Life is no romantic comedy. Real relationships take continual effort from both parties. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all guide that tells you what a real, healthy relationship looks like, so you have to figure it out together. Fortunately, there’s plenty of advice to guide you through it. Here are seven ideas to keep your relationship healthy on and on track.
1. Relive the Past
Falling into a lazy routine is easy in a relationship, especially a long-term one. But going backward is no way to go about things and can only lead to disaster. Instead, try recreating the moments that led up to you falling in love.
Get the spark going again by recreating your first date. Or revisit all the things you used to do for fun in the beginning of your relationship. Do things for each other that you stopped doing over time, like breakfast in bed or foot massages.
2. Have Real Contact
In this age of digital technology, you can often overlook spending time connecting in person with your partner. Be honest. You’ve probably gone out to eat with your significant other and found yourself scrolling aimlessly through your phone or texting back and forth with someone else.
Make an effort to set aside some time to go on a real date, and agree to put your phones away unless there’s an emergency. For the couple of hours you’re enjoying each other, most texts, phone calls and emails can wait.
Some say that a long-term partner knows you better than you know yourself. In some ways, however, that’s just a cliché. It’s important to remember that your partner is not a mind reader, so don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. For instance, request that your partner cook your favorite dinner. In return, offer to watch that movie you hate but she loves.
Making requests is also important at the start of a relationship. You don’t know each other well enough yet and guessing takes so much effort. Ask questions and make requests. Just be willing to give as much you take to keep things equitable.
4. Listen and Tell
Telling and listening is as important as asking in a healthy relationship. How else are you going to learn about each other?If you enjoyed a date, a meal or a gesture, tell your partner explicitly what you loved about it. This way, your partner can repeat it in the future when lacking a plan, to cheer you up or just to surprise you. Make sure to listen to your partner when he tells you what he enjoys as well.
Talking about your day is important, too. Listening to each other and discussing things helps you get to know more about each other. If you sound huffy when mentioning how Linda from marketing took credit for your idea, your partner will know to avoid Linda at work parties and to sympathize when you mention her in the future. The little things do matter.
Relationships don’t always go smoothly. Sure, you’ve been listening, but maybe you misheard. Perhaps you got your partner a gift that was adisappointment. Or maybe you made plans without asking, and she already told you she wanted to stay in that night.
In instances like this, don’t start a fight. Instead, take responsibility and apologize, and make the apology count. Find a way to make it up your significant other, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.Just don’t become obsessive with blaming yourself. That’s not healthy for either of you.
6. Seek Help
Never be afraid to seek couples counseling. In fact, you don’t have to be at the breaking point in your relationship to turn to a professional for help, not even close. However, an outsider’s perspective can give you both a new way to think about any problems you’re facing.
Counselors are relationship experts. They want to use their knowledge to keep you happy, healthy and on track. It’s better to ask for the expertise while there’s still a track to stay on, not when the track is beyond repair.
For example, if you’re experiencing communication issues, counseling can help. According to The Couples Center, a provider of marriage counseling in San Francisco: “Once you master how to continuously improve communication with couples counseling, you can discuss even the most sensitive of topics while still feeling connected. This will strengthen your trust and commitment to each other.”
7. Cool Off
Even by taking the blame and making perfect apologies, disagreements will still happen. And sometimes, they’ll even turn into full blown fights. Instead of going around in circles trying to figure out who started it, choose to temporarily walk away.
Go into another room, go out with a friend, visit your parents or politely hang up the call. Take some time by yourself to be distracted and calm down. Then, think logically about the whole experience. The calmer you are, the more logically you’ll think.
You might still be annoyed at your partner, but you will likely realize you were both too heated to think straight. Now you can reunite level-headed.