Wifeys & Gentlemen,
Fourth of July weekend makes me feel like summer is really here…and I always love/hate this time of year for a handful of reasons. I really love the sense of freedom that comes with warm weather. Kids are out of school, vacations are being planned, BBQ invites are being sent, and the likelihood that I’ll get to be near a body of water at some point in the next few months goes up tremendously. However, being the cold-blooded lizard that I am (hehe), I cannot stand the heat! Anyone who knows me (even casually) knows how much I detest warm weather and sunshine. I promise I’m not actually a lizard, nor am I just a sad and cynical human being. But, I mean, heat is…hot! It’s sticky, it’s gross, it makes me sweaty and smelly, it causes sunburn and squinty eyes, it makes my steering wheel and seatbelt burn to the touch, and keeps the upper level of my apartment complex balmy and miserable! When you break it down, heat is uncomfortable and can play a role in causing stress, fueling irritability, and making seemingly simple tasks that much harder to accomplish.
If you hadn’t’ guessed by now, dwelling on this notion of stress-inducing heat has actually made me think about the “heat” we experience in our romantic relationships. (See? See what I did there? It was a stretch, but I found a connection! Ha!) I’m not, in this case, talking about the sexy kind of heat, but instead, the friction and tension that, at some point, creeps its way into any romance (even the really good ones). I know we’ve talked in the past about how communication is key when struggling in a relationship, and that, my loves is as true now as it has ever been. However, for this post, I wanted to focus on something a little bit different; habits that each one of us can adopt TODAY that can drastically turn our relationship stresses into relationship successes.
Don’t believe me?
Well what if I told you that, sometimes, the best and most effective way to get your relationship to change begins with YOU?! Isn’t that exciting? No, I’m not being sarcastic and here’s why: sometimes, the idea of a relationship is better in theory than execution. Ask any successful couple (married or not) and I’m sure if they were being 100% honest with themselves and each other, both parties would say that while they love their S/O and wouldn’t want to leave them, there are moments when they miss having to only worry about themselves. This isn’t a bad or negative thing. It’s a part of being a human.
Be real, my loves! Sometimes you don’t want to compromise. Sometimes you don’t want to share your food. Sometimes you don’t want to wait to watch the next episode of Scandal or Game of Thrones. Sometimes you wish they could get through 1 load of laundry without shrinking your t-shirts! Whatever the case may be, while there is ALWAYS something to be said for communication, compromise, and a general willingness to do the work it takes to keep a happy relationship happy, I think we often forget that sometimes, the best way to find the answers you’re looking for is to look within.
I spent some time compiling a list of a few things you can do right now, on your own, without consulting your partner or talking it out, that can have a real impact on easing the tension or irritation in your relationship! Shall we?
1) Restate and Reclaim your Individual Identity
I had to put this one first because, for me, it is the most important and sometimes the hardest to do. Now, there might be a few people who disagree with this, but my personal experience and observation has taught me that the moment you begin to remember that you are a person with a whole life and existence outside of your relationship, the happier and more giving you can be with your partner.
Have you ever met someone who got into a relationship and couldn’t stop saying “we” instead of I?
“We really loved that movie!”
“We’re trying not to eat red meat”
“We don’t believe in capital punishment”
While there isn’t anything inherently wrong with this (my fiancée and I have done it many times), if you find yourself constantly saying “we” at times when your own thoughts and opinions could be individually expressed, you might need to take a moment to consider how much time you spend in “we” mode and how much time you spend on you?
Before anyone gets the wrong idea, I am not at all suggesting that everyone in a relationship needs to start acting like they’re single again! I’m not even suggesting that you need to spend less time with your partner or start making sudden choices without considering them! However, what I am saying is that you should remember to always think of yourself as a person in a relationship and not begin to identify as a person whose most defining quality is who he/she is to someone else.
Psychology tells us that when we begin to over-attach our identity into our significant others’, our minds begin to raise our expectations of them in an unhealthy way. We can become more controlling, aggressive, overbearing, and reactive as we start resenting our partners for falling short of who we ourselves want to be. That’s extremely unfair, and there is nothing your partner would be able to do to fix it. Strive to be yourself. Give your own opinions (even if they are similar to your partners) sometimes. Get a hobby of your own. Meditate on your personal growth. Start small by adopting language that is more “you” focused when necessary.
Trust me on this. I have spent the better part of my life on the wrong side of this equation, and the moment I decided to stop, I found my soul mate (who is also very decidedly his own, wonderful person). It works. & it helps when you encounter tougher times.
2) Do Things By Yourself
I really did mean it when I said that this doesn’t mean you need to spend less time with your partner, but you are doing yourself a real disservice if you believe that being in a committed relationship means that you should never spend time apart or do things by yourself.
My fiancée really loves baseball. I don’t.
I really love binge watching TV shows. He doesn’t.
