Sometimes it's a good friend, or it could be a beloved family member or even someone you hardly know. People from all parts of your life can have a large and negative impact on your relationship simply by being disapproving.

Your sister may not like your wife, your BFF might think that your new beau is uncool and even your parents can cast aspersions on the one you have chosen to spend your life with. When this happens, steps must be taken sooner rather than later to prevent any type of wedge between partners.

The two of you have to be of the same mind on this one. You can't allow anyone to split the two of you in spirit or in any other way. For example, if your parent criticizes your spouse, you need to say something like "Thanks for your concern, but I refuse to listen to negative comments about the person I love. You are allowed your opinion, but please keep it to yourself."

If the offender chooses to keep hammering away, then you need to say that you care for him or her but that you are getting off the phone now or need to leave. This will have a profound effect on the purveyor of the bad vibes and will convey how serious you are about keeping your relationship on the positive track.

Couples have to work together against any forces that try to break them apart. Upon occasion, an old lover may call to take the temperature of his or her ex, asking questions about the current paramour and perhaps dropping a line about how he or she misses you and how well he or she is doing despite the loneliness. This is a trap to get you thinking outside your relationship, and if you take that step, not only will your partner feel it but you will also create some distance in your intimacy.

Such interlopers need to be informed immediately that you are happy with your life and partner and that there's no need to call or contact you if all the person wants to do is see if you're looking for a hookup. Such opportunities are available elsewhere.

Your relationship is a type of sacred trust that must be defended. This is not to say that if your partner is behaving badly or is abusive that you should stay and ignore the warnings of those around you. But most relationships are worth the work it takes to keep them that way. Creating a strong connection and being a united team is the best way to maintain what you have and build your love to make your connection even stronger.

It's the "you and me against the world" attitude that can make the difference between a relationship that fails or one that succeeds. Those who engage in this mutual-protection policy have longer-lasting and happier lives together. Truth is, when you know someone has your back, life is much easier.

Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author, most recently, of "100 Ways to Boost Your Self-Confidence: Believe in Yourself and Others Will Too." E-mail him at