Have you ever wished you could find a little more joy and love in your relationship? Or maybe you struggle to end fights quickly and often find yourself in a doom-loop of negative feelings instead of having each others’ back during hard times?
If so, you’ve probably found yourself wondering while others seem to have perfectly loving partners and well-functioning relationships while you don’t. And you might also have read a book or two about relationships and why they fail, but here’s the problem with all of this:
You don’t need someone to talk about your mistakes, you need concrete action steps to improve your behavior. What you need is action and practice.
While most of us grow up watching Disney movies and listening to fairy tales on how they lived happily ever after, real relationships are complex.
A healthy, strong relationship is determined by so many factors, including the personality traits of the partners, but also external factors. Our stress levels, psychological and environmental factors, emotions, life events, and current circumstances are all challenges our relationships need to overcome daily.
“A good relationship is when someone accepts your past, supports your present and encourages your future.”
— Zig Ziglar
While falling in love is easy, having a strong, healthy, and happy relationship is based on hard work. And everyone who’s trying to tell you the opposite is either lying, didn’t ever experience a long-term relationship or is incredibly lucky.
Everyone wants a vibrant, loving, strong relationship, and the good news is that you can actually do a lot to achieve that goal. Great relationships are no coincidence. They are based on certain values and principles that both partners are comfortable with and rely on.
And while every relationship is different, some of these principles do apply for most of us.
These habits are just a reminder, and you probably already know the importance of them. However, it pays to make a conscious effort in applying them more often.
1. Happy couples communicate effectively
Honest, effective communication is so much more than just talking to each other.
It’s about creating an environment in which both parties can freely share their feelings, thoughts, fantasies, pains, and complaints without the fear of being attacked, lectured, or withdrawn.
Everybody communicates differently, and more importantly: Every relationship has its own rules, yet, a few principles can be applied to almost any partnership:
- Take time to think before you speak: Especially in arguments, think before you speak. Saying the wrong thing, particularly at the wrong time, can cause emotions that you want to avoid. Too often, we aren’t aware of the power of our own words and throw them away ruthlessly. However, choosing the wrong words at the wrong time might be a dangerous trigger or even a threat.
- Shut up and listen: You don’t need to give answers and provide solutions all the time. Sometimes, all that your partner needs might be someone to listen to her without offering solutions. Good listeners are so rare these days that we feel honored once someone really listens to us.
- Be straightforward: Say what you mean. Seriously. You’re talking to your life partner, the person you chose to spent all your days with. Don’t beat around the bush. Be straight on point. That will save both of you a good amount of time and energy which you can invest in more fun activities.
- Do not let unresolved matters go unanswered: Unresolved matters hardly dissolve. Often, they bother us for a long time, and then one day hit back and lead to bigger struggles. So instead of glossing over fights, solve them and be honest with each other, even if it seems hard.
- Be aware of the bigger picture: Sometimes, we get so caught up in trivialities, like discussing duties in the household, that we miss out on why we’re actually in a relationship with each other. Talking about the bigger picture, about your common vision, will help you to find peace and look over small mistakes. Whenever you find yourself in an unproductive, harming conversation, remind yourself and your partner of that bigger picture and see if that can help both of you to calm down and get back to rationality.
2. They demonstrate their love
Contrary to most people’s belief, real love requires action. It doesn’t just happen.
Falling in love is easy, creating a healthy, strong relationship, however, is based on hard work. And sometimes, even demonstrating our love openly can be considered work.
Most couples get so caught up in their daily lives, especially with their jobs and kids, that they literally forget showing love to each other. The presence of their partner becomes ordinary, and they forget how blessed they are to have each other.
According to Dr. Gary Chapman, there are five universal love languages, and these play a major role in how we communicate in relationships.
While some of us most appreciate words of affirmation, others prefer acts of service by their partners. Some others, however, most enjoy receiving gifts, spending quality time, or physical touch.
Understanding which loves language most suits your partners’ needs is a great first step for demonstrating your love accordingly and showing appreciation. Once you know which of the five languages your partner enjoys most, you can focus on delivering more of it.
Projecting your own preference on your partner, however, might lead to frustration.
Let’s say you appreciate gifts, but your partner is much more into physical touch: You might end up bombarding your partner with presents, assuming that’s what they want (because you want it) but end up not receiving any back.
Your partner, however, might seek more physical touch because that’s how they feel most connected to you, and they might also feel unappreciated if you don’t give back the same amount of physical attraction.
So, even though you both want the same thing (namely, a happy, healthy relationship), you’re totally missing out on each other’s needs and even frustrating each other.
There’s no magic cure for relationships as each of them is as unique as the two individuals involved, but here are the three essential steps you can immediately take:
- Find out what the love language of each individual is. (You can do so by using this free quiz)
- Talk about your preferences openly.
