“Love seems the swiftest but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or women really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century.” – Mark Twain
I wish I could say that I was the suave, romantic, Romeo type of guy – that love was easy and unfolded like a tender romantic comedy. (Oh Hitch, you’re so full of righteousness.) But I can’t, because frankly, love is god damn hard. If you’re anything like me you’ve had your share of difficult relationships. Growing intimately together with another person isn’t always easy. You won’t always see eye to eye with your partner, and there will be moments when you get so caught up in emotions you can’t even fathom why you’re together. For me personally, (if you haven’t felt the cynical vibe of the post yet) I’m currently going through a difficult time in my current relationship. I don’t know where this relationship will be in the future, but I do know that if I want it to work there are certain things that have to happen. So, in perfect Shake off the Grind fashion, I have to decide to get better instead of bitter. I have to really evaluate my situation and decide what I want to create. So I put together some tips – some no-nosense tips to help those of you who want more from your current relationship and are ready to make a positive shift.
1. When you’re together, be together
It’s so easy to get distracted by life’s demands, and this is something that can really take a toll on relationships. Quality time is very important to most people. I know it is one of my main love languages. But quality time is much more than just being in the same room together. Quality time involves deeply connecting, having fun, and engaging emotionally with each other. Let go of all the to-do’s and other things you have on your mind for just a few minutes, and dedicate yourself fully to the person in front of you. When you’re with someone you love give them your full attention and be present.
2. If you mess up, clean up
“Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit.” – Peter Ustinov
No relationship is without its disagreements and squabbles. That’s why there are a few “magic words” that will help make any argument better. Ready? … “I’m sorry, will you forgive me?” When things don’t go well be willing to say you’re sorry. Talk things out and recognize that your relationships can grow stronger through conflict. It takes a big person to apologize, but if you don’t clean up the messes as they appear they will get dirtier and dirtier.
3. Encourage each other to be better
There is nothing more important than an encouraging and uplifting partner. There is already so much negativity in the world. Don’t be the “Debbie Downer” who always has a negative comment to add the conversation. Instead, be an encouraging presence. Focus on your partner’s strengths and help them when they are struggling. Encourage them to be the best person they can be.
“When you love someone, all your saved-up wishes start coming out.” – Elizabeth Bowen
4. Grow together and live it up
One of my biggest fears is to end up in a relationship where the passion has died and there’s nothing left but a hollow shell of a man. Sorry for the gloom, but it’s all too easy to get stuck in a rut. Relationships can stop growing if we’re not careful. Don’t let life get dull. Do something exciting and fun. Go on a vacation, shake things up, find what makes each other happy and do it! Mentally go back in time for a moment when your relationship was flourishing. How can you bring back this spark?
5. Have some respect and show some love
We all want to be respected, particularly men. We also want to feel loved, particularly women. According to Emerson Eggerichs, best-selling author of Love and Respect, “Women need love. Men need respect. It’s as simple and as complicated as that.” It’s complicated because these two pillars of a healthy relationship are not mutually exclusive. These are both necessary to facilitate the other. When a man feels respected he will show greater love, and when a women feels loved she will show more respect. The catch? Who is willing to take the first step in this dance? Respect each other in public. Show your affection whenever you can. Simply put, have some respect and show some love!
6. Learn to really listen
“Being in therapy is great. I spend an hour just talking about myself. It’s kinda like being the guy on a date.” – Caroline Rhea, comedian
Wouldn’t it be nice if we were required to take a class in communication as children? We could learn how to listen effectively, be empathetic, and show understanding to others. But, that many things not taught in public education, we miss the big lesson on this hidden art. (We are actually taught to talk, not listen! Speech class anyone?) So, many people fail miserably at listening. Even as a therapist and coach I can struggle to be an empathetic listener to those I truly care about. Take it from me, if you don’t learn to really listen, your relationship with suffer the consequences. Here is an article with 10 steps to effective listening to start learning.
7. Take responsibility for your own baggage
Here is how a relationship works. (Well actually, how it ends up not working) Two people come together, both with a distinct past, and both with personal emotional wounds from past hurts and trauma. They become a couple and bring their past baggage into the current relationship. So now, instead of only carrying your personal load, your shouldering the baggage of your partner. Be aware of this, and make it a point to take responsibility for the junk that belongs to you! Don’t displace your past problems on your current partner. P.S. – If this is something you are really struggling with, I would suggest seeking professional help.
“We waste time looking for the perfect lover, instead of creating the perfect love.” – Tom Robbins
8. Think before your speak
Have you ever said something you regretted later? Stupid question right? Even the best of us can lose our temper at times and start throwing verbal daggers. If there is one thing that can save a relationship, (besides tip number 2, which I would recommend if tip 8 is still a work in progress) it’s to bite your tongue and hold back from the insults and blaming. Think before you speak, and more importantly before you act too!
9. Compliment more and criticize less
For a fulfilling and happy relationship forcus on your partner’s positive qualities. We all have some quirks and annoying habits, but research reveals that happy couples have 5 positive interactions to every negative one. That’s right, a 5:1 ratio! A relationship is like a bank account. You can make a deposit or a withdrawal. Deposits come from positive words and deeds, and withdrawals come when we’re not so positive. Make sure to fill up the emotional bank account of your partner. Put in deposits with compliments, kind acts, and general love and respect.
10. Do something special
If there is anything I have learned about relationships it’s that making an effort to do something special goes a long way. Since Valentine’s Day is approaching it might be the perfect time for the men and women out there to consider how you can up the ante in the effort category. Knock it out of the park this year! Get creative, and do a little research on different ideas. Do something more special than you ever have before! Well there you have it. Ten tips for a happier relationship. No matter your relationship status, remember to get better instead of bitter. (It’s hard I know, but it’s the best option.) If your relationship is suffering, step it up and be the bigger person. Make things better! If you’re single or feeling broken hearted, it’s time to dust yourself off and get out there. Have a great week and Valentine’s Day! Much love to all of you!
“Love is like a friendship caught on fire. In the beginning a flame, very pretty, often hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. As love grows older, our hearts mature and our love becomes as coals, deep burning and unquenchable.” – Bruce Lee