Relationships are not easy. Anyone that has been in a longterm relationship can vouch for that. Over time you will experience many joys and sorrows. It’s part of human nature and the way that we relate to one and another.
Many people like to state that “they married their best friend”. If I said that it would be absolute lie. When I met my wife she wasn’t my best friend. When I proposed… nope, still not my best friend. This year marks 10 years of marriage and 11 years of being together. I’m proud to say that I am still not married to my best friend.
I’m married to an amazing yet somewhat crazy partner that I have decided to share my life with. This is far beyond friendship in my book.
Over the course of these 11 years we have laughed, we have cried, and we have wanted to kick each other where the sun doesn’t shine. We have created life, and we have seen life end. From the many experiences we have learned a lot.
Learning is one of the most important elements of a relationship. When we stop learning we fail to grow. Learning pushes our boundaries and allows us to discover new paths that we may take in life. While I am not $100k in debt due to a graduate program in the psychology of relationships, I do fancy myself an expert in many ways. I’d like to share seven lessons that I’ve learned over the years as I know that they will be beneficial to you.
Figure out your Love Languages
In 1995 Gary Chapman wrote a book titled “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate”. Since then there have been a gazillion articles, online quizzes and other authors that have piggybacked off of this books success. To summarize, people have a primary and secondary love language. These primary and secondary languages reside in the realms of “quality time”, “gifts”, “words of affirmation”, “acts of service” and “physical touch”.
Chapman states that people generally give love in the way they expect to receive it. He also states that the love languages of people do not change over time. They do however, develop and need to be nurtured in different ways.
About two years ago my wife and I discovered what our love languages are. Since then we have developed many of our daily interactions around these concepts. It wasn’t difficult at all to incorporate these into our daily lives. Everything just happened naturally.
I suggest that you and your partner take 15 minutes to take this test( http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/). I also advise that you do this away from each other. You don’t need the other party influencing your answers.
Guys – I know what you are thinking. I was hesitant to take this “girly” test as well. Just trust me on this one. When you understand how to show your partner love you it makes a world of difference.
Don’t Stop Dating
This is of utmost importance. Especially when you have careers and children (or needy pets) that consume the majority of your time. We often become so enthralled in everything other than our partner.
There was a time where I felt like my marriage was nothing more than a business arrangement. My duty was to to work, provided shelter and food. Her job was to manage things at home. It was cut and dry just like that.
During this time, life sucked.
Then one day we started to date and rediscover each other. The rediscovery process is so important. Why is that? Oh just because You will realize that the person you are with is no longer the person you married. Think about it. Are you the same person that you were ten years ago? I highly doubt it. Everyone changes over time. Get over it.
Over this time you may have discovered a new taste in music or maybe started to eat crazy ethnic food. When I met my wife I wouldn’t allow wet food and dry food to even touch. Don’t even get me started about soup. I was mortified by it. Maybe you dislike your career and want to go in a completely different direction. No matter how small the changes, they add up to form a new and hopefully better version of you. When you realize the changes you have made, you will have exciting things to discuss with your partner over date nights.
Sex should be fun
Uh oh, taboo subject time. How dare I discuss something that is a major aspect of every relationship.
To be honest, our sex life was never boring. It’s always been good. On the other hand we have had a number of friends over the years that complain about their sex life. Sometimes one partner isn’t getting enough. Other times a partner is afraid to mention sexual fantasies. As someone who used to be guilty of this I understand some reasons why. Often we fear what our partners will think and worry that the idea will be rejected. We think that we will be shamed for such a thought. In an unhealthy relationship that will happen, I can guarantee it. In a healthy, or mostly healthy relationship talking about sex can greatly improve what you already have.
Here’s some advice for you men out there. Ready? Get over yourself. When I finally started to talk about sex with my wife, our sex life went from good to amazing. It went from once per week to nearly every night. We also discovered concepts like Tantric Sex, the intimacy of massage and many other things that are none of your damned business.
Just remember talk to your partner about sex. You might be amazed at what sexy thoughts they have in their own mind.
Challenge Each Other
While the world consists of over 7.6 billion people you are a unique creature. You aren’t designed to simply exist and survive. We are meant to thrive. To thrive we must challenge each other due to our competitive nature.
The challenges that you put each other through can be simple or overly complex. You could challenge each other on who can clean a bathroom the quickest, and the loser makes dinner (after they wash their hands of course!). Or you can challenge each other to excel in something new. You can challenge your partner to finish college, or complete a certification that will give them an advance in their career path. Or even challenging them to workout twice per week.
You don’t need to pull any “Keeping up with the Jones” business to challenge your partner. It’s not all about material things. It’s not about who makes the most money. Hell, it’s not about the result but the journey there.
Allow each other to be Human.
I didn’t want to lump this into the “sex” section because it relates to so much more beyond that. By “allowing each other to be human” I mean don’t sweat it when you catch your partner checking someone out. Don’t give me that crap that “I only have eyes for him/her”. I call bullshit. Humans are an advanced life form, yet we have primal instincts. One of these is to look at objects that catch our eye.
Imagine your partner watching the sunset from a beach. If they stated “This is beautiful” you probably wouldn’t have any bout of jealousy. Yet the moment most people “catch” their partner checking out another human, it’s the end of the fucking world.
My wife has caught me eye balling someone before. Guess what she said? Come on, take a guess! She said “Wow, she’s hot!”. I agreed then we went on with our day. That was it. I didn’t instantly fall head over heals for this other person. I didn’t lust for them. Nope, I found them aesthetically pleasing to look at.
Yes I have caught her checking out other guys before. Did I call her out on it? Absolutely! I’ve said phrases along the lines of “Woah that dude is ripped. What do you think his diet consists of?”. Again we went on with our lives. If you catch your partner eyeballing someone, don’t get pissed. Make fun of them because you caught them doing it, then forget about it.
Bad times will soon pass.
During the bad times, it’s important to stick next to each other and put your heads together. It’s critical to support each other during the lowest of lows. It could be a time of financial turmoil, death of a loved one or another life changing event. I’ve been through all of them and i know they will occur again. It’s not a matter of if, but when.
No matter how wealthy you may be, or which deity you pray to bad things will happen. Just remember to support each other.
You need alone time
There’s a reason why this one is last on the list. Of anything I could say it all pales in comparison to this. To have a successful relationship you need time to think. You need time to breath. You need to time to simply exist as you.
We all have busy schedules but do they really matter? You give so much of your time to your work, your commute and your family. What happens when you fail to show up? What happens when you cannot be at your peak performance?
You need alone time. It doesn’t matter if your alone time is hitting the gym at 4:30am while the world is sleeping, or a midnight drive through a twisty canyon. I can’t tell you what you need, only you know where your happy place is.
I strive to provide alone time for my wife as well. There are times where I kick her out and “force her” to go to the salon. She is hesitant to go and worries about the cost, yet thanks me when she returns.
You know your partner better than I ever will. Watch for signs of stress, such as leaking eyes, drinking wine in a dark closet or rapidly shedding hair. When you see these signs, be sure to give them the opportunity to escape the house and be alone. Even fifteen minutes can make a world of difference when someone is overwhelmed.
…and there you are
A basic outline of how to not suck at having a relationship.