In two weeks, my husband, Sean, and I will celebrate the ninth anniversary of our first date. This relationship has seen us through most of our 20s and now we are embarking on a new decade together. Although our relationship has endured many tests over the years, we have remained together. I attribute most of the early successes in our relationship to my husband and his ability to give me a reality check when necessary, but that is a separate blog. To keep the spark alive, it is important to try new things together. Communication is another big issue in relationships. Often times you get into power struggles with our partner(s) (et’s not forget about polyamory) rather than tell them what is really on your minds. Next is vulnerability. This is difficult for most people. There is a strong fear of rejection for what you are feeling or needing. Lastly, it is important to accept your significant other(s) for all that they are. No one is perfect, but through respect, you can learn to honor who a person is. In order to make a relationship work, it takes time and effort from everyone involved. By practicing the skills below, you and your partner(s) can work together to create a stable and healthy relationship.
Try New Things Whether that is taking a cooking class or going mountain climbing. When you try new things together, it helps to maintain the spark by creating new neural pathways in your brain between activities, your partner(s), and fun/excitement. The more of these pathways you develop, the more you will associate having fun to your significant other(s). This is one of our favorite things to do together. We make it a point to try something new at least once a month. Sometimes it is as simple as eating at a new restaurant and other times its a bit more adventurous like going on a vacation. Regardless of the experience, it is almost always a good time or something to laugh at later.
This reminds me of our first anniversary. We decided to go camping in the mountains in November. I was still new to Southern California, so I still thought it was 70° everywhere. I was so very wrong. We only lasted one night because it got down to the mid 40s and we were not equipped for that weather. So, we spent most of our time drinking boxed wine, playing cards in our tent.
Talk It Out Take the time to talk about your feelings, this keeps you both in up to date on what is going on in each other’s head/heart. So the next time one of you has a bad day at work or you two are fighting, it will be easier to say exactly what you mean rather than play mind games that hurt your relationship. Be open and honest with how you feel. This is much easier said than done. It can be hard to say “When you do X, it hurts my feelings.” But, this tells your partner what behaviors you aren’t comfortable with so they can better avoid hurting you in the future.
This has always been the hardest part of any relationship for me. On the day my husband and I decided to move in together, I was being moody and passive aggressive. Finally through pointed questions Sean was able to crack the code and I think I blurted out something along the lines of “I’m mad at you because I want your home and my home to be the same place!” He then said “Why didn’t you just tell me, we would have had a much better time at dinner if you weren’t so mad.” Communication is a constant learning experience and although some parts become second nature, others can take a while to catch onto.
Be Vulnerable This overlaps with communication. You have to be able to bare your true self when you are being open and honest with each other. Sharing your true feelings, knowing that there could be a possibility of rejection and being okay with that. The two of you will not always agree with each other, but its important to feel safe enough to share your thoughts and feelings without the fear of judgement.
Acceptance You are never going to like everything about a person, there will always be something that bugs you about one another. But, in order to keep the spark alive don’t dwell on the small quirks and don’t try to change your partner(s). Everyone has the right to be their own version of their authentic self. Over time it is natural to grow and change. These changes can help you to better accept your partner(s) as they are or it may bring about a shift in the behaviors that bothered you. Either way, recognize the beauty of imperfection and love your significant other(s) for exactly who they are.
Relationships are hard work and are full of ups and downs. For instance, sometimes you get into an argument over a sock pile and sometimes you sit silently is awe wondering how you got to be so lucky. It is important to let go of your ideals of what a relationship should look like and accept your significant other(s) for the beautiful soul(s) that they are. This isn’t to say you should tolerate constant disrespect. Use your judgement and honor your gut feelings if you feel that something is off. You deserve to be treated with the unconditional love and respect you give to your partner. Every relationship eventually goes through a rough patch. If you create a solid foundation and can lean on one another for help, you can make it through and be stronger than you were before.