Relationships, no matter how new or old, can be one of the most beautiful experiences of life. But what makes a healthy relationship?

In many cultures, people tend to put a lot of emphasis on love — marry someone you love, fall in love with people who love you, keep loving your partner in a relationship/marriage etc. But why don’t people start relationships with those they can understand and love?

I believe that both love and understanding (among other things) are important for a lasting relationship or marriage. I have been married for just three years.

Here is my experience so far — loving and understanding each other makes it easier to grow together. Love creates a good condition for understanding and understanding also creates an amazing condition for love to grow.

Jeffrey Bernstein, Ph.D., a recognized parent coach, and a licensed psychologist, with over 30 years of experience providing child, adolescent, couples, and family counselling, and author of “Why Can’t You Read My Mind? Overcoming the 9 Toxic Thought Patterns that Get in the Way of a Loving Relationship, strongly believe that understanding is more important than love, especially when it comes to parenting and intimate relationships.

“As a psychologist for more than twenty-five years I can tell you that I have never had an adult look back at her childhood and complain that her parents were too understanding. And similarly, I have met many divorced people who still love each other but yet they never really understood each other,” writes Dr Jeffrey Bernstein.

Many relationships have broken up and many marriages have been torn apart, not because they don’t love each other, but because they don’t understand each other.

Understanding means being more aware, sensitive and intuitive with the people we love. But understanding isn’t knowledge alone. Knowledge doesn’t always lead to understanding and without understanding, you won’t be able to love someone indefinitely.

Understanding is knowing and being able to relate — it’s being able to comprehend the logic behind someone’s actions. It’s more than “getting” someone though.

It has a lot to do with emotional intelligence. Dr Bernstein writes, “As I have written repeatedly in my relationship book, Why Can’t You Read My Mind? and in my other books, empathy, is truly the emotional glue that holds all close relationships together. Empathy allows us to slow down and try to walk in the shoes of those we love. The deeper our empathy, the deeper-and healthier-our love.”

When you’re able to correctly identify an emotion your partner is expressing, or to understand why he or she is feeling a certain way, you can respond to their needs more effectively.

According to relationship coach Brooke Genn, one of the most ignored mistakes that people make in relationships is leaving their feelings out of it.

“It may sound counterintuitive, as feelings seem to stir things up, but knowing how your partner feels is important, and identifying how you feel is equally vital,” says Genn.

“Sharing how you’re feeling from work to romance — outside times of conflict — is a key component to a thriving relationship! You’ll better understand your partner, and be better understood, yourself — which leads to extra compassion and more effective communication,” she added.

When partners understand each other, arguments and issues can be resolved quickly and easily.

Seek first to understand

All of us want to be seen, heard and understood. Understanding allows love to grow — love gets better when people understand themselves

If you love and don’t understand, you will have a lot of conflicts — more than normal. And once conflicts rule, you grow apart. The more people fight and quarrel in a relationship, the less love and attraction they feel for each other.

Dr Bernstein explains, “The painful reality, however, is that love is just not enough. I work every day at better understanding the people whom I love. The willingness to understand is very important. It is not always easy, but healthy love is strengthened by the willingness to understand. Love without understanding will wilt like flowers without water.”

For a strong relationship, it pays to understand each other better.

Being understood is often confused with being loved; the two are not the same. Knowing and understanding and loving someone takes time.

You don’t need to understand people to love them, but you need to understand them to build a lasting relationship.

If you give yourself the opportunity to understand your loved ones, you will grow to love them even more. “Our egos are what seem to get in the way of understanding those who we love and care about. Often it is our need to be right that makes what others think and feel so wrong for us. I have certainly been quite guilty of this in some of my relationships,” says Dr. Bernstein.

Relationships can be complicated. To say that relationships are difficult is an understatement. Understanding the emotions of others is not always simple, but is not impossible. Emotions are central to relationships.

“Until you have put in the effort of trying to understand your partner emotionally, it’s going to be hard for your partner to put in the effort of trying to understand you,” argues online dating consultant Stacy Karyn.

Not all relationships are meant to be, but all relationships can flourish in a healthy way with understanding being the key ingredient, even more than love.

“The only way you can fully enjoy the love in your life is to choose to make something else more important in your life than love,” says Mark Manson.

For a healthy relationship, all you need is not just love, but also understanding, trust, commitment, and respect.

Originally published on Medium.

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