First off, let me say that I’m no relationship guru. I don’t have any magic tricks or secrets to get you to the ideal relationship. But fret not. What I do have is a strong work ethic and the desire to try new things continuously and prune my approach to relationships in a way that continuously improves my situation. In essence, what I have is the same as what you have—a Lifehack mentality. And my Lifehack mentality is how I’ve come up with these strategies. These ought to give you a strong foundation to build upon, and while no two relationships are alike, they all require nurturing and time to grow. Consider these tips the “Miracle Gro” for your relationship.
1. Determine what you want and what you’re willing to give.
Before you can work towards having the relationship you’ve always wanted, “the ideal relationship” needs to be defined. It will be different for each of us and we need to know what is perfect for us. You may want to sit down with a notepad or computer and start writing.
Some questions you should be able to answer include: “What is important to me in a relationship? What are the necessities? What are the big deal breakers? How will this person treat me? How will I treat them? What am I willing to do? What am I not willing to do? How can I best please my partner? How can my partner best please me?”
It may seem like a silly exercise, but in doing it, you’ll start to realize what you actually want (which is likely different than what you think you want) and what you’re actually willing to give. You have to start with realistic expectations and commitments. Give up on the idea of what a relationship “should” be like, and start to determine exactly what you want yours to be like.
2. Assess your relationship “self.”
Unless you’re just a selfish person, having the relationship you’ve always wanted isn’t just about getting what you want, but about satisfying your parter’s needs as well. Since the part of the “ideal relationship” that you have the most control over is what you do, you should start by assessing your relationship “self.”
Are you doing everything you can to create the ideal relationship environment? Are you fulfilling all of the necessary requirements? Does your behavior/commitment to the relationship deserve an ideal relationship?
Work on yourself to become someone worthy of a perfect relationship. Make sure you’re exceeding all of your partner’s expectations, and satisfying them beyond all requirements. Work on yourself so that you are creating the perfect relationship for your partner. This will make it much easier for them to do the same for you. The best way to assess your relationship “self” is by soliciting feedback.
Ask your partner, your family, and your close friends for feedback with regards to your relationship with them. Prepare yourself to accept any feedback they are willing to give you. Remember, they are doing you a favor, not attacking you. Take their feedback into great consideration and assess how well you fit the role you will play in your ideal relationship.
3. Take responsibility for your happiness.
Your happiness is not your partner’s responsibility. Nor is their happiness yours. Take responsibility for your own happiness. In doing so, you take back the control and decide to be happy. It’s unfair for us to put that responsibility on our partner, and yet so often we do. Then we blame them for our not being happy. So stop it. Take it back, and make yourself happy.
4. Give up on being right.
“You can be right or you can be happy.” We’ve all heard that quote, but it bears repeating. Too often we inflict damage on our relationship by requiring our partner to accept our point, rather than sharing in the experience of conversation fairly. Remember, the goal is to enjoy each other’s company and friendship, not to establish intellectual dominance over the other person. If your goal is the latter, join a debate club.
5. Perfect the art of conversation.
My wife and I have a pretty fantastic relationship. It started with great conversation. We’ve known each other since we were very young, and at some point in our teenage years we had one great conversation. That conversation lead to us both wanting to have another, then another, then another.
Ten years later, and nearly four of those years married, we’re still having amazing conversations. We debate all sorts of things; politics, religion, world policy, science, medicine, business, art, books, movies, music, and much more. Sometimes it seems like we’re arguing, and maybe even fighting. But we know what we’re doing. We have plenty of practice. And we have the utmost respect for each other’s feelings. We never cross lines to hurting one another or insulting. We get heated at times—I tend to get loud when I get pumped. But these conversations are the life blood of our relationship, and I look forward to growing old with her and having these conversations.
6. Be more affectionate.
I’m not necessarily talking a bunch of PDA here, but find a comfortable form of affection and engage in it often. Maybe you’re a hand-holder, maybe you’re a baby-talker (it’s more common than you think), or maybe you are the too-much-PDA type. Whatever works for you, do it, and do it more.
Also, hug and cuddle more, even if you’re not the cuddling type. Multiple studies have shown that cuddling and physical contact with people we love releases oxytocin, or “the love hormone.” Oxytocin has been linked to promotion of attachment in relationships, boosting sexual arousal, improving social skills, and more, all of which seems quite beneficial to a good, strong relationship.
7. Be quick to apologize and be quicker to forgive.
You should never go to sleep angry, right? Maybe, maybe not. But one thing is for sure: you should be quick to apologize. Don’t hold your apology while waiting for his. Likewise, if your partner has apologized, be quick to forgive. They are making themselves vulnerable with their apology, and you owe it to them to protect their feelings. Develop this habit, and it will be easy to never go to sleep angry again. Neglect this habit and you’ll spend many a night facing opposite directions gritting your teeth until you fall asleep.
8. Make each other better.
Do you like the person you are when you are in the relationship? Do you like the person your partner is? Are you a better person in the relationship than you would be alone? A relationship is a partnership, often with the expectation that it is for life (or at least for a long time). Would you keep a business partner that was making you a worse person? I know I wouldn’t. Strive to make each other better, and you’ll both value the relationship a lot more.
9. Devote time to your partner.
This is something that I had to learn the hard way. In never wanting to appear “soft,” I often would leave my partner to hang out with the guys. I know, I know. How macho, right? One day she finally told me that I wasn’t spending enough time with her. It wasn’t that she didn’t want me to hang out with the guys (because she’s never stopped me from doing that), it was that she just wanted my attention as well. Since then I’ve made a point to spend time with her each day. Some times it’s the whole day; other times it’s a 10 minute conversation before we drift off to sleep. But I try my best to devote some time in every day to her. It means a lot to her. And she means a lot to me.
10. Make it passionate.
We stress. We get tired. We have things to do tomorrow. There are plenty of reasons not to expend the effort to “make it passionate.” But I always imagine this: what if you were hoping for an evening of passion and he turned you down. I know I’d feel pretty crumby, and probably a bit rejected. I’d never want my partner to feel rejected by me. So from time to time try to add a little passion to your relationship. I’m sure you can find ways to do that. If not, here are 5 Ways to Keep Passion Alive in Relationships.
Here are a couple of quick tips to keep in mind when building/nurturing your relationship. Not all of them will apply to everyone, so find which work for you and holdfast to them.
- Give genuine compliments often
- Always assume the best of your partner
- Encourage, rather than expect, your partner to improve
- Learn to listen actively
- “Just Because” gifts never go out of style
- Focus your efforts on what you can do for your partner, and they will likely do the same
- Volunteer together—it makes you both feel really good about yourself and each other
- Take care of yourself
- Spend time apart
- Appreciate the little things
- Don’t neglect the “friendship” aspect of your relationship
- Share secrets
- Better yet, share fantasies
- Create and work towards common goals
- Spend more time outdoors together
- Accept differences and agree to disagree
Obviously getting the relationship you’ve always wanted requires more effort and strategy than can fit in one blog post, but these tips will help create a solid foundation on which to build your ideal relationship.
What did we miss? What do you do to keep your relationship in good order? Leave a comment and help us find and create the relationship we’ve always wanted.