After trial and error, you have finally found the one . . . the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. You are blissfully in love and enjoying every second of your courtship. You begin to plan every aspect of your lives together and possibly even a wedding. What else should you be doing at this time to give your relationship the best possible chances for a long life of successful companionship?
The Gottman Institute has presented us with some excellent suggestions for creating habits that will serve any long-term relationship well. Wise couples will be purposeful and thoughtful as they craft these habits and they will pay off big dividends.
- Communicate often. Check in with your SO daily. Life will get busy and often you may only have 10 minutes to sit down and talk, but do not skip this vital habit. In order to get the most out of this habit, you should be sitting down with your SO in a quiet place so they have your complete attention. Do not have your phone or other device in your hand. Look each other in the eye and check in with each other. Share parts of your day. Confide in each other.
- Listen to your partner. Often when we are talking with our SO, we are listening to respond. Instead, we should listen to understand. What is it that they are trying to share? How are they feeling? If your partner is telling you that they had a bad or upsetting day, offer to help them in a way that would lighten their load. Perhaps offer to cook dinner or usher them into the bathroom for a hot bubble bath while you do the dishes. These tender acts of kindness will be cherished and help to build intimacy.
- Practice proper hygiene and cleanliness. When you decide to share your life with someone that also means sharing your space with them. If you tend to be on the messy side, you need to make the conscious decision to improve. Practice putting your dirty clothes into a laundry basket. Rinse out the sink after you brush your teeth. Put your dishes into the dishwasher instead of placing them in the sink after you eat. Your SO will appreciate your thoughtfulness as you begin to share space together. These may seem like little things, but over time these can become real aggravations and cause tension.
- Laugh a lot. Find ways to cheer each other up by having a good laugh together. If your SO is having a rough day, make a joke or start a pillow fight. Find a fun comedy to watch or go out for some fun that will bring smiles to your faces. Laughter increases intimacy which will strengthen your relationship.
- Kiss and hug EVERY time you say hello and goodbye. Physical touch builds emotional connections. Do not fall into the destructive pattern of coming and going without spending a few moments with your SO expressing your affection through touch. Investing these minutes into your SO will help them feel connected to you in a significant way during the day.
- Know who you are. Do not stop improving yourself. Continue to grow and learn and set goals. Make sure you have clearly defined beliefs and values and that you have communicated these with your SO. You can do this by reading books, signing up for classes, learning a new hobby, or joining a community group. Don’t allow yourself to become stagnant or this will negatively affect your relationship with your SO.
- Have a life outside your relationship. While your SO should be your whole world, the world does exist outside of them as well. Take time for yourself. Go out with your friends. Stay committed to your work schedule. If you find yourself frequently calling in sick to work, even when you’re not, just to hang out with your SO this is a red flag—you may be developing a codependent relationship. Maintain your identity that is separate from your SO and your relationship will be healthier and happier.
- Have fun! Fun comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s important to take those vacations and weekend trips. However, it’s just as important to turn work into fun. When it’s time to do chores, find fun ways to do them. Create a playlist with your SO for cleaning the house. Host a monthly game night at your home and invite your friends. Don’t ever forget date night! These should happen on a weekly basis.
Relationships take work. If you proactively begin to cultivate these healthy habits at the beginning of your relationship, then you will be on the right track to get the most happiness and satisfaction out of your relationship. You will also weather the inevitable storms that come more effectively because you will have maintained the intimacy and trust necessary to navigate the trials that you will face.