I don’t believe in love at first sight. I know that can seem slightly jaded and pragmatic, but, there it is, I said it. It may come as a surprise to those who know me and my husband, Jimmy. You see, my husband and I are high school sweethearts. We met in Spanish class—he was 16, I was 15—and we’ve been happily together ever since. So, if anyone was to believe in love at first sight, it would be me. But, from my experience, healthy relationships are, well, work (and I mean this in the most positive way). No relationship is perfect, and really, if it was, wouldn’t things get boring after a while?
I’ve spent more than half my life with the same partner through some of the most life-changing times like high school, college, first home, first jobs, business start up, etc. Through all these years, we’ve established some clear (yet often unspoken) rules to follow that help us to have a lasting and healthy relationship and marriage.
1. Explore Your Own Passions.
This may be one of the most important things in a successful relationship. Jimmy and I have always encouraged each other to pursue and explore our own unique hobbies and passions. For me, it was dance, reading and entrepreneurship. For him it was motocross, music and fishing. Establishing and pursuing your own hobbies allows you to keep your own independence. It helps you to not lose yourself in a relationship. However, what is equally important is to support your partner in their hobbies, and have them support you in yours. For instance, I rarely missed a motocross race or band show of Jimmy’s, and he never missed a dance performance or important business event of mine. Be there to support your partner, and they should, in turn, do the same.
2. Make Time For The Relationship.
It’s easy to get caught up in the everyday chaos. In today’s world, distractions are everywhere, and the world seems to pull us in multiple directions—jobs, kids, social media, phones—there is an ongoing battle for our attention. One important aspect to a healthy relationship is to always make time for your significant other. Do things together, make time for each other. This can be something as small as going on a walk together, going out to eat, staying in to watch a movie, or something bigger like taking a weekend trip together. But, it has to be something that you agree upon and do together—it doesn’t work if you force one another to do things.
PS-Put your phone down. Enjoy the moment with your significant other. You don’t need to document it, you don’t need to share it, you don’t need to post it. Some things can just be between the two of you.
3. Don’t Go to Bed Angry.
This one may be one of the hardest, but still super important. In every relationship there are disagreements, arguments, heated discussions. All relationships have disagreements, and in my opinion, SHOULD have some disagreements. After all, if you don’t argue or disagree with someone, are you really being challenged and are you really being truthful. Arguments are healthy…but only if you are able to make up, heal, and come to an agreement (even if you agree to disagree!). One “rule” that has always helped me in my own relationship is that we always give each other a good night kiss before going to bed…even if we’ve been arguing. This quickly helps you to put things in perspective and to be mindfully appreciative of your relationship right before going to bed. It helps to wake up with a clearer head.
Additionally, I advise trying to talk about disagreements sooner rather than later. Keeping things bottled up inside without having a real and good discussion never ends well. Don’t be afraid of thoughtful confrontation…meaning be prepared to discussed your feelings—what is bothering you, why, and how the problem can be addressed. But, also be open to hearing and listening to your partners feelings as well. Try to talk through things before they fester and grow into something larger.
4. Talk. About (Almost) Everything.
Don’t be afraid to talk—really talk—to your partner. They are your significant other, they should be the one person you can be completely open, honest and real with. This can include talking about things that may be uncomfortable—your childhood, your fears, dreams, sex, heath, farting, seriously…whatever! Having an open and supportive dialogue with your partner allows both of you to really truly know, understand, and appreciate each other. Also, private conversations that are shared between you and your partner should remain between the two of you (unless there is an issue that absolutely needs a professional to become involved). Your coworker, girlfriend, mom, sister, or anyone else doesn’t need to know about the intimate conversations the two of you have.
5. Explore Things Together.
This one is a fun one and helps a couple to form a tighter bond. While it is important to have and follow your own passions and hobbies, it is equally as important to explore and try new things as a couple as well. This can be something as simple as trying out a new restaurant or traveling to a new city, and it can also be something much more personal such as exploring a new sexual position (only something you and your partner are both comfortable with, of course!). The key is to explore it together and to share the experience.
This one seems self explanatory, but it is SO important, and can often times get overlooked in today’s very busy lifestyle. Laughter can cure almost everything, so don’t be afraid to laugh! Laugh at yourself, laugh at each other, laugh at your experiences, laugh out LOUD. Practice joy with your significant other, enjoy each other’s company, smile at each other.
Disclaimer: I am NOT by any means a marriage counselor. I do not have any degrees or training in relationship coaching. All I have is personal experience of being with my husband for almost 25 years. All relationships are different and special. If one of these tips don’t work for you, no worries, figure out something that does. The key is to figure it out together.