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What Is a Satisfying Relationship?

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr, studioD

While partners in all couples may have different perspectives on what characteristics make a satisfying relationship, it boils down to having your needs met in ways that you prefer, according to Dr. Willard F. Harley Jr. in “His Needs, Her Needs.” To adequately meet your partner’s needs, you must know what they are. Furthermore, you must honestly and clearly communicate to learn your partner’s needs.

The Four Essential Elements

Security, meaningful communication, romance and physical touch are necessary to every successful marriage, according to relationship expert Gary Smalley in his “Hidden Keys to Loving Relationships” curriculum. When your partner feels secure in your love and knows that you are committed to the relationship, you can grow and thrive together. Security comes from honesty, communication and cooperation. Meaningful communication reveals who you are at your deepest level and lets your partner know what’s going on with you. Romance and physical touch can go hand-in-hand, provided there is both sexual and non-sexual touch, according to Smalley.

Meeting Emotional Needs by Gender

Harley describes 10 emotional needs that are common to all people, broken into the two categories of those most typical to men and those typical to women. His list for the five most common to men includes admiration, attractive spouse, domestic support, recreational companionship and sexual fulfillment. His list for women includes physical affection, conversation, family commitment, honesty and openness, and financial support. Harley teaches that if you meet the five most important emotional needs of your partner, you can prevent an affair. He also notes that you must meet your partner’s needs in the way and frequency your partner wants.

A Work in Progress

A successful relationship takes work and commitment, according to Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., in a “Psychology Today” article entitled “Ten Actions That Create Relationship Happiness.” Goldsmith adds flexibility, acts of kindness, similar goals and fighting fair to the list of characteristics required for a satisfying relationship. Both partners must be willing to find win-win solutions when conflict arises and fight fair by keeping the disagreement on target and in the present. Kind acts assure your spouse that you care while having similar goals keeps you pedaling together in the same direction.

Stay out of the Ditch

A relationship can fall into a rut, no longer feeling exciting and satisfying, writes Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., in a “Psychology Today” article entitled “Six Tips to Keep Long-Term Relationships Exciting.” She stresses the need for fun and humor, as well as tackling new things together, in a relationship. Firestone cautions partners not to merge their personalities in an effort to be close, but rather to retain individuality so that each appreciates the other partner’s unique qualities and interests.


About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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