It is unrealistic to expect your relationship to be always smooth sailing.
When two humans get together with their wacky personalities, kooky opinions, bizarre likes and huge dreams, there is bound to be some friction along the path to relationship nirvana.
Sometimes it’s actually our own recurring behaviours that can doom our relationships. It’s often shit we’ve picked up along the way, possibly even in childhood but refusing to address these behaviours may mean you keep making the same dumb-ass mistakes in every relationship.
By keeping a few simple concepts in mind (and even doing them), you can be driving the Happy Highway rather than the Misery Express.
Communicate like a boss
Everyone knows that communication is key in a good relationship, but the way you communicate can be causing more damage than good.
“Research has shown that communication in a relationship that is high in criticism, defensiveness, contempt or stonewalling (otherwise known as the silent treatment) is a highly accurate predictor of whether the relationship survives or ends. It’s important to take care of how you communicate,” says Clinton Power, relationship counsellor from Clinton Power + Associates.
If you react quickly, move to anger and lose your shizzle, take a time out and come back to the discussion later.
Pretend you like the shit they like if you don’t really dig it
Not everything that is important to your partner will be important to you also, but it’s important you take the time to focus on the little things that make your partner tick.
“Listening, paying attention or spending time together on an activity (even if you don’t particularly enjoy it) is a wonderful way to validate your partner,” says Clinton.
“This is a way of ‘turning towards’ your partner and helps you connect and build your intimacy. Think of it as making deposits in each other’s emotional bank accounts – you’re building good will and appreciation over time.”
So, he comes shoe shopping and you go see Fast & Furious 87. It’s called compromise.
If your brain automatically skips to sexy stuff when you see the word “fantasy”, you may be getting ahead of yourself (but high fives for the chandelier swingers.)
A new level of intimacy can be achieved in your relationship by sharing your hopes and dreams for the future.
“Developing a shared vision is important so you feel you’re on the same page and heading in the same direction in your shared life together. You can still have individual hopes, dreams and aspirations, but you do need some shared goals that give meaning to your relationship and your life,” says Clinton.
By sharing your fantasies about your life, you not only allow your partner into your deepest desires, but you can also allow them to be constantly surprised by you and keep the romance fresh and alive.
Being honest even when it’s hard
Sometimes we avoid spelling out how we feel for fear of sparking conflict, but that short term gain from not addressing our feelings and issues can cause long term pain.
It’s best to be honest with your partner and even though it may suck balls. At least everything is out in the open and you can work out how to deal with things together. Bottling feelings up can harbour resentment and before you know it you want to take to the crotch of all of their pants with a pair of scissors.
Making time for intimacy
Research shows there are two things vital to a long-term passionate relationship: staying good friends and making sex a priority. Friendship and sexy times, how could that not be an equation for joy???
“We all have such busy lives these days, it’s easy for sex to fall off the agenda unless we make it a priority,” says relationship and sex therapist Isiah McKimmie.
“Just like we schedule a regular date, it can be really helpful to schedule time for intimacy too. Perhaps that’s sending the kids off to Grandma for the night or simply turning off the TV and going to bed early one night.”
Watching tv together is not quality time, getting nude and rubbing yourselves all over each other is. Sweet.
You need to love and be happy within yourself in order to be happy in a relationship
Did you hear that? It starts with you, sweet cheeks.
You can’t rely on your partner to make you happy. You need to be happy within yourself, and with your life, and any further love and joy you receive is like rich gooey ganache on the chocolate cake.
“Your happiness and confidence are so important to your relationship,” tells McKimmie. “When we don’t feel good about ourselves we tend to be more reactive, take what our partner says personally and are more likely to have co-dependent relationships.”
When we’re happy within ourselves, we bring more to a relationship, deal with conflicts better and are better able to enjoy intimacy.
Celebrating each other’s victories
By celebrating your partner’s victories both large and small, you are letting them know that you are not only on their team but also their biggest cheerleader, so whip out your pom-poms and give them some cheery love!
When you celebrate each other’s victories, you provide encouragement and support that allows your partner to know that they are important in your life.
Being touchy feely, in a non-sexual manner
Whether you’re holding hands as you go for a stroll, sitting entwined on the couch or kissing your partner hello and goodbye when you see them, touch is an important mechanism towards staying connected.
“Touch is essential so you remind each other in a non-verbal way you care. It’s also a nice way to stay tethered to one another so you feel safe and secure without having to state the fact,” says Clinton. “We are touched constantly as babies and as adults, touch is just as important for feeling connected, safe and loved.”
What you focus on is what you see
Biological anthropologist, Helen Fisher, studied brain activity using an MRI on people who claimed to have been deeply in love with their partner for between 10 and 25 years. She found that even though they’d been together for such a long time, the brain areas association with intense romantic love still become active.
The secret to maintaining that spark?
“They seem to have a blindness to their partner’s flaws. They see only the good stuff.”
What you choose to focus on is what you will see. If you spend your energy focusing on the positive aspects of your partner’s personality then you will feel more positively towards them. Likewise, if you focus on their shitty bits, they will overshadow all else.