Most Sunday’s after the house has been cleaned and the grocery shopping/laundry is all done, he spends several hours in the living room reading history curriculums, singing karaoke, and/or watching ESPN and I focus on the meal prep for the week while singing along to my favorite albums or watching an episode of Archer for the 100th time (seriously, one of the greatest shows EVER…did you guys see the season finale? OMG!). The point is, since we realized a long time ago that we love each other but don’t always enjoy doing the same things, we take time (almost weekly) to do things on our own.
The beauty? There is no need to feel obligated to do this or make time in your schedule to separate and be alone. Healthy relationships tend to have this happen naturally and in a variety of ways. Maybe you guys have separate groups of friends and spend time with them independently? Maybe you workout or go to the gym at different times during the week? Maybe it’s something as simple as being in separate rooms doing separate activities? Either way, having separate jobs isn’t enough; sometimes we really need to do things by ourselves.
So that we can remember the importance of point #1; we can have the time and space needed to focus on our own identities and do the things that make us unique and amazing despite our relationships. We can emerge from alone time as better partners.
3) Over Communicate Without Being Snide or Condescending
See? Communication still made it in here! It’s just THAT important ;-).
Wifeys/Gents, never ever assume that your partner can read your mind or automatically know what they should/shouldn’t do, even if it seems really obvious to you. So often, couples get intensely frustrated with each other because they believe that they only need to communicate when there is a problem and that really isn’t the case. If you send your partner out to pick up dinner and you’d also like a drink, say so! Even if you always grab him/her a drink whenever you pick up the take out, even if he or she has gotten you a drink every other time before, if it matters to you, ask!
I know that’s a silly example, but you might be surprised at how often little things like this can cause huge arguments and breed resentment between couples. The next thing you know, what was supposed to be a nice dinner at home has turned into an epic battle of “why don’t you love me enough to know that I wanted a cola with my meal?” (real talk, I’ve actually had that fight and it ain’t pretty).
By choosing to assume that your partner cannot read your mind, you are choosing to build trust and eliminate confusion between you. Even the most in sync, long term couples must remember to clarify the little things from time to time. This is a sign of a healthy partnership where everyone’s wishes are both clearly stated and respected.
*and don’t be a jerk about it either!
4) Pick. Your. Battles.
I want to be clear here, because it would absolutely kill me to know that someone could read this point and think they are doing the “right thing” by hiding how they really feel or suppressing the urge to react if something is upsetting them. However, please remember that you do not have to fight about everything. Think of your S/O as you would one of your best friends. You might not be scared to tell your bff when they’re acting crazy or when they’ve hurt your feelings, but you aren’t going to pick at every little thing they say or choice they make, even if you don’t agree with it, right?
Why do we do this to our partners? Please understand, I am not trying to suggest that you should try to overlook the “little things” or try letting go of something that is annoying or uncomfortable. A million “little things” can very quickly develop into one giant thing that explodes into a huge mess! But please do try to give the same understanding and consideration to your partner as you do to friends and family. If you don’t always have to argue with your mom and dad when they say something silly or forget something, you certainly don’t have to constantly battle with your S/O. Stand up when it’s time and keep an open mind as often as possible, aim to understand instead of preparing to fight.
5) Intentionally Learn Something New As Often As You Can
If you want to connect with your partner and get to know him/her in a way that no one else does, take advantage of your position and learn! Have you ever asked your S/O what their thoughts are on politics? What about really hot button issues like abortion? Capital punishment? If you’re dating someone of the opposite sex, have you ever asked them to give you a male/female perspective on something you’ve seen or experienced? Do you ask them about their childhood memories? Do you know what scares them? Do you know what motivates them? Guilty pleasures? Embarrassing secrets?
Sometimes, couples make the mistake of forgetting to get to know the person they are with. Moreover, they forget that this person, over the course of several years, will grow, change, and develop new opinions and ideas over time. Make sure your partner is someone who you always want to know more about. It is 100% within your control to choose to learn new things about him or her whenever possible and these things do not have to be life altering or monumental.
Ask yourself honestly: when was the last time you and your S/O spent hours just sitting on the couch or laying in bed and talking about whatever comes to mind?
Try it out if it’s been a while. You’ll be pleasantly surprised what you find (I hope).
I know that sometimes with these posts, it might seem like I am telling you to fix your relationship in 5-10 simple steps! While I know that it can often take more than that, I really want you all to remember that a lot of the problems you are facing right now are, ultimately, self-created. Many of the negative experiences we encounter can be seen very differently if we change our perspective or choose to adopt a mentality of personal reflection and a commitment to control only the things that are within our ability to control.
Will these 5 steps be the key to saving or improving your relationship? I can’t say.
But I can promise that, as far as I know, no relationship has ever crashed and burned because the people in it decided to love themselves as much as each other, pick their battles, and remain curious about each others thoughts and dreams.
Until Next time,
Carry on wifeys!