What makes a committed relationship work?

Written by: Dr Kerry Ashton-Shaw
Edited by: Conor Lynch

Committed, close, happy relationships have a positive impact on longevity, wellbeing, productivity, and immune function. These relationships are beneficial and, at the end of the day, make life worth living.


So, how do we become a part of a happy and committed romantic relationship? This is a complex question. Luckily for us, many years of research has looked at this topic in detail. Here to discuss this in more detail is highly esteemed consultant clinical psychologist, Dr Kerry Ashton-Shaw.


The importance of friendship in a relationship

A relationship founded on strong friendship means the couple are more likely to cope with the ups and downs of a long-term relationship. This means knowing your partner well – their likes and dislikes and personality quirks or unique talents. Being aware and sensitive to your partner’s inner world, knowing what is making them happy or what is stressing them out. Friendship in a romantic, committed relationship also involves maintaining fondness, empathy, and respect towards your partner.


Conflict: healthy relationships aren’t always positive

Healthy relationship aren’t always positive, but both partners recognise and work on the negatives. Criticising, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling aren’t a major feature in healthy, committed relationships. You can see couples in these relationships tending to have a positive attitude to each other that will override the natural downs in any relationship. 


Shared meaning in a relationship

This means that the couple are working to create meaning and purpose in their relationship. Partners support each other and help make each other’s dreams come true. The couple build up shared traditions, roles, and rituals within their relationship.


Why are healthy, committed relationships easier for some people and not for others?

The answer comes down to one simply thing: our brains. From before birth, at a neurobiological level, the hard wiring for forming and maintaining relationships with others (and ourselves) is developing. 


To book an appointment with Dr Kerry Ashton-Shaw today, simply visit her Top Doctors profile.

By Dr Kerry Ashton-Shaw

Dr Kerry Ashton-Shaw is highly knowledgeable and committed consultant clinical psychologist based in Liverpool. She has extensive experience working with adults, children, adolescents, and their families. She has a special interest in developmental and complex trauma.

Dr Ashton-Shaw currently offers specialist psychological assessment, formulation (a psychological understanding) and intervention for a wide range of mental health and emotional issues. Her current areas of work include treating depression and low mood, anxiety (OCD, health, phobias), low self-esteem, PTSD, and trauma, C-PTSD, stress, unusual experiences (hearing and seeing things that other people can't), overwhelming emotions, deliberate self-harm, relational difficulties, chronic pain, hoarding, and behavioural problems.

Offering parenting/carer support is also a significant part of her expertise. Furthermore, at her Liverpool practice, Dr Ashton-Shaw works with victims and survivors of abuse, including domestic, financial and sexual abuse. She works with a range of therapies and adapts her approach to the needs of each individual client. She is an expert in therapeutic approaches including EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing), DDP (dyadic developmental psychotherapy), CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) and CAT (cognitive analytic therapy).

In previous NHS posts, Dr Ashton-Shaw has supported the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology Programmes at Liverpool, Lancaster, and Manchester Universities. She offered trainee clinical psychologists’ placements and lectured as part of the child and adolescent academic programmes. Dr Ashton-Shaw has completed The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics™ (NMT) Training Certification through the Phase I level. She appeared as the on-screen expert on C4s Britain's Biggest Hoarders and is currently working with the Family Stability Network FASTN.

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