frequently conflict occurs.
Q = QUALITY TIME
Carve out space and time for the special people in your life. Never crowd your calendar with so many activities and social commitments that you fail to factor in quality time with your spouse, parents or close friends.
R = RESPECT
Mutual respect is central to a strong, satisfying relationship. Even if you disagree with another's actions or opinions, you can still show respect for them. As correct or informed as you think you are, never put down or belittle others. Instead, learn to appreciate their unique strengths that complement your own weaknesses.
S = SELF-WORTH
A healthy self-image is important as it enables you to receive love as well as give it. If you cannot love yourself, it is unlikely that you will be receptive to other people's expressions of affection towards you. It can be very frustrating for people to keep trying to convince you of how much they care if feelings of low self-esteem and lack of confidence keep getting in the way.
T = TRYING TIMES
Tough times are inevitable, and can pose a challenge for any couple. Whether it's financial, health-related or an issue of broken trust, these seasons test the true mettle of your commitment to one another. Unless you're in an abusive situation, eliminate the option of divorce or separation from your mind completely. Too often, it's the convenient solution which deprives you of the opportunity to strengthen and deepen your love for one another through adversity.
U = UNDERSTANDING
Being understanding of others comes from putting yourself in their shoes to see why they speak or behave a certain way. Trying to understand their insecurities when they act up, and accepting them as they are without being judgmental builds bridges rather than walls.
V = VACATION
Stressed from the hustle and bustle of city life? Take a vacation with those you love, to rekindle romance or just create memories to treasure.
W = WIDENING SPACES
It begins as a sense that you're drifting apart or from a prolonged difference of opinion, but if you're not careful, you'll soon let go and let the gap between you widen. A few missed calls words left unsaid and sweeping issues under the carpet can all result in a huge chasm. Don't let indifference set in - keep the communication channels open.
X = EXTREME MEASURES
Sometimes, it takes tough love to protect the people we love from themselves, such as when there's an addictive habit involved. Caring enough to confront them and taking extreme steps may be necessary to nudge them towards admitting and seeking help with these issues.
Y = YIELDING
A mature love does not insist on getting its own way all the time. And not every subject needs to become a raging debate if you learn to distinguish between essential and non-essential issues. Being gracious and yielding occasionally can promote a healthy give-and-take relationship.
Z = ZEROING IN ON A PROBLEM
The most effective way to deal with any problem arising in a relationship is first to admit that it exists. Avoid generalizations on how bad or impassive the state of the relationship is, but rather take time to reflect and identify specific issues affecting it, and see how these can be addressed.