Even the most fairytale-esque relationships take work. It’s just one of those facts of life. Here are some hacks to ease your workload just a bit—the sentimental and the practical.
This one is especially great for those of you who might have a bit of a problem listening to your significant other about things that may not seem entirely significant to you. There’s an easy fix though.
Keep a small notebook, secret from partner, and keep little notes on them. Sounds a lot creepier than we intended, but this is actually a great idea! If they mention something they wanted to buy, a restaurant they want to go to, or a book they wanted to read, write it down. It’s important to jot down the dates too, and when the timing is right, ideally after some time has passed, get your significant other the trinket mentioned, or take them to that little café they wanted to try.
It might not seem like a lot, but it’s all about the little things in the end, isn’t it? This way, it’s clear that you’re invested enough in your relationship to pay attention and act on what you’ve learned.
Don’t Be Codependent
No matter what age you and your partner are, be sure that you’re both living your own lives apart from each other. Not only will remaining independent be an invaluable tool for you, in or out of a relationship, but it can also strengthen the bond you and your partner have.
Given the prevalence of sending our every thought via texting and Snapchat, it might be hard to resist giving your partner a running commentary about your day, but you want to leave something to talk about when you see each other in the flesh.
Couples counselor David Waters notes that getting comfortable spending time on your own can also help rejuvenate the energy you have towards your relationship, as “You will come back to the relationship refreshed, more able to express your needs (as you’re more likely to know what they are),” and that there’s nothing wrong with keeping a bit of mystery in your relationship.
Another idea is occasionally sleeping apart, but not just when you’re arguing. After all, absence does make the heart grow fonder and a bed to yourself might help improve your sleep schedule every once in a while.
This rule can help couples struggling with decision-making. The premise is this: someone picks five possible places to eat or five possible movies to go see, for instance. The other person in the relationship crosses off two options, and the one who made the initial list then crosses off another two.
In the end, you have one option which you both worked toward determining.
Remind Them of Who They Want to Be
Another thing that will have an incredible impact on your impact is making sure your gifts count. Rather than just buying something fancy or functional for your partner, consider getting them something they would never get for themselves, especially if it’s something they’ve wanted for a long time.
This can either be an object or an activity. Using that notebook we talked about earlier will help you think of things they really want, since they’re not asking for any specific reason, just talking about them in general. One individual shared an example a sketchbook she bought her boyfriend, “in which [she] wrote little ideas about what to sketch because he’s got the talent but doesn’t do anything about it.” It’s that attention to detail that takes a relationship from good to great.
Sure, life can get in the way of former aspirations, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help remind your partner now and again of what they once (or still) wanted. This too will show you really listen and care about what makes your partner happy.
Still, Accept Who They Are
It’s not abnormal to sometimes look the other way when it comes to your partner’s faults, but be careful not to keep them on a pedestal. As author Kate Figes says, “Expecting someone to be everything you need and everything you are not is a recipe for disaster.”
Psychotherapist and counselor (as well as author), Judy Ford notes that it’s easy to fall for someone who possesses the attributes we ourselves would like to have. She warns against this, as people then have a tendency to “develop the other person’s potential instead” of one’s own.
It’s like that saying goes: it’s not possible to be in a healthy relationship or love someone until you grow to love who you are as an individual, first.
Don’t Discount Their Family
If you’ve ever watched a family sitcom, then you know that the world of in-laws is a tricky one.
Rather than letting your partner’s family believe you’re going to steal her or him away though, Cosmopolitan veteran Irma Kurtz suggests that you make an effort with special events, never give your partner an ultimatum that would result in picking you over family or vice versa, and don’t get involved when there are arguments among the family.
It isn’t just your partner you should make the effort with, but really trying to bond with the family—in a non-intrusive way—can make certain aspects of your relationship flow more smoothly.
As Kurtz points out, it also wouldn’t hurt to befriend an in-law who can not only serve as “your defender, if necessary … [but] can also fill in aspects of the past that may help you to understand your partner.”
Make the Effort, Even When It’s Hard
Speaking of making an effort, Ford offers an important reminder: when things outside of your relationship are going well, it’s easy to feel happy in the relationship too. It’s when things aren’t going so well that you really have to put in the effort to “[behave] lovingly.”
This also goes for arguing. Waters says that if you have to argue, make sure that you’re doing so in a healthy way, don’t “sneer, ridicule or talk down to [your] partner.”
He points out that typically, people who have really great relationships actually barely treat their partner in those ways, and that if you feel the desire to, there’s likely something else going on.
Another tip to keep in mind when arguing is that there are constructive ways to finish out an argument, which Ford refers to as “argument enders.” These can include turns of phrase such as, “I never thought of it that way,” or “I could have handled that better.”
She also suggests “intimacy builders,” which can include saying things like, “Help me understand,” or reassurances like, “We’ll figure it out.”
Work on Projects
Another way to get closer? Make something together. This can range from just about anything from a home cooked meal (you could always use an excuse to try Plated, after all) to a project (maybe building something from Pinterest or IKEA is more your style).
If you’re not really into making something though, there are still plenty of options for you! You and your partner can pick any activity to do together.
Whether that means taking your love of theater to the next level and going to a show every other week, or whether you have a shared interest in yoga and want to try your hand at different types of yoga classes—it’s something you can enjoy together that doesn’t revolve around responsibilities.
Without losing yourself, make sure to include your partner in the fun parts of your life as well. As Waters says, keeping things lighter can ease the journey, even the more trying times.
Fall in Love Everyday
Once you’re sure the person you’re with is the right person for you, it’s important to focus on making that person fall in love with you everyday. And the same goes for you—work on falling in love with your partner daily.
This doesn’t require a slew of grand gestures inspired by romantic comedies, but again, the little things tend to add up in a relationship.
Don’t Underestimate Date Night
One such way to accomplish this is to make sure that Date Night is a part of your weekly routine, even once you’re past the point of dating. Take it a step further by preparing for the night separately and put a real effort into dressing up for your S.O.
You can also plan for variety in the dates by staying in and going out. For instance, you can make it that every other date has to include leaving the house, where as the rest can just include relaxing at home.