It’s Valentine’s Day, love is in the air and it’s easy to be swept away by the romance—the candlelit dinner, the bunch of fresh blooms, the softly playing music—the “pinkness” of it all. But love has many colours, including some deep and dark hues, so it can also be timely to ask: What does it take to make a relationship work?
Sarah Rozenthuler author of Life-Changing Conversations, 7 strategies for Talking about What Matters Most, says that our intimate interactions with our beloved can be a source of great joy—and immense stress—in our lives. Whether you want to rekindle some of the magic, heal some hurt or deepen your joy, here are Sarah’s ten top tips for a happy and harmonious relationship.
1. Put that phone away
Give your partner some quality time by having a “media break”. Switch off the TV, put down your phone and turn off your tablet. Make your beloved the object of your attention rather than checking your emails. Even if it’s only for 10 minutes, take time to listen to what your partner has to say and then reflect back what you’ve heard.Resist the temptation to interrupt. Let them finish their sentence. Listening receptively is a powerful aphrodisiac that can soften the hardest of hearts.
2. Create a shared vision
A long-lasting relationship is all about standing shoulder-to-shoulder, facing the same direction. When a relationship ends, the most painful part is often the loss of shared dreams.To strengthen your bond, create a “vision board” together. Recycle your old magazines by cutting out inspiring images and use these to create a collage. Place it where you can both see it every day so that you consciously “call in” what you want as a couple.
3. Spice up your sex life
If the physical side of your relationship has become routine, take a risk and do something different. Go to a sex shop together, do a tantra workshop or join the mile high club.If you’re stuck for ideas, ask your partner for a memory of some great sex they had (with you!) and see what you can learn to re-create some of that excitement. It might be making love in front of an open fire, having sex in the kitchen or taking time to massage each other. Savour the specialness of this side of your relationship.
4. Monitor your mood
Be aware that partners are susceptible to absorbing each other’s moods. This can be great when one of you has had a good day but it can be a real downer when one person’s bad day at the office contaminates you both.To combat the contagious effects of negativity, develop some strategies for shifting state when you’re down in the dumps. Take a five minute walk round the block, sit and watch the sun go down or enjoy taking in the scent of some fresh flowers. Each of you needs to take responsibility for your own state of being so that your moods become mutually enriching.
5. Have some fun
A relationship can be hard work as you each try to find ways to accommodate the other’s needs, wants and desires. Differences of opinion can cause tension and unresolved conflicts can lead to contempt.To counterbalance the heavy lifting, make a mutual commitment to spend time together doing things that you enjoy. Go to the cinema, take a dance class or plan your next holiday. Find things that bring a smile—or even better, some belly laughs—and agree to do these things regularly. Remember that when you fell in love, your inner child felt alive and well. Nurture that part of you and your relationship will reap the rewards.
6. Keep the romance
Cherish your partner by doing things that make them feel special. Treat them to something you know they’ll love whether it’s cooking their favourite meal, running a hot bath or playing their favourite track of music.As you go about your day, bookmark memorable moments in your mind to share with your partner when you next see them. It’s the kind of thing you probably did when your love was freshly minted, so bring some of that attentive energy into your relationship now.
7. Invest in your relationship skills
If your relationship has become riddled with tension, get some help. Identify what the core issue is and search out ways to deal with it. If, for example, you have a temper that is toxic to the relationship, book yourself onto an anger management workshop or at the very least read a book such as Beating Anger by Mike Fisher.Expand your communication skills by practising the tools contained in Creating the Love you Want by Harville Hendrix or in my own book, Life-Changing Conversations. Keeping the air clear and free of past resentments will do wonders for you both.
8. Have some “me” time
Although it may sound somewhat paradoxical, it’s important to spend time apart when you’re in coupleland. It’s a tragedy that many people lose themselves in a relationship and feel “less than” they were before—less attractive, less interesting, less fulfilled.To minimise the risk of this, take regular doses of your own company. Do whatever it takes to stay grounded in your own experience whether this is through going for a walk, writing your journal or listening to music. Some breathing space will invigorate your relationship, not least because you’ll have things to share with your partner.
9. Decide how you decide
Many a relationship has suffered as a result of one individual making decisions without consulting their partner. It can leave the other person reeling, feeling that their opinion doesn’t matter. Any couple will benefit from having a conversation about how they make decisions together, for example, agreeing up front the sum of money above which a decision must be joint.For significant decisions, agree that you’ll both take time separately to consider the different options and then share your thoughts. Moving from “me” to “we” in this way maximises the likelihood that you’ll reach decisions that take into account each person’s perspective. Finding practical ways of integrating both individual’s needs is a key relationship skill.
10. See the bigger picture
Drop your expectations that your partner is there to make you happy. If you’re expecting them to provide you with something you haven’t brought into the relationship yourself, you may be making the biggest mistake of your life. Ask yourself how you can evolve into a bigger version of yourself without demanding anything of your partner.Place what is happening in your relationship into the larger context of how you are growing as an individual. Are you becoming more sensitive, more selfless or more savvy? Staying in touch with the bigger picture will stop you from retreating to your corner and enable you to create a life-enhancing relationship.
by Sarah Rozenthuler, Author of Life-Changing Conversations, www.sarahrozenthuler.com