I’ve never had any good examples of relationships in my life to look up to. I grew up with a single mom, and so this resulted in me getting all of my romantic info from books and movies.
I suppose you could call me a romantic, how could I not be after reading romance novels from the age of 10? I dreamt of Prince Charming, love at first sight, a blissful relationship with no conflict, and so on.
Unfortunately, reality slapped me pretty hard in the face when I started dating my first boyfriend, who made me think dating drains the life out of you, and my second boyfriend made me believe love isn’t worth it. Every man that came into my life made me loathe the idea more and more.
It wasn’t until I took a dating hiatus that I realized love wasn’t the problem. The problem was me and the people I was choosing to date.
Now, I’m in a healthy and beyond happy relationship with my soulmate. We’ve been together for three years, and our love for one another only deepens with time.
Recently, one of my best friends asked me what are the things we do to ensure the success of our relationship. She’s been seeing someone for a few months now, and it’s getting serious. Here are a few things I mentioned.
Put your focus on what your partner is doing right, not wrong.
Everybody screws up sometimes. But, nobody likes being picked at, especially as a grown adult. Don’t chastise your partner whenever they make a mistake, or you feel like they did something wrong.
This was something I struggled with in my relationship. I tend to see the negative first, a habit I’ve been trying to break for years now. It can be really strenuous on a relationship if you constantly bypass the good parts of your partner because you solely focus on the bad parts.
I’d get annoyed at my partner whenever he would do laundry. He would do it incorrectly, and I would either have to re-do it or suffer the consequences of the white shirts being two shades darker because he didn’t realize you had to separate the whites from the colors and the darks.
When I told my mother this, she laughed and said, “honey, I don’t think I’ve ever even met a man who even takes the initiative to do laundry. Don’t let such little things get to you; tell him how it’s done and you appreciate the help.”
How to apply this:
Instead of yelling, because that never works, tell them in a nice way when something is bothering you or when they’re doing something incorrectly.
Your partner is going to appreciate you noticing the positive things they’re bringing to the relationship.
Besides, being a more positive and complimentary person will make you feel better than being negative all the time.
Tell them you love them often.
This is such an easy and simple little thing to do every day.
My partner and I say I love you to one another a handful of times per day. Whether it be in the morning when we first wake up, before one of us leaves, through text, before we go to bed — etc.
It shows your partner your appreciation for them, and honestly, doesn’t it feel good to hear someone you care about remind you how much they love you?
In past relationships, “I love you” was just a phrase tossed around, usually only seen in birthday cards or after a fight.
My current partner has always been extremely verbal about his affections for me, which makes me feel adored and even more appreciated.
How to apply this:
If you and your partner don’t tell one another you love them, try doing it in the mornings. If it’s not your cup of tea to be that affectionate, do it anyway and see the response that you get from them.
I wasn’t the most affectionate person entering my relationship; in fact, I thought it quite odd how often my partner would remind me he loves me.
Now, I look forward to it. It gives me a sense of pleasure that after three years, little things like this don’t change.
It also just makes you feel much happier and is always a good note to end on when you go about your days.
Have planned date nights.
When I was younger, I went to youth camp. I was listening to a guest speaker about how he met his wife. It was through Facebook. He messaged her, and that rest was history.
What stood out most to be is the advice he offered on how to sustain a long and happy marriage; he said:
“Men, don’t ever stop dating your wife. Women, don’t ever stop dating your husband.”
I used to believe once my partner and I lived together, we would have ample time to spend with one another. Sure we worked, but it was only a few hours out of the day, we’d still see each other, and we’re a text away from one another.
I couldn’t have been more wrong, because living together doesn’t mean you’re spending quality time with one another.
Growing up, I noticed how often people in relationships would be with one another 24/7; once they got married or moved in with one another, it seemed like their love life would go down the toilet.
I never wanted my relationship to be like that, which is why my partner and I make it a priority to go out every Friday night, have dinner together most evenings, and try to spend quality time together without our phones or work involved.
How to apply this:
Talk to your partner about this. Make sure they’re on the same page. It’s easy to forget how fun dating the love of your life can be when life gets overwhelming.
A few weekends ago, my partner and I went to a fancy steakhouse for dinner. He was busy all week because of work stuff, and I remember his eyes sparkling as he told me, “I forgot how funny you are.”
Date nights can be a powerful way of rekindling your affections for one another.
It gets harder to do as we get older, especially as the responsibilities pile up, but if you’re in a relationship, it should always be your priority to take care of it.
Just because you bought the seeds to plant a lemon tree, it doesn’t mean it’ll grow on its own. You still have to upkeep it.
Communicate effectively — and give space when needed.
There’s a difference between talking to your partner and talking with your partner. Communication goes both ways, and it’s only effective if you’re giving your partner room to speak too.
I say this because I was a crappy communicator. I would speak at my partner all the time, and he wasn’t so great either because he would just shut down.
In any relationship, there will be conflict, but usually, the conflict isn’t even the problem in the first place; it’s how the conflict is being handled. Your tone, your body language, the way you speak has a lot to do with effective communication.
It can bring people closer or it can tear them apart. Disagreements, misunderstandings, and poor communication can be what causes more problems or it can be what helps your relationship get stronger and become happier overall.
How to apply this:
Instead of saying things like, “You screwed up,” begin your statements with “I,” and make them about yourself and how you feel. Say things like, “I feel frustrated when this happens.”
It’s less accusatory, less defensive, and helps the other person understand your point of view rather than feeling attacked.
If you’re having a heated conversation, then take a time out. Give them space. Give yourself space to think things through with peace and clarity.
It’s okay to take a break from the discussion until you both cool off.
Be intimate with one another.
Physical intimacy is a powerful ingredient to a healthy and happy relationship.
Sex in a monogamous relationship increases your level of commitment and emotional connection with the other person. Expressing love through sex increases the likelihood of couples staying together. As a result, sex is positively associated with a lower divorce rate. — Relationship Writer Sheri Stritof.
When it comes to physical intimacy, nonsexual acts of intimacy like holding hands, cuddling, touching, and being more physically playful are incredibly important too.
But so is emotional intimacy. When you have a strong emotional bond with someone, it demonstrates your commitment to a long and happy relationship.
Emotional intimacy leads you to connect with one another mentally, giving you the opportunity to dive into the deepest and darkest corners of their mind. It allows you to fully understand one another, be vulnerable, and open.
How to apply this:
I can’t tell you how often you should be sleeping with one another, but I can tell you that if you feel deprived in any way, you should discuss this with your partner.
This might lead you to discover they feel the same way, or they have a different opinion about it, and they’ve been too nervous about bringing it up.
There are also little things you can do to increase intimacy outside of sex, like holding hands, cuddling, shaking up your routine, doing something unexpected, planning a romantic date, making time for open and vulnerable conversations.
The goal for any relationship shouldn’t be perfection; it should be to work together, communicate effectively, love one another, and do life together.
Healthy and happy love is 110% attainable once you put in the effort.
It takes time, a lot of trial and error, but if the two of you truly love one another and look for ways to improve, slowly but surely, your relationship will blossom into what you want it to be.
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