The Basic Fundamentals of a Successful Relationship:

An Interview with Paul J. Hannig, Ph.D. by Reisa Winston


Many people have difficulty finding and maintaining a love relationship. These people are often unhappy and endlessly search for "the" love relationship. With hard work and commitment, a relationship can be a reality. But first, it helps to learn the basic fundamentals of building a successful relationship.


However, hard work and commitment must not be focused solely on the relationship though. Sustaining a relationship requires an individual’s “SELF” growth accompanied by genuine loving contact between partners. You cannot be fully "there" in a relationship unless emotionally connected to your real self. To do that requires working on your self and the relationship.


In this excerpt of a full length interview with Dr. Paul Hannig, certain basic fundamentals of successful love relationships will be explored. The suggestions in this will help in all areas of your life.


R: What makes for a good, long term relationship?


Dr. Hannig:  My answer is mutual reciprocity of affection and confirmation. Mutual reciprocity is an on-going, back and forth process between two intimates; i.e., what is positively given is returned in kind to one another. Daily, ongoing reciprocal confirmation is necessary for the stability and long life of a relationship. If each partner can feel fully loved by the other, then you have the ingredients that cement a relationship.


R: What do you mean by confirmation?


Dr. Hannig:  Partners confirm one another by sending verbal and non-verbal messages that declare value and worth as a human being; that he or she is cherished, and truly loved and that the relationship is special to both. When those messages are reciprocal, confirmation occurs.


R: What are some other important ingredients?


Dr. Hannig:  Being emotionally open, honest and vulnerable with your partner is absolutely essential. If you feel comfortable enough to let down all of your defenses, allowing the deep core of you to be seen and responded to by your partner and your partner does the same, then you have an emotional relationship par excellence. Many couples don't do that. They play games with each other and wear masks. Playing games and using ineffective strategies to try to get your needs met does not work. It just causes arguments and misunderstandings.


Being vulnerable and open to one another is difficult for many people to do, especially where elements of the deep core self still remain unknown and unexplored. I see people walking around today functioning only on two cylinders – they are emotionally out of touch. Their real selves are hidden, maybe not out of choice, but rather out of compulsion. If you cannot see that part of your partner that is hiding, then you cannot fully relate to him or her. Your partner will keep you at arms length and there is always going to be distance in the relationship.


R: What about closeness?


Dr. Hannig:  There has to be stability in the closeness function. Most relationships have a threshold as to how much distance the partners can tolerate between each other. Exceeding that threshold, creates tension in the relationship. Both partners will react in order to bring the relationship back into stability. These reactions may cause pain in the relationship. Many couples may not have the ability to say, "Right now I need closeness with you. I feel uncomfortable being distant". If you are not able to verbalize that clearly, then they will opt to manipulation. It is better to be straight with one another. Being manipulative in order to fulfill needs, creates alienation and distrust in the other partner and the relationship will ultimately be threatened. Couples need a minimum of 13-18 hours a week of uninterrupted attention with each other. Some may require even more uninterrupted attention time to create the closeness they need.


R: It seems that not only is reciprocity and confirmation important in a relationship but so is mutual problem solving. I feel like reciprocity is necessary in a relationship for it to grow and mature. Once a couple enters the bottom line of relating, in which family history arises and enmeshment is possible, they will need reciprocity in order to grow again. What is your opinion of that?


Dr. Hannig:  You bring up a very good point. I think most young people today entering into relationships have never learned the healthy fundamentals of relationship making. They usually bring their family history with them. Then they try to get their needs satisfied with one another that were never satisfied in their own original families. Most of these people are not going to be in tune with each other. I see that an integral part of growth is the ability for people to "clean up" their past and learn the fundamentals of effective marriages.


R:  What do you mean by cleaning up?


Dr. Hannig:  What I mean by "cleaning up" is uncovering and resolving feelings from childhood. Once you start cleaning up those painful issues, you become a more integrated individual and are able to relate to another person who is also integrated. One who has integrated the past with the present and then becomes attracted and falls in love with a person of equal integration will have an integrated relationship. That is not to say that there will not be differences. Everyone has differences. But, couples that know how to solve problems and iron out their differences will know how to be happy with one another. I recommend that couples adopt the policy of mutual enthusiastic agreement. This strategy requires that all decisions be made through gratifying joint agreement. Since we are dealing with a relationship, this fundamental practice can forestall the possibility of hurt feelings and resentment caused by unilateral decisions.


R:  A successful marriage is quite an accomplishment, isn’t it?


Dr. Hannig:  I think people who survive in marriage today deserve commendation. As an institution marriage is enormously stable, although in reality many people never obtain stability. Yet, there are people who do attain emotional stability in relationships. They are able to function with each other in a very happy and fulfilling way. That does exist. The American Dream is not dead. There are people who are realizing the dream in their personal lives. They may be rare and I believe that research has not revealed the percentage of fulfilling relationships.


The rest of “The Basic Fundamentals of a Successful Relationship” is available for purchase. To obtain the full length article, please go to the Order Form on the PsychotherapyHELP web site. For therapy information and/or referral, please feel free to contact me at (818) 882-7404 or by email.


Paul J. Hannig, Ph.D., MFCC, CCMHC, NCC * * * 818-882-7404