You want your relationship to work out as well as it possibly can, so you do things to nurture it and help it grow. Maybe you’ve been reading a million blog posts about how to keep her interest, or how to bring the spark back into the bedroom, or even considered taking a break from each other (yikes!).
Let’s face it: Love is a lot of hard work, and it can seem to get harder and harder the more time goes by. When the relationship is still fresh, it’s easy to do positive things together, and it’s easy to forget those things once things start to go a little stale.
But what if I told you the relationship only goes stale after you start neglecting those happy habits?
We’re going to go through a little list of the habits you should try to get in for the happiest relationship you can get. If you’re already doing most of these things – great! That’ll make it easier to pick up the last few. For those of you who aren’t doing these 12 things, it’s definitely a good time to start.
1. Fall into a routine – together.
It might seem counter-intuitive to establish a routine to break free of the staleness, but this one actually works because it’ll be something you’re doing together. If possible, try to make the routine something you do for one another – such as giving each other massages – or something that you can both do for yourselves, such as going for a morning jog.
While it feels great to do your own thing (and maintaining your independence while you’re in a relationship is absolutely essential), doing something small together, once or twice a day, helps reinforce the bond you have, by directing your attention to “couple time” on a daily basis. Dates are great – but if you want to give every day that Date Night Magic, you need to give each other focused attention more than just one or two nights per week.
2. Compliment one another – often.
When the relationship is still fresh, we often tell our partners exactly what we’re thinking of them at that exact moment – and usually, it’s a good thing. However, as our relationship inches closer to that Long-Term region, we forget to keep telling them the things we like about them.
It’s not even that our feelings about them have changed – in fact, that’s often why we stop telling them. We still feel the same way, so we don’t feel that we need to keep saying it. But, over time, our partner’s perception of how we feel about them is bound to change if we can’t reinforce the idea. This can be made worse with insecurities, but even the most secure and confident relationship could benefit from a quick “Good morning, gorgeous” (a personal favorite of mine).
3. Focus on cuddling during cuddle time.
Not everyone enjoys cuddling, and I can understand that. For a long time, I thought I wasn’t a cuddler – I was really bad at it! I’d snuggle up to my partner for a few minutes as we were starting to doze off, and then every morning I’d wake up on my own side of the bed, far away from her, and often facing the other way.
Realistically, though, your cuddling time doesn’t actually have to be cuddling in bed – a hug in the morning is a great sign of affection, too, and a six-second hug releases oxytocin, the bonding chemical in the brain. This is the same bonding chemical that’s produced during sex, cuddling, and childbirth. While a longer cuddle session will probably release more oxytocin, a few six-second hugs over the course of a day will still help keep a regular supply of oxytocin flowing through your brain.
4. Kiss each other goodbye, and goodnight.
When you kiss your partner goodbye before you leave the house, you’re reinforcing the idea that you’re still going to love her while you’re gone. While a healthy relationship doesn’t exactly need a daily reassurance that the love is unchanging, the more assured you are in your relationship, the happier you’re going to be.
When it comes to kissing goodnight, though, the reasons go even deeper than that. For the large majority of people, the last thing you think of before you go to bed is going to be the first thing you think of in the morning. Before I fall asleep, I make sure to write in my journal (so I can process the tough stuff overnight – it really works), repeat some positive affirmations to myself, and give my partner a kiss. In the morning, I’m less stressed, rejuvenated, and can’t help but smile at my partner (even though she gets to sleep in a bit later than I do).
5. Talk about whatever’s bothering you.
I know it can seem like burdening your partner with the stresses of your mind is probably not a good idea. As someone who struggles with anxiety on a daily basis, my brain is constantly telling me that I should just keep it to myself. But talking things out with your partner offers a three-fold benefit over keeping it to yourself.
First, by simply vocalizing your problems, you’re removing the metaphorical walls between you and a possible solution. Second, it gives you a second set of opinions about the subject – and possibly a second set of solutions, or just reinforcement of your own solutions. Lastly, it helps to remove any awkwardness and tension that can occur if it’s your partner bothering you.
