It would be a perfect world if our relationship was always giggles and bubbles, but it’s also fairly unrealistic anywhere except Instagram. Relationships aren’t easy, but there are certain behaviors that can make or break your relationship without you even realising.
When you bring two fabulous individuals together with different personalities, big opinions, kooky or even kinky likes, there is bound to be some friction along the path to relationship nirvana. Sometimes our freaky behaviours can doom relationships that we would like to work.
By keeping in mind, and actioning, a few simple ideas you can help to make, not break, your relationship.
What you focus on is what you see
Using an MRI, biological anthropologist, Helen Fisher, studied brain-activity of people who had been deeply in love for between 10 and 25 years. She was interested to discover that the brain areas associated with intense romantic love still become active, even though they’d been together for such a long time.
What’s their secret to keeping the romance alive?
“They seem to have a blindness to their partner’s flaws. They see only the good stuff,” says Helen in her brilliant TEDTalk (see below.)
What you choose to focus on can make or break your relationship. If you spend your energy focusing on the positive aspects of your partner’s personality then you will feel more positively towards them. Likewise, if you focus on their crappy bits, they will become all you can see.
Being honest even when it’s crappy
Sometimes, we’re not entirely honest for fear of starting a fight. That short-term gain from not expressing our true feelings can cause long-term pain.
It’s best to be straight-up with your partner and even though it may be as pleasant as sand in your bum crack. Then, everything is out in the open and you can work out how to sort this stuff out together. Bottling feelings up can harbour resentment, and is scientifically proven* to cause gas.
(*may or may not be true)
It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it
Everyone knows that communication is crucial in every relationship, but if you spill every little thought you have it may be causing more damage than good.
“Research has shown that communication in a relationship that is high in criticism, defensiveness, contempt or stonewalling (AKA the silent treatment) is a highly accurate predictor of whether the relationship survives or ends. It’s important to take care of how you communicate,” says Clinton Power, relationship counsellor from Clinton Power + Associates.
If you flip out, get cranky and lose your cool, take a time out and come back to the discussion later.
Act like you’re interested in their stuff even if you don’t get it
Your main squeeze might be into breeding chinchillas or triathlons or both, but it’s important to listen and even participate even if you’re not a fan.
“Listening, paying attention or spending time together on an activity (even if you don’t particularly enjoy it) is a wonderful way to validate your partner,” says Clinton.
“This is a way of ‘turning towards’ your partner and helps you connect and build your intimacy. Think of it as making deposits in each other’s emotional bank accounts – you’re building goodwill and appreciation over time.”
No, dirtbag, we’re not talking about swinging from the chandeliers, although sharing those fantasies can be kinda hot. A new level of intimacy can be achieved in your relationship by sharing your hopes and dreams for the future.
“Developing a shared vision is important so you feel you’re on the same page and heading in the same direction in your shared life together. You can still have individual hopes, dreams and aspirations, but you do need some shared goals that give meaning to your relationship and your life,” says Clinton.
By sharing your fantasies about your life, you can both be assured you’re heading in the same direction and want the same things. You also gain deeper intimacy by sharing your deepest desires.
Getting ‘handsy’ in a non ‘can we shag?’ way
Holding hands as you go for a stroll is a sweet step towards intimacy. As is kissing hello and goodbye or simply sitting entwined on the couch. Touch is an important mechanism towards staying connected, and as such can make or break your relationship.
“Touch is essential so you remind each other in a non-verbal way you care. It’s also a nice way to stay tethered to one another so you feel safe and secure without having to state the fact,” says Clinton. “We are touched constantly as babies and as adults, touch is just as important for feeling connected, safe and loved.”
High-fiving each other’s triumphs
By celebrating your partner’s wins, you are letting them know that you are not only on their team, but also their biggest cheerleader.
When you high five their achievements, you provide encouragement and support that allows your partner to know that they are important in your life. How you react to their success can make or break your relationship in an instant.
Listen to your partner’s fancies for sexy time
Having open and honest communication around your sex life is imperative to a good relationship.
“If sex is important to your partner, it’s important to your relationship,” says relationship therapist and sexologist, Isiah McKimmie. “You and your partner may have different needs and desires, so it’s important to talk about it together – and discover a way to meet both your needs.”
Making time for intimacy
Research shows there are two things vital to a long-term passionate relationship: staying good friends and making sex a priority.
“We all have such busy lives these days, it’s easy for sex to fall off the agenda unless we make it a priority,” says McKimmie.
“Just like we schedule a regular date, it can be really helpful to schedule time for intimacy too. Perhaps that’s sending the kids off to Grandma for the night or simply turning off the TV and going to bed early one night.”
You can’t rely on someone else to make you happy. You need to be happy within yourself, and with your life, and any further love and joy you receive is like icing on the cake.
“Your happiness and confidence are so important to your relationship,” tells McKimmie.
“When we don’t feel good about ourselves we tend to be more reactive, take what our partner says personally and are more likely to have co-dependent relationships.”
We must learn to deeply love ourselves before we can love another. Our own happiness within ourselves can not only make or break our relationship, but also our lives.
Check out Dr. Helen Fisher’s awesome TED Talk about love and the brain below.