Maintaining a good relationship is hard. A happy, healthy partnership may get started easily enough, but that joyful honeymoon phase can pass all too quickly. Couples go through a lot. Most truly blissful marriages are built on years of hard work. Thankfully, though, most of this relationship-maintenance business can be really fun – especially if you are head over heels for the person you’re doing it with. Below are six practices that will keep your relationship happy and healthy.
BE YOURSELVES, BY YOURSELVES
It may be tempting to do everything together, especially in those sunny early days. However, it is important to maintain your own hobbies and your own identity. The relationship you have with yourself is, after all, the most important one. Building a sense of accomplishment and joy from something outside of your relationship will make you more of a whole person and ultimately, a more interesting and well-rounded partner in your relationship. If painting lights you up, turn an empty bedroom into an art studio – a space that is truly your own, to rest and recharge and create. Your athletically inclined partner can take this time to go for a run and clear his head. Not only will investing in your own passions feed your soul, but you will be able to bring that light and positive energy back into your relationship. Your best self is one that is pursuing a passion and lit from within.
Sharing a new experience outside of your comfort zone can be deeply bonding. Your adventure can be small, like a day trip to a new city, or big, like going abroad together for a year. In addition to maintaining your existing passions, it can be invigorating to try out a new one together. Why not learn to scuba dive as a team? Or try Ethiopian food? Or learn to Tango? A true adventure can help you to see yourself, your partner, and the world in an entirely new light.
NOTICE THE LITTLE THINGS
Most of us know to celebrate our partner for their big wins – a promotion, a graduation, a marathon. However, all too often the little things go unacknowledged. Tell your boyfriend that you love the way he bites his lip when he’s excited. Thank your wife for being so patient with the children when they’re screaming in the car. When the little things we do are noticed and appreciated, we feel truly cherished – and isn’t that what you want for your partner?
SHARE THE UGLY TRUTH
We often find ourselves telling our partner what they want to hear – even if it isn’t how we really feel. “No, I don’t mind when you work late.” “I love scary movies!””I have no problem going to church with you.” This is especially true in the early days, when we want to impress our partner and avoid conflict. However, this habit sets you up for one of two possible outcomes. You could live this way for the rest of your life, watching movies you can’t stand and attending a church you don’t believe in – or you will have to come clean eventually. Sharing your genuine thoughts on an issue close to your partner’s heart might lead to an argument and hurt feelings. However, not sharing how you feel could lead to greater misunderstandings and resentments down the road – and ultimately a breakdown of openness and trust.
Routines are important, and I’m certainly not saying they’re to be avoided altogether. However, even the best rules are meant to be broken every once in awhile. Going to church every Sunday might sound charming, and it’s a good general habit to get into. However, next Sunday try asking your partner to go go-kart racing instead – or stay under the covers, eating waffles and watching bad movies. This spirit of spontaneity will keep you alive and young at heart. Little surprises are what keeps you from falling into a boring, grouchy, rut.
EMBRACE THEIR IMPERFECTIONS
Nothing makes a person feel truly safe and loved like knowing that even their flaws are not only tolerated, but treasured. Love your partner as a whole person, strengths, weaknesses, and all. Your love is not really unconditional if it leaves out your partner’s chronic lateness, nervous lisp, or messy car. Let them know that their dirty secrets are safe with you, and they will feel comfortable sharing more of them.
Building a happy relationship can be one of the most rewarding things you ever do. However, It doesn’t happen by accident, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Be intentional about building healthy habits, and have fun with one another. If you are honest, compassionate, and adventurous, you can surely conquer any hurdle life throws at the two of you.
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