Today’s blog post is written by a guest contributor. If you’re interested in contributing to the blog, email

Hi there! I’m Claire, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I work virtually with individuals, families, and of course, couples, about all the good and bad that comes with a relationship. As a wife (yep, I get the married life) and as a therapist (who works with couples in all different stages of their relationships), I believe in 5 “musts” that allow couples to shape what a successful relationship may look like for them.


In today’s world, we are bombarded with social media posts of the most perfect-looking couples, totally skewing our views of what a successful relationship is defined as. What we don’t see behind these glamorous posts is the argument that took place right before the photo was snapped. Or the couples’ frustration with one another while trying to get one decent photo with all of their children smiling. Or the building resentment of the wife who posted the photo captioned “best husband ever”. With all that being said, I am here to tell you is stop pouring energy into making your relationship *look* perfect, and start fostering the imperfect. How? Read on.

+ Show vulnerability

Vulnerability is often thought of as “being weak” when in reality it is an act of strength; it is exposing your emotions at the risk of feeling rejected. Being truly vulnerable in a partnership can transpire in a number of ways: it may look like offering your partner a genuine apology after an argument or being clear with your partner about something that is bothering you rather than defaulting to the silent treatment. It can look like accepting the feedback your partner offers you without defensiveness or sharing about traumatic or shameful events with one another.

Vulnerability within a relationship increases the level of intimacy between partners, which allows a deeper connection, progress, and trust…all the good stuff.

+ Take ownership: Own. Your. Shit.

This goes so far for couples when they are both able to acknowledge their side of the street (and it goes hand in hand with vulnerability!). Here’s the thing-we all mess up in our relationships, intentionally and unintentionally. Owning up to a mistake or something that negatively impacted your partner allows the relationship to strengthen through conflict.

I want you to think back on a time when your partner hurt your feelings but circled back without prompting and apologized to you. They acknowledged they were wrong and want to do better. They expressed a genuine apology for their actions. It felt great right? (I hope you said “right”). Taking ownership is holding yourself accountable, being responsible for your mistakes, and following through with commitments.

+ Be direct

As much as we wish they could, our partners cannot read minds, so clear communication is necessary. Have you ever told your partner you don’t want anything for your birthday, but then felt so let down when they didn’t surprise you with a gift? Have you ever harvested resentment towards your partner because they are not pulling their weight within the household? It’s easy to avoid saying anything, but by not being direct you are shouldering the negative emotion while your partner often has no clue….so you’re only doing harm to yourself.

Try and tell your partner what you need and when you need it, whether it be “I do want a birthday gift, but really want it to be a surprise”, or “I need help with dinner plans this week because I have evening work meetings”. Clear communication builds unity, understanding, and alignment.

+ Don’t just hear, listen

I know you’re thinking, “aren’t they the same?”, and I’m here to tell you they are not. While they do go hand in hand, hearing is our ears’ ability to take in sound, while listening is making a conscious effort to be present and pay attention. When your partner is talking to you (whether it be about their day, chores, or scheduling), don’t just hear what they are saying, listen. This means putting your phone down, making eye contact and asking questions to communicate interest, and clarifying anything you may not be understanding. If there is a distraction (kids running in circles around you, TV blaring in the background, work tasks running through your head), listening can be even more of a challenge. In these moments (be direct!) by telling your partner you are distracted and unable to listen, and schedule a time to reconnect (whether it’s “let’s chat after the kids are in bed”, or “hold on one moment while I turn the TV down”).

Set a collaborative goal with your partner to prioritize at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted, face-to-face time together everyday-this allows investment in the relationship to be maintained, as well as regular emotional connection (which is needed to carry the relationship through the not-so-pretty times).

+ Lastly, appreciate

Resentment, anger, frustration…these negative emotions happen in every relationship and THEY ARE NORMAL. The key is finding ways to not let these emotions take control of the entire relationship.

Start by reminding yourself that you and your partner are on the SAME TEAM. Challenge yourself to reframe a negative thought about your partner into a positive thought, such as “it’s so annoying that he’s home late from work again” to “he works so hard and puts so much effort into supporting our family”, or “she is always nagging me about scheduling and household tasks” to “she works hard to keep our family on track and organized”. Next, try to actually articulate an appreciation to your partner, even if it is as simple as “thank you for emptying the dishwasher, I so appreciate not having to deal with that right now”. Feeling appreciated makes us feel valued, important, and special, and who doesn’t want that?

Relationship success is defined differently across the board and no relationship is perfect. Be vulnerable by acknowledging and appreciating your partner out loud, communicate directly and clearly what your needs are, take ownership of your own shortcomings, and listen to your partner. These efforts take practice, but by doing them mindfully and authentically you will increase your emotional connection, commitment, and overall happiness. It’s time for you to lean into your imperfect relationship and define its success.

For any questions regarding mental health services or for virtual therapy inquiries connect with me on Insta (I’m new here, I think people say “DM me”?) or visit my website.