“Love must face reality if it is to survive,” wrote Loretta Livingstone in Jumping in the Puddles of Life. When we think of love, we often think of the good times – date nights, weddings, and the occasional romantic getaway. However, reality is not made up of these scenes. It is composed of rushed Wednesday mornings and broken lamps and strep throat epidemics. These are the little moments that make or break relationships. So, how do we get through them? How do we navigate the long, dreary expanse between tropical vacations and fancy dinners? How do we build a strong intimate relationship?
IT ALL STARTS WITH YOUR MINDSET.
HERE ARE FIVE OUTLOOKS YOU CAN ADOPT THAT WILL KEEP YOUR RELATIONSHIP HAPPY, HEALTHY, AND STRONG:
FOCUS OF LOVING, RATHER THAN ON BEING LOVED.
A little understood fact is that it isn’t being loved that makes us happy, but giving love. This is wonderful because giving love is something that we control, while being loved is not within our power at all. When you focus on your partner’s unique needs, you will learn who she is more thoroughly and grow to love her more deeply. This may inspire her to do the same for you – or it may not. Either way, you are enriching your own life through the act of love. This course of action involves the creation of positive energy towards your partner and your relationship. Focusing on being loved yourself, by contrast, produces anxious energy pointed inward. This may cause you to be self-conscious, insecure, or overly critical.
CHECK YOUR EXPECTATIONS.
It is healthy to expect your partner to treat you with respect and kindness. However, many of us put other expectations on our partner that are unfair. Do you expect him to act, dress, and speak in a certain way? Do you expect him to make a certain amount of money? You may want to examine why you do so. Even more common is the tendency to put unfair expectations on the relationship itself. Do you expect your relationship to make you happy all of the time? Do you expect your partner to make you whole and complete? If so, you are setting yourself up for a bitter disappointment.
CELEBRATE THE EVERYDAY.
Eventually the honeymoon glow wears off. What happens next? The rest of your life is full of workdays, traffic jams, and cancelled babysitters. This is when many couples lose their spark. They develop a relationship that more closely resembles roommates than lovers. Don’t let this happen to you. Add some magic to your daily routine that is secret and special. Keep it just between the two of you. Kiss at stoplights. Leave sweet notes or dirty pictures (whatever your style) in each other’s lunch bags. Bake her favorite dessert. Send flowers for no reason. Do something to make her day special as often as you can.
Self-care is as important to your relationship as caring for your partner is. If you are not happy and healthy, then you are not giving your best self. Take the time to make that happen. This is not only because your partner deserves the best version of you. It’s because you deserve to be that person, as well! Commit to a weekly moment in which to focus on the things you need. Encourage him to do the same. If your significant other is threatened by this behavior, consider it a red flag. A healthy relationship is the union of two whole individuals – not two halves trying to fit together.
LEARN TO LISTEN.
Everyone thinks they are a good listener. Do you really listen though, or do you just wait to talk? As Stephen R. Covey wrote in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Listening is a tricky skill to master, but it is an incredibly valuable one. By practicing active listening, you can diffuse fights and come to a deeper understanding and intimacy with one another. Isn’t that the dream?
“As much as I enjoy romance, it’s commitment that I need the most. I need to know a love I can depend on, a love that says, “I will be with you through it all. I love you. And I will love you even when you may not be all that lovable, for sometimes I’m not very lovable either. You can count on me – always,” said Steve Goodier. When we consider the reality of daily life, this is the love we all want. Try out one of the mindsets above, and see if the change in perspective helps you to build an intimate relationship.
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