Welcome to the second post of love week! Today, we’re talking about healthy relationships and the keys to building them. (Yesterday, we talked about keeping in touch with your long-distance besties!)
In case you didn’t already realize this, I am not a relationship expert. Despite that, I am part of what I feel is a healthy, happy relationship. (Our four year anniversary is next week!)
Joe and I worked together on this post to give you some advice on what we’ve found to be the keys to healthy relationships, based on our own experience and on what we’ve learned from watching other couples, specifically our parents and grandparents.
ONE // Don’t Fight Angry
It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s the best way to keep a small argument from escalating into something more.
Ask yourself why you’re actually irritated: is it because you’re tired or you had a frustrating day at work? Or is it honestly just because of whatever it is you’re actually arguing about?
When I’m already in a bad mood about one thing, it’s much, much easier to get irritated by something that wouldn’t normally bother me. This happens pretty much every single time that I need to eat. I am a joy to live with.
Take a step back and give yourself a minute to calm down before returning to the conversation with a rational explanation for why you’re feeling what you’re feeling. If you’re upset enough to warrant it, leave the room until you’re calm enough to speak about the issue – but don’t use it as an excuse to brush it off and not return to the topic later.
Also, when you’re upset or annoyed about something, don’t let it fester. Say something. Being passive aggressive will always add another brick to the wall that can divide you from your partner. I’m a big proponent for trying to get through an argument or disagreement as efficiently as possible – get it all out on the table, understand where your partner is coming from, and then move on.
Oh, and that old adage about never going to bed angry? It’s so true.
TWO // Relationship Goals are Fiction
I post a lot of cute, happy photos of Joe and I on social media. But I don’t post about our arguments. And neither does that couple that you’ve been idolizing as “relationship goals.”
While it’s good to have a couple to look up to or to turn to for advice (perhaps your parents or a friends’ parents who have been together for decades), keep in mind that no one other than those two people will ever completely understand their relationship. And, duh, no relationship is perfect. Even the happiest couple has disagreements and arguments.
The secret lies in the small things that you don’t see, in the consideration that you can take to make your partner’s life better and easier however you can. Just be kind and focus on bettering yourself and constantly improving the way you treat your partner. Everything else will fall into place – without the need to try and imitate someone else’s seemingly perfect life.
THREE // Real Life Will Always Be Real Life
Real-life love, the kind that provides a lasting, stable support system between two people, is…well, kind of boring.
That butterflies-in-your-stomach, will-he-won’t-he, will-this-last feeling? It’s exciting and fun, but it’s not sustainable. The fact that you don’t feel these feelings for your partner after a few years isn’t a sign that your love is fizzling out. It’s just growing and changing as you do. And that’s not a bad thing!
True love isn’t all romance and roses and holding doors and going on dates.
True love is sharing a spreadsheet of your finances, dividing the bills, taking turns cleaning the bathroom, not leaving your shit everywhere (guilty), putting up with things that annoy you, and doing things that sometimes you just really, really don’t want to do (like take out the trash). It’s real and raw, and it’s not usually very glamorous.
But it’s also about having someone to list as your emergency contact, to pick you up from the airport, to take care of you when you’re sick, to hang out with in companionable silence, and to tell you how wonderful you are when you’re feeling bad about yourself. They will drop anything to be there for you whenever you need it. And they always make you feel like you are home.
Real life will always be a mix of good and bad, but it’s not black and white. It’s not delirious happiness or utter despair. There’s balance to be found in every relationship, and there’s always room for improvement.
FOUR // Compromise
Everyone loves and hates a compromise, but when you spend enough time with one other person, eventually you’re going to have to meet in the middle about something.
Not only is it unrealistic to expect to agree on everything, but it would also be incredibly boring. Let your partner broaden your horizons by introducing you to the things they like, no matter how much you think you won’t like them – this is how I discovered that I actually love a lot of TV shows and foods that I never would have tried on my own.
You have to work to keep the balance between getting exactly what you want and catering to what someone else wants. It’s not always an easy line to walk, but there’s little room for selfishness in healthy relationships. It’s about both of you.
FIVE // You Can’t Over-Appreciate
You’ll hear a lot of talk about “love languages,” and how different people value different ways of showing love. Some people like giving and receiving gifts, others value having deep conversation above all else.
I think it’s even more simple than that. Show your partner how much you appreciate them every single day with both your actions and your words.
There’s always room to go above and beyond by surprising your partner with a little gift, or a making their favorite meal for dinner, or planning a date night. But the day to day is what matters most in healthy relationships: how can you show that you love and appreciate your other half through everyday actions? Maybe you can wash the dishes after dinner, do a chore that normally your partner is in charge of, bring home a case of their favorite beer, or simply say thank you when they do anything that makes your life easier or better.
And you can never, ever overuse the phrase, “I love you.” Mean it with your whole heart every single time you say it, and it will never get old.
How do you keep your relationship strong? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
p.s. Don’t forget to check out yesterday’s post!