Any relationship, big or small, can benefit from a little maintenance. Sarah Frost offers five little ways we can keep our love lives in check.
Relationships are hard work.
I get it, that’s not really news for anyone over the age of 18 that’s been involved in at least a semi-serious dating type of thing. Relationships are one part fate and three parts work.
I don’t mean that in a fatalist, life is hard and let’s be alone forever kind of way. Certainly not—because the payoffs far exceed the work.
I just mean sometimes they’re rough. But there are a few things to remember that will help.
1. Make sure you’re with someone you want to be with.
The key to maintaining a healthy relationship—the core at least—is to be with someone you actually enjoy dating. I’m not talking in the way that you think they’re kind of okay and like hanging out with them.
Be intentional with who you spend your time with—be with someone who takes your breath away. Not every moment of every day, but find someone who does it regularly. Keep them around, because a connection like that isn’t the rule, it’s the exception.
So many disagreements stem from us not listening to our partners—desires, needs, feelings… all of it. What happens when we don’t listen is the other person gets defensive. They wonder why their partner won’t listen to something that’s important and then the arguments start.
Generally, these fights stem from something that could’ve been avoided just by listening to what someone else was saying. Take a minute to absorb what’s being said, rather than what you’re hearing. By the way, pro tip for you: the easiest way to extend an argument much longer than you wish to be in argument is to spend your time thinking about what you’re going to say next.
3. Find their love language—speak that sometimes, instead of yours all the time.
We all have different love languages that we speak, and others that we enjoy receiving. I like giving gifts and using words of affirmation. Those are what I speak, but I wouldn’t say either one of those are what I want to receive from a partner.
Gifts and words of affirmation may not be what my partner desires either. Learn their language. Make your own combination of both if you want—just realize the way you express love and gratitude may be completely different than the person you’re sharing your time with, and that’s okay.
4. Find hobbies.
Yes, find hobbies that you can do with your partner. Ideally, before you entered into a relationship you would know what many of these are. Common interests are important in maintaining something that’s healthy and lasting. Find things to do together—go hiking in the spring, train for a marathon… hell, make mozzarella together if that’s something you’re both interested in. Spend time together doing things other than the monotony of life.
But also find your own hobbies. One of the ways relationships can become toxic is they get a little suffocating. In these situations, we forget our own separate lives. Someone a long time ago came up with the idea that in a relationship, two people turned into one person. I’ve never completely understood that—keep your own hobbies. Dream your own dreams as big as you can. Have a life together, but keep your own, as well. We all need time apart.
5. Be willing to work.
This one is a case-by-case type of thing, but be willing to work at your relationship. Work manifests itself in different ways throughout our lives; sometimes it will be when our partner works too much and we don’t get to see them enough. Other times they’ll be upset about bills. Sometimes you might feel less than loved for one reason or another.
It’s work to keep going in those situations, but if you’re with someone you want to be with—someone who takes your breath away and makes your heart beat a little faster—you’ll engage the challenge, rather than run away from it. Because the work is always worth it.
[image: via Ariadna Bruna on flickr]