6. Talk about the good things, too.
As important as it is to identify the problems in your life, and in your relationship, it’s also important to acknowledge the things you’re grateful for. If it’s your partner, then thank her for the things she does that make you happy. Encourage her to continue pursuing her passions. And, most of all, tell her how you feel about her!
It seems simple, but many of us think we’re talking to our partners enough, while our partner may be feeling underwhelmed. I used to say all the time, “Bragging isn’t as loud as bitching” because it’s true – the things we love often get swept under the rug to make room for the things we don’t care for. Make a point to have more nice things to say to your partner than you have negative things. If you find that you honestly can’t think of more positive things than negative things, there’s an obvious reason why you’re in a happiness slump, and you should seek professional advice if you want to stay in the relationship.
7. Spoil each other with affection.
If there’s something small you could do that would make your partner’s day that much easier, wouldn’t you want to do it? Chances are, you’d say yes – but, in reality, it rarely happens. Compete with one another to see who can help the other more. Just be sure to keep it friendly competition – there shouldn’t be any hostility in this romantic game.
I know some women oppose the idea of being pampered, and if your girlfriend isn’t on board, don’t push the issue. But the simple things – like making her lunch for work the next day, or putting her laundry away for her – are happy reminders that you feel lucky to be in her life.
8. Dedicate some time to appreciating your partner daily.
I’m not saying you should set up a shrine in her honor (seriously, that would be pretty creepy), but sometimes you’ll need to consciously think about enjoying each other’s company. It’ll probably feel a little weird at first, but that’s just your brain reacting to something new. That uncomfortable, weird feeling is the formation of a habit of appreciation. (Hint: You want appreciation to be a habit.)
Whether you dedicate a specific block of time to telling each other your favorite things about one another, or you just make a point to write down three happy things your partner did for the collective “you” that day, the most important thing is that you think about these things. If she does them because you tell her to, that still counts, trust me. Try to notice more of the things she does without you asking, too.
9. Savor your reunions.
For many of us, there’s a habit involved with getting home from work. (That is, for those of us who work outside the home.) We come home, take off our shoes, and immediately start venting about everything that went wrong in our day. This creates unnecessary tension in the relationship, as the one listening to the venting can grow to feel like they’re less important than the things being vented about. (That’s the whole bitching-versus-bragging thing again.)
In most cases, these stress-induced cycles are temporary. While we’ve already advised you to share your stresses with your other half, it’s actually important when you do it – so make sure your reunions are sacred. Make a point to be happy to see each other, and to let your partner know she makes you happy.
10. Exercise together.
Exercise is another multi-faceted bonding activity that will help more than just your relationship – it’ll also help your emotional and physical wellbeing. Exercise has shown noticeable improvements for a number of mental illnesses, and it naturally creates some of the same brain chemicals that are produced when you’re in love.
If the two of you are already pretty fit, consider joining a dance class together, or trying out for your local minor league teams. If either (or both) of you is out of shape, it can be as simple as going for a ten minute walk every night (although to get the aerobic benefits of the walk, it’s best if you keep your heart rate elevated for at least thirty minutes).
11. Start with a good morning.
One of my favorite ways to wake up is by my partner bringing me a cup of coffee. Her favorite is when I make omelets. It doesn’t really matter what your “good morning” is, but it’s important that you find something that works well for you, and you stick with it until it becomes a part of who you are.
If the two of you have different sleeping schedules, this may take a little more coordination. I usually get up five to six hours before my partner, which gives me time to get the things I need to get done, done, so that I can still do all that “wifey stuff” I told myself (and her) I never did.
12. Text, sext, and emoji-chat each other.
I don’t care how cheesy it is – I am a millennial and texting was literally my life for a few years. (Okay, maybe not literally, but you know what I mean.) These days, I rarely ever text anyone anymore. In fact, I’ve fallen out of touch with so many people it’s actually on my to-do list for the month “Message your damn friends”. But through all this time, I never stopped texting my partner when we’re apart.
It’s important to realize that there are “good texts” and “bad texts”, though – you’re not going for the most messages, or the longest messages, or even the best-spelled ones (I mean, unless you’re texting me, because I will call you out on chat speak in a heartbeat). They shouldn’t be checking up on her, or really saying anything negative – save the rough stuff for when you can convey context and tone.