Recognize that part of the beauty of a relationship is the fact that you will not always see eye to eye on things, and often won’t be able to change the view of your partner. I have to roll my eyes a little when I hear the phrase ‘love conquers all.'
Do you believe in Unicorns? How about the Tooth Fairy? Do you hold out hope that one day you might find a genie in a bottle at a yard sale? If you said yes to any of those, I envy you. I would love to live in your world. However, if you believe in ‘the perfect relationship,’ then I pity you. You are in for one emotional roller-coaster ride after another.
Usually, this is where I tell a story about a friend: my friends Janet and Carl have the perfect relationship. When Janet talks about how sexy Carl is, it makes me sick. When Carl babysits three nights in a row so Janet can go out for drinks with friends, many of whom are male, I’m left shaking my head! Oh, yeah, sure Janet. They’re ‘work’ outings. Janet and Carl even fight sometimes, but when they’re done they actually have make-up sex! You know, that thing they talk about in movies and on television? Apparently it really exists, in the world of Janet and Carl.
Yes, I usually harp on friends at this point – changing the names to protect the innocent. But this time, I am “Janet” and my husband is “Carl.” From the outside looking in, as I’ve heard from many a girlfriend (especially after a martini or two), we appear to have the perfect relationship.
I’m going to clue you in on a little secret. There is no such thing as a perfect relationship. There is, however, such a thing as a happy relationship. That is what my husband and I have, and have had for over a decade. Believe me, it’s not the frenzied passionate whirlwind it was when we first met. The Honeymoon period, as they call it, always ends. That doesn’t mean that romance and, excuse the term, warm fuzzies have to end. My husband “Carl” and I keep the fires burning by recognizing that the dizzy infatuation we felt when our love was new wouldn’t last forever. We also recognize the deeper, stronger connection we have now. Deep enough to gross out our son. Strong enough to make my friends roll their eyes when I start talking about my husband.
Here are some tips below to give you the tools to tend your own love garden.
Make time for each other. This is a gimme. But I’m not talking sitting on the couch shushing each other while you catch up on your DVR recordings of Hell’s Kitchen. Make sure it’s quality time, time during which your attentions are not divided. No iPads, iPhones, Kindles, etc., allowed. Maybe get out of the house and do something neither of you have ever done before, so that you are on the same level and learning together. My husband and I signed up to receive emails from Living Social and Groupon that offer coupons for activities we would never dream of undertaking (let alone ever dream of paying full price for). For Valentine’s Day we went to a Shooting Gallery and shot automatic rifles. It may or may not surprise our friends and family to learn that was a first for both of us.
Another side of the ‘Make Time’ coin is to be sure to make time for yourselves separately as well. People use phrases like ‘two peas in a pod’ or ‘better half’ but the fact of the matter is, we don’t fall in love with half a person, we fall in love with a complete person. If you lose your identities in giving in to the false romanticism of a co-dependent relationship, you will lay the foundation for resentment and dissatisfaction. You need to spend time apart to keep yourself whole. Spend some time with friends, particularly friends who knew you before you were one half of a happy couple.
Appreciate The Differences
The number one reason there is no such thing as a perfect couple is that there is no such thing as a perfect person. We all have flaws, and our partner’s flaws will likely manifest as ‘differences.’ Appreciate those differences. Often, if a couple seems perfect, it’s because it so happens that each of their imperfections complement the other’s. From the most banal example (one is a crummy cook, but is a neat freak and is great about cleaning up after the other cooks dinner and makes a huge mess) to one that has more weight (one partner has a hard time sharing his or her feelings, but the other has the talent of listening without judgment, thus helping the other open up), it’s our differences that make us unique and help us connect with others.
This may also seem obvious, but communication is actually a skill. When there is a problem, don’t let it simmer and smolder. Part of communication is being honest. That means no passive aggressive stuff. I had a friend recently tell me that she was getting sick of her husband leaving his potato chips out on the coffee table. Her response, rather than to ask him to put them away, was to crush every chip in the bag. Not only is that poor communication, it’s a waste of good potato chips. I would have suggested she put them away the first few times and mention it to him if it continues. Not everything has to be a power struggle. If you can be open and honest in your communication, and show trust and respect for the other person, then you have won the battle.
Another skill of communication is accepting that some problems cannot be solved. This is what they call ‘agreeing to disagree.’ Recognize that part of the beauty of a relationship is the fact that you will not always see eye to eye on things, and often won’t be able to change the view of your partner. I have to roll my eyes a little when I hear the phrase ‘love conquers all.’ In a way, it’s true, but they should give some credit to ‘respect.’ If love conquers all, it must be true love, the kind that’s built on respect. You can disagree with your partner, as long as you respect him or her, and vice versa.
Speaking Of Respect
Respect your partner and don’t take him or her for granted. Make a conscious decision to be in love, and make a conscious decision to show your partner that you are in love. By that same token, take care of yourself. It’s hard to love and respect someone else if you don’t first love and respect yourself. In fact, I will venture to say it’s impossible. Not to mention the fact that a healthy physical relationship is a cornerstone of any happy couple. If you feel sexy and strong, you’ll exude an attractive confidence and raise the bar for your partner as well. I know! This sounds like a lot of work on your part, but these actions will not only put you in the ‘happy couple’ mindset, they will be contagious. Your efforts will be reciprocated.
Every relationship goes through phases, but if you can keep yourself in the attitude of give and take, respecting differences, and recall all the things that made you fall in love with your partner in the first place, you will go far toward reaching that happy couple status. Having a good relationship with yourself is a good starting point, and can only enhance the strength and longevity of your partnership.
While ‘perfect couples’ are for fairy tales and Anne Hathaway movies, ‘happy couples’ exist right here in real life.