Relationships are fun, loving, and fulfilling, but they also need a structure – a framework on which behaviours and expectations are based and followed. Psychotherapist Dr Stan Tatkin has developed a set of ten commandments to guide couples through the process of building and maintaining a strong foundation in their relationship.
10 commandments for relationships
The 10 Commandments for Relationship Essentials is a concept developed by Dr Stan Tatkin. Dr Tatkin is a clinician and the author of Wired for Love, Love and War in Intimate Relationships, and the recent audiobook Your Brain on Love: The Neurobiology of Healthy Relationships (see more on Wired for Love in an earlier post here).
The 10 commandments are guiding principles for the foundation of a secure-functioning and successful relationship. They beautifully capture the most important factors in healthy relationships:
Using the 10 commandments
When used effectively, these guiding principles help couples build happy relationships. The best way to apply these to your relationship is to keep them front and centre. Regularly check the commandments and be mindful about using them to ensure your relationship stays on track.
Using the ten commandments is a way of developing healthy boundaries in your relationship that promote true love and respect between partners. These principles will help you express meaningful appreciation and feel safe with your spouse.
Here are some helpful tips on implementing these guiding principles in your marriage:
Thou shall protect the safety and security of thy relationship at all costs.
Always maintain the relationship. Spend time talking honestly about when you feel like your spouse has closed doors between you. Be honest about what makes you feel safe and secure (or not) in the relationship.
Thou shall base thy relationship on true mutuality, remembering that all decisions and actions must be good for thee AND for thine partner.
True mutuality means everything in the relationship is good for you and your spouse. If things in your relationship address only you and your needs, your partner’s needs go unmet. Take care of each other and ensure your decisions are good for both of you.
Thou shalt not threaten the existence of the relationship, for so doing would benefit no one.
You each chose the other, and you committed to the relationship. Don’t undermine that with words and actions that would threaten the relationship. You chose to live your lives together, compromising that isn’t in anyone’s best interest.
Thou shall appoint thy partner as the go-to person for all matters, making certain thy partner is first to know—not second, third, or fourth—in all matters of importance.
You chose this person to take on life with, so let them know what is happening in your world. What happens to each of you affects the other. Don’t forget to loop them in on the matters in your life.
Thou shall provide a tether to thy partner all the days and nights of thy life, and never fail to greet thy partner with good cheer.
Keep each other grounded and tell them you’re happy to see them. Be a hand to reach out to and break in the storm. Often make it known that your spouse can come to you – rain or shine.
Thou shall protect thy partner in public and in private from harmful elements, including thyself.
Don’t throw your spouse under the bus. Let them know they can count on you to have their back, no matter who’s around.
Thou shall put thy partner to bed each night and awaken with thy partner each morning.
Begin and end each day with your spouse. A healthy relationship is one where partners turn toward each other. Intentionally making the other person the start and end of your day is a commitment to the security and prioritization of the relationship.
Thou shalt correct all errors, including injustices and injuries, at once or as soon as possible, and not make dispute of who was the original perpetrator.
It’s okay to make mistakes and cause hurt. What’s vital is to repair errors and injuries quickly and without blame. Talk to each other with honesty. Express your feelings, create understanding, apologize, and let go of past injustices.
In a conflict, it’s easy to focus on the negative emotions, but remember to practice self-love and support each other, too. Smile, acknowledge the other’s struggle, repair the hurt, and do a soothing activity together. Laughter and intentional fun help you turn toward each other after a difficult emotional exchange and balance the negative feelings of a conflict with positive experiences.
Thou shall gaze lovingly upon thy partner daily and make frequent and meaningful gestures of appreciation, admiration, and gratitude.
It’s the little things that matter. Let your spouse know they are loved, admired, and valued in ways that will be meaningful to them. Speak your partner’s love language: do they prefer to spend quality time together or to receive a present?
Prolonged eye contact fosters deep intimacy and can spark passion and desire. Soften your face and let your spouse know they are loved when you look at them.
Thou shall learn thy partner well and master the ways of seduction, influence, and persuasion, without the use of fear or threat.
Be an expert in your spouse, and they in you. It takes a lot of work and deep knowledge of another person to be able to exert yourself and your desires with love and kindness – and to receive acceptance of that influence with happiness.
These guiding principles help couples celebrate safety and security in their marriage by building a sense of loyalty, honesty, and strong communication. The commandments teach two people to listen to each other and their body signals to honestly accept one another and maintain deep intimacy in the relationship.
The 10 Commandments for Relationship Essentials make a significant difference in building a secure framework for healthy relationships. It’s easy to lose sight of your marriage in the chaos of everyday life. Keeping these principles front and centre in your relationship and checking on them often will help you develop healthy relationship patterns and maintain true intimacy.
Do you need relationship help?
If you need help with your relationship, contact Clinton at (02) 8968 9323 during business hours to discuss your situation and find out how Clinton’s counselling services can help or book an appointment online.
Since 2003, Clinton Power has helped thousands of couples and individuals as a counsellor and psychotherapist in private practice in Sydney and online in Australia. Clinton regularly comments in the media on issues of relationships and has appeared on Channel 7, The Sydney Morning Herald, and ABC Radio. Clinton’s eBook, 31 Days to Build a Better Relationship is available through his website or Amazon. Click here to take Clinton’s relationship checkup quiz to find out how well you know your partner.