As a couples counselor and affair recovery expert, I’ve learned a great deal about what it takes to make a relationship or marriage work. One thing I’ve discovered is that while you have to work hard at a relationship a lot of couples have no idea how to do that or what it looks like. There are things that can be done that seem fairly easy, yet couples have a really hard time following through on them. It can be complicated to figure out why it is difficult, but sometimes you just have to take a risk and do them.
Make Your Relationship a Priority
In today’s hectic world, it’s important to keep your eye on the prize, which, in the case of relationship and marriage, is your partner. It’s very easy to let work, kids and other obligations distract you from the reason the two of you got together in the first place; to be together. So, whether it’s creating little rituals, like always going to bed or getting up together, having a regular date night or doing a lunchtime check-in every day, it’s important to make an effort to keep your relationship in front of you as the number one priority in your life.
Experts say you need approximately 15 hours of alone time as a couple. This time, I have found, should be spent outside of the house engaging in conversations that connects you, doing things together such as walking or even shopping, sexual intimacy and touch that doesn’t necessarily lead to sex.
It’s About Cooperation
One of the things I see when I work with couples is a failure to cooperate. This can be even more detrimental to a relationship than a failure to communicate. Competition between partners can lead to games of one-upmanship—or, worse, one-downmanship—resentment, passive-aggression and a whole host of other sneaky little problems that wear away the foundation of a relationship. This can create a climate where one of the partners may end up feeling the need to compromise, which means someone is giving something up, feeding the cycle of resentment and hurt feelings. When couples cooperate, everybody gets at least some version of what they want and no one feels put out, or left out.
Speaking of Communication
There are a lot of reasons we don’t talk to each other, from anxiety to self-doubt. On the other hand, a failure to communicate can be a challenge, because there is almost nothing more important than clear, direct communication in a relationship. Rather than leaving conflicts and concerns to fester, it’s much more productive to put things on the table. This isn’t always easy or comfortable, but talking things through, without shaming or finger-pointing, keeps minor clashes from turning into major battles.
One of the most important ways you can be good for your partner is to be good to yourself, and that means making sure your needs are getting met. It’s easy to lose sight of ourselves in every day details. Check in with yourself and ask if your partner is emotionally available to you. Are all the things you need to be in place for you to feel fulfilled in your relationship there for you? If not, what do the two of you need to change to get where you both want to be?
There are three parts to every relationship: you, your partner and the relationship. Paying attention to the simple things will keep you connected and help your relationship thrive.