Who doesn’t love a good fairy tale? Everyone! And most of us want to believe that when we find our Prince Charming (or Princess) that we’ll easily ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after.
But for so many couples, that simply doesn’t happen.
With the divorce rate around 50%, it is clear that most people don’t know how to create and maintain healthy relationships and marriages.
If you think about it, that’s not very surprising. I mean, it’s not like any of us had a class in school called “Love and Marriage 101.” In fact, most of us never learned any life skills at all, let alone relationship skills.
So, it’s no wonder most couples are floundering out there and don’t know how to save themselves.
As a dating coach and communication professor, I hear people complain about relationships all the time. And do you want to know what the top complaint is that I hear all the time is? It is…
“Relationships are so difficult!”
And I always respond:
“Relationships aren’t inherently difficult. It’s the people involved in the relationships that MAKE them difficult.”
So, whether you are embarking on a new relationship, or trying to fix a 50-year-old marriage, here are some tips for you.
1. Know your love languages.
If you’ve never heard of the book, The Five Love Languages, then you should definitely read it.
Written by marriage therapist, Gary Chapman, it explains how there are basically five main ways that a person expresses and wants to receive love. And you and your partner may not do it the same way. Reading it will help you understand yourself and them better.
You can also take a look at this article to learn a bit more about the five love languages:
2. Empathize with each other.
One main problem with relationships is that most people only see their own point of view. It’s inevitable that couples will have disagreements. But that doesn’t mean it has to damage your relationship.
So, in order to really understand each other, you have to listen to and accept the other person’s point of view. Everyone deserves to be understood:
3. Have date night.
One of the sad things about relationships as the years go on is that people forget to “date” each other. They think the “work” is done because they’re so comfortable with one another.
But sometimes life, and kids, get in the way of keeping the romance alive. It’s essential that you go out on date nights so you can consistently keep connecting.
4. Learn to work through conflict effectively.
Most people handle conflict the wrong way. They think it’s a “Me vs. You” situation. They think they have to be right and “win” the arguments. This is backwards thinking.
It’s not Me vs. You… it’s US. Think of yourself as a team who are working together to accomplish a goal and solve a problem TOGETHER.
5. Understand each other’s unique quirks.
Everyone has weird things that they do. Whether it’s not liking to share their food or not being able to be spontaneous, you need to learn to accept each other’s quirks.
You may not like them, but you do need to accept them and try not to let it ruin your relationship.
6. Take a Myers-Briggs personality test.
There is a great website called 16personalities.com that lets you take the personality test. It shows you how much of an introvert or an extrovert someone is, among many other personality traits.
Once you both take this and read about each other’s personalities, you will understand each other better.
7. Talk about finances and plan a budget.
Money is one of the top things that break couples up. Maybe one of you is a spender, and the other is a saver. That’s a problem! It will cause a lot of disagreements and strife.
So, talk about how you handle money. Come to a compromise, make a budget and stick to it.
8. Don’t neglect intimacy.
If you have kids, it’s easy to neglect intimacy. And intimacy means more than just sex (although you shouldn’t neglect that either).
You need to have intimate conversations, cuddle while you sleep, and just do the things that keep the two of you connected.
9. Beware of addictions.
I’ve heard people say that everyone has some sort of addiction. And I’m not talking just alcohol or drugs. People can be addicted to anything from shopping to video game playing.
If you do ANY activity too often, it’s taking quality time away from spending time with your significant other.
So, cut down on that so you can re-focus your energy on the relationship.
10. Don’t be selfish.
It’s easy to focus on yourself and what YOU want. But it’s not so easy to put your needs aside sometimes and focus on what your partner wants.
Any quality relationship involves compromise. You can’t be #1 all the time. And if you want to be, then you shouldn’t be in a relationship. You should stay single for the rest of your life.
11. Have a balance of togetherness and independence.
Sometimes couples fall into one of two different extremes: too much togetherness or too much time apart. Neither is healthy.
Of course, you need togetherness to connect. But too much of it might make you lose your own identity. On the other hand, too much time on your own will make you drift apart.
So, keep an eye on the balance you have (or lack thereof).
12. Talk to each other.
Most people’s lives are very busy. Work, kids, family, other activities… they get in the way of your relationship. But only if you let them.
Make sure you still talk to each other. And not just about the kids or work. Really talk.
Get into interesting and deep conversations sometimes. If you don’t think you have the time, then make time.
13. Put effort in every day.
After people have been in a long-term relationships for a while, they tend to think, “Ahhhhh. All the work and wooing is done. Now I can be the real me and do nothing!”
But that’s when the real work starts! You have to think of your relationship as a plant.
If you don’t water it every day, it will die. So, make sure you “water” it every day.
14. Put your partner’s needs at least equal to – or before – your own.
This goes hand-in-hand with selfishness. No one wants their partner to feel like the don’t care about their needs.
Trust me, I’ve been there and it’s not fun.
You have to figure out what your partner likes, and then do it. And vice versa. Both people have to put 100% effort into pleasing the other. It can’t be one-sided.
15. Be self-aware.
This is easier for some people than others. But having an element of self-awareness helps you see how your behaviors are affecting the other person.
Playing video games every day? Well, maybe you should wake up at some point and realize “Hey, I’ve been playing for 5 hours straight. Maybe I should stop.”
You get the idea.
16. Consider how you are contributing to the relationship – for better or for worse.
Most people blame their significant other for the problems in the relationship. But what a crock! It takes two to tango, right? So, it takes two to mess up a relationship too.
You need to look at yourself and see how you are making the relationship better or worse. And that takes some self-awareness like I mentioned above.
If you lack self-awareness, I’m sure that your partner will be happy to tell you how you could change your behavior for the betterment of the relationship. Or, you could seek the help of a therapist too.
17. Always stay affectionate and loving.
I realize that not everyone is a warm and fuzzy person. Some people don’t like touching, hugging, and snuggling very much. But, it really does help a relationship stay strong. It releases good chemicals into the brain the promote bonding.
So, even if you don’t like doing it so much, try to do it so you stay connected – even on a biological level.
As I said earlier, relationships don’t have to be difficult. It just takes some awareness of what helps keep it healthy, and then some effort to keep it going.
But if you keep putting in effort every day, it doesn’t feel like “effort.” You should actually want to keep your partner happy.
Because remember, the happier they are, the happier YOU will be too.
Featured photo credit: Toa Heftiba via unsplash.com