We have all grown up watching movies where women are princesses, men are their knights in shining armor, and perfect couples ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. But no one actually teaches us the things we need to do to have our “happily ever after.” So that’s where I come in. Here are 15 things you can do if you want to have the best relationship of your life.
1. Try to talk with your partner about how you impact each other.
No one is a mind reader. And some people aren’t very good at knowing how their behavior affects other people. So you need to tell each other. Not only the negative impacts, but the positive as well. If you want your partner to change something, gently ask without criticism. If you think your partner is awesome, tell them. Thank them. Keep the lines open.
2. When you get in a fight, try to see the situation as if you’re an outsider looking in.
Try to step outside yourself and view the conflict as an objective outsider. This de-personalizes it and helps you see your partner’s point of view. Most people have a “me vs. you” attitude when it comes to fighting. They view it as a battle against the enemy. This could not be more destructive! Instead, have a “we” or team mentality. You’re both in this relationship together, so you have to come up with solutions together. Stepping back and looking at it from an objective perspective helps tremendously.
3. Invite your partner to build more closeness by practicing empathy daily.
Empathy is key to every relationship. This is the ability to see the other person’s point of view and show them that you value how they feel. You don’t have to agree with them, you just have to allow them to feel what they feel without making them wrong. One empathy “game” you can play is reflecting back each other’s words and feelings. This allows you to check your perceptions and helps you partner feel “heard.”
4. Tune into your emotions and see if you can each share what you need most.
It doesn’t help to repress your emotions. It might make your relationship seem peaceful, but it’s like trying to hold a beach ball under water forever. You can’t do it. Eventually, it’s going to come back up–and probably in an explosive manner. So both people need to keep their emotions in check and continuously share them with their partner. That way, nothing will be a surprise or get buried for a long time.
5. Be mindful of the fact that emotional damage can derail relationships.
It could be cheating. It could be ignoring your partner’s feelings. It could be withholding affection. Emotional damage can take any form. And they deliver brutal blows to relationships. So if there was an emotional injury that took place between the two of you, talk about it. Fix it. Don’t ignore it. That will only make it worse.
6. Discuss your main relationship goals for the next year and see if you find ways to achieve them.
When we hear the term “goal,” we don’t usually think in terms of “relationship” goals. But just as you would have a career goal, you must have relationship goals together. Do you want to get married? Do you want to buy a house? Have kids? Move to the west coast? It’s helpful to have shared goals, but if you don’t, then each partner has to be respectful of the other person’s desires and at least try to find a mutually satisfying solution.
7. Cherish and honor your connection.
Don’t take your relationship for granted. It’s sacred, so treat it that way! Too many times we get too comfortable and stop trying to make our partner happy. This doesn’t work. Honor what you have. Cherish it. And above all, communicate to your partner that you value their presence in your life.
8. Create small rituals to recognize your bond.
It helps to have rituals that you do together. It could be committing to go on a date night every Saturday or celebrating your anniversary each year at the same restaurant where you met. Or maybe it’s going on a picnic once a month. Anything that tells each other that you are committed to honoring a ritual or routine will help maintain a healthy relationship.
9. Do little things for each other.
Do the dishes. Rub her shoulders. Vacuum. Call just to say you love him. Bring home a single rose. These are simple things that don’t cost a dime (except for the rose!). These things are valued, especially by women. It shows attention and desire to help or nurture your partner.
10. Laugh. A lot. Don’t take things too seriously.
Who doesn’t like to laugh? I would guess pretty much everyone does. But as relationships get stressful, sometimes people forget to laugh. People start focusing on their partner’s negative behaviors and they get annoyed and resentful. Try not to take things so seriously. Try to look at everything your partner does (and in life) as amusing. This lightens the relationship. Couples that laugh together, stay together.
11. Grow your friendship with each other.
You are probably more forgiving of your friends than you are of your romantic partner. Why is this? Probably because you don’t put as many expectations on your friends. But a solid foundation as best friends is the best way to build a long-term relationship.
12. Support each other’s hopes and dreams.
Maybe you want to open a restaurant. Or your partner wants to go back to school for a Ph.D. Whatever your dreams, you both need to be supportive of each other. Even if you don’t agree with the dream or think it’s silly, you still need to be encouraging. Being your partner’s rock and biggest fan is essential to a healthy relationship.
13. Put your partner’s needs equal to or before your own.
You may not want to admit it, but there may be times when you are a little selfish. And that’s fine. As long as you aren’t selfish all of the time. If you only worry about your needs and you ignore your partner’s, then they will eventually grow resentful. People need to know that their partner loves them enough to put them first‒at least sometimes.
14. Give the relationship attention.
When I teach about relationships, I always use the metaphor of a plant. Plants can be beautiful, but they need to be watered every day. They need attention. And so do relationships. If you don’t “feed” your relationship, it will die. It needs nourishment just as much as a plant. You can’t ignore it and put in minimal effort and expect it to flourish. It takes constant attention.
15. Don’t expect perfection.
We all want to ride off into the sunset with that perfect prince or princess. But we all know that perfection is a myth. No one is perfect. So instead of looking at your partner’s faults and focusing on what they should change, accept them as they are. Focus on the good. Feed the good stuff. And then you will reach a place of calm acceptance and have a peaceful relationship.