- Appreciate the love language of each other, and rather than giving what you want, start loving your partner the way she needs it.
3. They pay attention to their partner
Sounds too obvious? Unfortunately, for most couples, it isn’t.
What do you do when your partner enters the room?
Do you stop whatever you’re doing and appreciate the love of your life for being there, or do you keep doing what you’ve been doing?
This might not seem like a big deal, but it is.
How you pay attention to each other hugely matters and impacts the quality of your relationship.
One simple yet effective way to pay more attention to each other’s presence is by creating a Welcome Home Habit.
Since the very beginning of our relationship, my boyfriend told me he wants me to warmly welcome him whenever he enters the apartment. Most of the time, I went to the door to do what he wished, but sometimes, I didn’t.
One day, however, we talked about it, and he explained why this matters so much to him. He told me how he’s grateful for every time we see each other and that we might never know if the other one will come back home safely, and thus, he wants us to appreciate each other coming back home.
Now, first, I thought he was exaggerating, but after a while, I understood his point, and now I fully respect it. Just think of the sudden death of Kobe Bryant that happened at the beginning of 2020.
Based on this conversation, we created a Welcome Home Habit which basically means that we stop doing whatever we’ve been doing when one of us enters the apartment and spend a few minutes talking about how we are, what we’re up to, and most importantly: cuddling to appreciate the presence of each other.
This might sound weird, but for us, it works wonders. It doesn’t take more than 10 minutes but brings so much joy into our lives.
4. They schedule private time
My partner and I don’t have kids yet, but I know that’s the #1 reason why couples fail to schedule (enough) private time to enjoy the presence of each other.
However, we’re running a business together, which might be different from raising a child, but it also makes it difficult to make enough time for privacy.
In addition to working on the same business, we work from home, which means we spend 99% of our time together, all the time.
Yet, for a long time, we failed to spend quality time together. The boundaries of work and love can quickly mackle when always being next to each other, which makes it particularly important to schedule private, sacred time.
I know that daily life is hard, even without kids or your own business, but making some time to nourish our relationships is the core of being happy individuals.
And the good news is that you don’t need to make hours for your private time. It can even be a 15-minute walk that nourishes your bound with your partner.
Or what about a weekly date night doing something you both enjoy?
The only rule for your sacred time is that you shouldn’t discuss topics like work, finances, household issues, etc. during this time. Your sacred time should be all about fun, love, pleasure, and enjoyment and bring you closer to each other.
Use this time to keep your love life exciting, to try new restaurants, activities, and habits. Bring adventures into your love life, dress up for each other, invest in making the heart of your partner beat higher.
We all know how fantastic falling in love feels and how much we enjoyed the first weeks and months of meeting our partner. Yet, over time, we get used to their presence and miss these magical moments even though re-creating them could be as simple as doing something you’ve been doing regularly back then.
5. They handle disagreements intelligently
I don’t believe there’s any couple on this planet that doesn’t have arguments from time to time. Having different opinions, wishes, and perspectives is humane, and so is arguing over them.
Yet, what most people don’t get is that there’s a vast difference between a solid, reasonable argument and an unnecessary fight.
Disagreements are normal, and they might occur as long as you’re in a relationship, no matter how well you know each other. What matters is your ability to argue wisely and avoid emotional explosions.
“A great relationship is about two things. First, appreciating the similarities, and second, respecting the differences.”
As my partner and I spend our entire lives together, most people ask us for relationship advice, assuming we get on well together all the time just because we are continuously next to each other.
The reality, however, is totally different. We have disputes every day. And we master most of them very well, but sometimes, we ruin an entire evening or even a day, because we fail to handle disagreements intelligently.
Happy couples and great relationships aren’t flawless. It’s a constant work-in-progress, and we’re all making mistakes. What matters is respecting and embracing each other mistakes and being willing to make it through the stormy days.
I know a few couples who follow the rule “Never go to bed angry”, meaning they always try to solve conflicts before going to bed.
For me, however, that’s a no-go. I need my time and space to calm down after an argument. So that’s what my partner and I agreed on: Whenever I need my space, I get it.
And most of the time, when I go to bed angry, I wake up without the anger because rest and time are all I need to process my emotions.
There’s no one-fits-all solution to handling disagreements, but talking about how you want to manage conflicts is priceless for any relationship.
If you want to make real changes to how you feel and behave in your relationship, knowing about these principles isn’t enough. You need to apply them. And more importantly: You both need to apply them.
Talk to your partner, discuss which of the above is still missing in your relationship, find ways to cultivate them in a way it makes both of you happy.
Demonstrate your love
Pay attention to your partner
Schedule private time
Handle disagreements intelligently
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