Happy Couples – how to keep your relationship happy every day (not just on Valentine’s) January 31, 2019 – Posted in: Advice, Personal Development, Relationships – Tags: couples, gratitude, happiness, kindness, laugh, listen, love, relationships, Valentine
Valentine’s Day is marketed to us as a ‘day for lovers’ and, of course, in some ways it is. It’s a day to maybe put extra thought into your primary relationship and make more effort to show your special person just how much they mean to you. But, I would argue that every day is a day for lovers because actively loving your partner (and yourself) is the key to keeping your relationship happy every day. I would also argue that the whole point of life is to love (ourselves, our world, our children, our friends, the strangers we meet, our partners, our parents etc) so the more loving we do, the more we are living!
I’ve experienced Valentine’s Day in several different relationship states – I’ve been in an okay relationship, an unhappy relationship, a long term single, and I’m now in the most wonderful relationship with a beautiful man. When I was single, which I was for six-years after the breakdown of my marriage, I learned what it took to actively love and accept myself, which was the very best training ground for loving my partner today. Active love means asking yourself what the object of your love needs, and finding ways to try and achieve this. As a singleton, this meant finding time for myself (I had three young daughters and a job so this was no mean feat), accepting my limitations, celebrating my small successes, talking to someone about how I felt and, crucially, learning to manage the critic in my head (about which I then wrote a book because it was so life changing).
In fact, learning to really love myself meant that by the time I met my partner, I had reached a state of happy acceptance of my singleness. I knew it was not my partner’s job to fix me or make me happy (that was my job!). It was, however, our joint job to nourish and tend to the amazing relationship we now found ourselves in and we continue to do this by actively loving each other and putting each other’s needs top of our lists (when the children don’t get in theirs first!).
Love is a gift that comes along when we least expect it. Love cannot be manufactured but when it lands in your life it’s your job to keep it alive and well by being loving! Love is a gift that feeds on itself – it needs love to stay alive. So get busy loving and I reckon you’ll find that every day could feel like Valentine’s Day (maybe without the tacky roses and overpriced chocolates though…)
My top five tips for maintaining relationship happiness are:
#01 Be grateful
I literally pinch myself daily that I get to experience the kind of love I have with my partner. I’m so grateful for him – his kindness, his sexy smile, his love for me, the way he loves my daughters, his loyalty, his sense of humour. I am grateful for everything that is uniquely him and I am grateful for this incredible experience of true love. I know what it is to struggle in an ailing relationship and I know the loneliness of early singleness (before acceptance arrived.) I know that the love we have is pure magic and if it ended tomorrow I know I’d be grateful for having experienced it. This ‘attitude of gratitude’ makes me focus on all that is right about my life and my love. It doesn’t mean I don’t talk about the tricky stuff – we always do – but my frame is always one of happy gratitude.
#02 Be kind and loving
My man and I are always finding little ways to show loving kindnesses to each other. Why? Because it makes us feel lovely to give them and lovely to receive them. I always open the side gate to our home and put the outside lights on for him in winter so he doesn’t have to fumble in the dark for his keys when he gets home on his bike. He makes me breakfast in bed every weekend. We text to see how each other is doing throughout the day. He checks the tyres and brakes on my bike for me. I make sure we always have his favourite tea in the house. We call each other ‘babe’ and ‘darling’. These are not big things but are little daily/weekly acts of positivity and love that keep the relationship alive.
#03 Deal with your own stuff and don’t stop being you!
I think the NUMBER ONE key to successful, happy relationships is learning to manage your own stuff and not expecting your partner to fix you. We often seek healing from our childhoods in our intimate relationships but our partners can’t do this for us. So, if you feel unhappy and keep pointing the finger of blame at your partner, remember there are three fingers pointing back at you, so get some psychological help to deal with your stuff. On the flip side, lots of people lose their identity in their relationship – this is love-suicide because your partner loses the person they first fell in love with (and you lose yourself!). So, please keep being you and doing all the things you did before you fell in love!
We each have two ears and one mouth – using them in proportion is good for all relationships. Show your partner you are listening to them by making eye contact, repeating back to them what they’ve just said, touching them (to show support) and nodding. Don’t give advice unless they ask for it – often people just want to be heard. Allowing your partner a safe space to talk about things as they crop up builds trust, enables you both to be honest and open, and allows for vulnerability to grow, which is the magic ingredient necessary for any form of true intimacy.
Laughing with your partner is an amazing experience! Lots of couples giggle together frequently but if you don’t, or this part of your relationship has died, then find ways to laugh together again – maybe watch a comedy box set together, or go to a comedy night or (better still) try something new in the bedroom (that’ll likely get you both giggling!). Laughing together is another way to build and maintain intimacy.
The above list is not exclusive – loyalty, great sex, trust, honesty, and courage are also hugely important in keeping your relationship happy. Oh, and if you’re single and reading this – do something wonderfully loving for yourself around Valentine’s – you absolutely do not have to be in a relationship to love and feel loved!
This article was originally written for Living Quietly Magazine, February 2019