Five tips to help you enjoy a healthier, happier relationship
Looking for tips on how to enjoy a happier, healthier relationship? Here are five you can try.
Whether you have been dating for a few months or married for decades, relationships can be hard work. There is no relationship that is consistently healthy and happy. But just because things don’t quite seem perfect right now, that doesn’t mean you have to end things.
Relationships can (and should) end when they are toxic or abusive. So this isn’t a guide on how to make a bad relationship good. Instead, this is a guide for establishing and maintaining a healthy relationship.
This can be difficult for people who have never been around healthy relationships before. And society has a lot of ideas around relationships that are definitely not healthy. (Looking at you, women’s magazines.)
So, here are some of the best ways to consciously engage in a healthy and loving relationship.
This is quite possibly the most important way to maintain a healthy relationship. But it is also the one which is most often forgotten. Most of us will have watched a rom-com and wanted to shout at the screen when a misunderstanding occurs that could have easily been avoided if the couple just spoke to each other.
This is how someone watching most relationships would also feel. Expressing your emotions and real, deep thoughts can be difficult and overwhelming. For some people, whether they want to tell you how much they love you or how much you have hurt them, find that words just stick in their throat.
So communication isn’t as easy as we might think (or wish) it is. One way to get through this is to intentionally sit down to have conversations. If your partner has upset you, don’t bring up the problem while they’re cooking dinner. Ask them to step aside from any distractions. And have a proper conversation. Good communication requires calmly expressing your thoughts. You need to choose your words carefully. But you also need to listen carefully to their responses. Don’t interrupt one another. And don’t say anything that you don’t really mean, no matter how upset you are.
If this still seems too difficult, try finding some communication exercises for couples. These will present you with a guide for having honest and open conversations with your partner. While most of us learn to speak from a very young age, communicating properly is a skill. Not everyone has good conversational skills. So even if they want to have an open conversation, they just might not have the ability.
2) Take time to think
If you become angry or your partner has upset you, the natural reaction is to instantly tell them. But this isn’t always helpful. And it likely won’t result in the answers and healing that you want and need.
If your partner has upset you, then remove yourself from the situation. Tell them that you want to be alone for a little while to think. If they trust you and respect your boundaries, they will accept this as a sensible reaction. If they do not accept this and follow you, then they are potentially trying to start a fight. Which is not a healthy way to react to a disagreement.
Once you are alone, try to work out exactly what you’re feeling and why. This will allow you to openly and honestly communicate with your partner. As mentioned before, communication is incredibly important for a healthy relationship. But heading straight into a serious conversation before considering exactly what you want to get across is not helpful.
Sometimes, especially when we are upset, our thoughts can become confused and difficult to unravel. One way to help you organize your thoughts is through journaling. Write down what you’re feeling and thinking. (And don’t worry about how good the writing is.) Just start and see what comes up. You might surprise yourself and find an underlying reason for why you are upset. Or realize that your partner’s words or actions have triggered something within you.
But, it’s also important to remember that becoming upset is natural. And while it’s not useful to shout or act in an irritated way with your partner, sometimes you just can’t stop yourself. So don’t be hard on yourself if this happens. Just remove yourself from the situation and try to calm yourself down. Once you are calm and more sure of your thoughts and feelings, then you can return to your partner and have an honest conversation.
3) Acknowledge your own behavior
Sometimes, especially when we’re stressed, overworked, or tired (or a combination of all three), we aren’t the best partners. So it’s important to be conscious of our own behavior. And acknowledge when it can affect our partner and our shared life.
So while you cannot be blamed for the stresses life puts on you, it’s important not to pass them onto the people in your life. Journaling, therapy, yoga, meditation, or anything that centers and calms you can help with that.
Taking a moment to acknowledge your own behavior is important. Especially if your partner struggles to express themselves or is a passive person. Even in the most open and loving relationships, it can be difficult for some people to open up.
So, noticing when you are being distant or unsupportive is important. And when you notice, go to your partner and try to rectify the situation. It can be something they have been concerned about for a while. But haven’t been able to talk about it. You don’t have to go up to them and give a huge apology. But just suggesting to spend some quality time together can go a long way.
Suggest a date night or bring home their favorite food on a random evening. This will remind them that you care about them and are thinking of them often. Especially if you’re struggling to find time to spend with them. If you have a big project coming up at work, even just a few moments together can help. It will remind them that there is nothing wrong with them or your relationship. And that this period of time is temporary.
4) Remember that honesty is the best policy
Some magazines and relationship columns weirdly suggest telling white lies in a relationship. Or just telling your partner “what they want to hear”. This can work for a short while. But it is only a superficial solution to paint over the cracks. It definitely isn’t the best option for a healthy relationship.
If your partner has upset you or isn’t doing something that you need them to, then tell them. You don’t need to start an argument or criticize them. But simply saying what you feel can help. Otherwise, you will build up a resentment that isn’t necessary. And will do more harm than good in the long run.
If the issue is serious, then being honest can mean suggesting couples counselling. This can help you work through issues with an objective third party. Couples counselling doesn’t have to be for couples who are on the brink of splitting up. Lots of couples suggest it as a way of maintaining a healthy relationship.
Just as many people regularly attend individual therapy sessions. It’s useful to go in and have a check-up every now and again. But, this isn’t financially possible for many people. So regularly checking in on yourself and each other is very important.
Sometimes, conversations can be more difficult than dividing up the housework or grocery bill. But they still need to be addressed. It will be difficult, but it’s important to have those tough conversations. And it’s best to have them early on.
It’s useful to consider problems within your relationship like wounds. It’s best to treat them as soon as possible. With the healthiest and most direct tools. If you do not, they will fester, become deeper, and more difficult to treat. The wound won’t go away if you ignore it. So, the sooner you acknowledge a problem and attempt to treat it, the sooner it will heal and you can move on.
5) Always be patient
It’s important to remember that your partner is a separate individual with their own internal world. They are just as emotional and complex as you are. So, whenever they do something which irritates you, just remember that they might have something going on.
This doesn’t mean that you have to put up with disrespectful, rude, or abusive behavior. You are not responsible for their behavior, nor is it your role to help them through a bad time if they are taking it out on you.
But there may be times when you feel that your partner is being distant. Or not interacting with you in the same way. When this happens, check in with them. They might not realize that their behavior has changed or affected you. It can sometimes be difficult to notice when we have changed within ourselves. But it can be obvious to other people.
Your partner might be struggling with their mental health, might be overwhelmed with work, or just need some space. Be patient with them and respect their needs. Remember that you need to support your partner as much as they need to support you.
In some relationships, people can entirely drain themselves to support someone else. Only to receive no support in return. This is not a healthy relationship.
How can you improve your communication with your partner?
Overall, the best way to establish and maintain a healthy relationship is through communication. This needs to be honest, open, and patient. But also kind and understanding. Not every honest conversation needs to be “brutally” honest.
Good communication doesn’t mean just telling your partner the things you dislike about them. That is cruel and unnecessary. So it’s not constructive to tell your partner that you think their hair is too long or that you want them to dress better.
But sitting down to tell your partner when you have been upset by them and want to resolve it is important. At the same time, you need to be open to listen and engage with their responses. You also need to be conscious of your own behavior. And consider how your actions can affect your partner.
However, with all that said, it’s important to know when to step away. Not every relationship can be saved. And if your partner isn’t willing to be as patient, kind, and communicative as you, then it might be time to reconsider.
You should not work to maintain a relationship with another person if it is at the expense of a healthy relationship with yourself.