Most of us have an idea in our minds of what “the perfect relationship” looks like. Whether we actively seek these things in a partner or just hope that they’re what we find when all is said and done, these things are there – and sometimes they’re more important than we give them credit for.
I’ll admit: I’m not always a fun person to be with. When I start to get serious about someone, I put up a lot of walls, and silly little “rules” that don’t really mean anything in the long run. (Once I’ve eased up and dropped my walls, most of those “rules” become irrelevant.) I don’t exactly have a type (although I do have an affinity for stems and soft studs, especially if they’ve got curly hair). I don’t exactly have a preference when it comes to the sexuality of my partner (as long as they don’t identify as straight – whether I would categorize them as such or not). I don’t exactly have a preference for most things. As long as she treats me right, she’s right for me.
And, really, that is the most important thing. Even though it’s sometimes hard to tell if a woman will treat you right, from the start, but it really is the biggest measurement of your relationship’s success. There are some ways to encourage a good relationship, though – are you paying attention to these things in your own relationships?
1. Appreciate each other’s interests.
There is an importance in sharing interests with each other. But it’s not so much that you need to have the same interests – just that you should know and respect each other’s hobbies and the like. Of course, you should have some things in common, but really it’s best if you don’t have everything in common – it’ll be just like you’re dating yourself. And that’s weird, and a little creepy.
Instead, take the time to learn what your partner likes. I like to do what I call “The Random Game” – the two of you take turns asking and answering questions. The only rules are that the question has to be about the other person, and you have to answer a majority of the questions. If the question is too deep for the point of the relationship you’re in, skip it. If it’s just embarrassing, you have to answer it – don’t be a spoilsport!
It’s also pretty important that you appreciate and respect your partner’s interests, even if they’re different than yours. For example, I end up dating a lot of self-described gamers, even though I am definitely not a gamer myself. There are certain styles of games I absolutely can’t stand (shooting games, unless the sound is turned off, give me a major headache) … But, otherwise, I actually pay for my girlfriend to have a Gamefly membership at the moment. She enjoys it, and I don’t have to waste money buying games that I don’t know if she’ll actually like. She plays them for a while, and if she likes it, she adds it to a wish list when she sends it back in.
From her side of things, she knows I enjoy the work I do – so she gets me little trinkets for my desk (like a snow globe and a teddy bear), and she got me a massage cushion for my work chair. She knows I like getting my nails done, too, but we can’t really afford it – so she buys me things so I can do my nails at home. Hey, I might sound pretty boring, but my girlfriend gets it, and she loves my boring-ness.
2. Practice trust and truthfulness.
This is a complicated situation, because things are often complicated when new-relationship-honesty comes up. Is our girlfriend of two weeks entitled to know about every bad thing we’ve ever done to every ex? Well, not necessarily. But is she entitled to know things that might come up – such as a recent ex who didn’t get over you as quickly as you got over her? Maybe.
There’s obviously a bit of a grey area here, but just because you’re not offering up every detail right away, there’s not really any good reason to flat-out lie to your partner. If she asks you a question, you should be answering it truthfully, even if the two of you haven’t been together too long. She shouldn’t be intrusive, nor should you, but you don’t build trust by dodging questions. This looks shady even if you’re not actually hiding anything.
I recently got into a discussion with a friend on Facebook about whether or not it’s appropriate that someone be allowed to see their partner’s phone, if they ask. Apparently I ruffled some feathers because I firmly believe that – yes, once you slap the “relationship” label on it, you should be able to see their phone. Note that I said see – not look through, and not watch. You’re allowed to ask who your partner is talking to, too – but it’s usually not OK to pry into what the conversation was about, unless your partner offers this information up.
The lines are a little fuzzy here, though – sometimes, you really are going to be genuinely curious about the conversation. I find myself asking a lot of questions about chats with my girlfriend’s family, for example, but if she tells me I don’t want to know, or that it’s personal, I trust her, and don’t push it. (Even if it burns a hole inside me wondering what was said – it’s not really my business.)
3. Communicate respectfully.
Both communication and respect are hugely important topics – so don’t make light of either. The words you choose are just as important as what you actually say, so do your best to frame everything as positively as possible. For example, instead of “I’m sick of you sleeping in late!” consider asking, “Would you like me to wake you in the morning? I know you have xx important thing to do tomorrow.” It won’t always work, but it’s important that you show her respect.
Most people know that they need to respect their partners, but we forget that this applies to our arguments, too. Yes, even when you’re mad at her, you need to be respectful – take care not to say something you’ll regret later, just because you were angry, because you can never take back the words you say in anger. You’ll be at her mercy to forgive you, and it’s entirely in her rights to not forgive you.
More than just being respectful to your partner, though, you should be respectful to everyone you come into contact with. Your girlfriend will see the people you’re rude to and she will take note. Even your ex-girlfriend – just because you’re not together anymore doesn’t mean that you have a right to be rude. Your girlfriend will see how you treat your ex and she will logically conclude that you may treat her like that once the relationship is no longer pleasant.
You don’t have to be “nice” to everyone, but no one is entitled to be disrespectful to anyone else. Even if someone is disrespectful to you, take the high road – the world means more “bigger persons”, not more hate.
4. Be your own person.
When you enter a new relationship, it can be really tempting to just nest together and forget the rest of the world. Sometimes, this is healthy – as long as it doesn’t last very long. A healthy relationship cannot exist where two people are each other’s whole world. Like everything else, you need moderation. The two of you should enjoy spending time together, but you should also keep some time for yourself, too.
Personally, I’m pretty boring – my alone time usually means work. (Then again, my job is cooler than most people’s job – I’ve been pretty blessed in that regard.) But, periodically, I enforce my alone time – even now that my partner and I live together. I try to encourage her to do her own thing, too – it’s tough when she’s home cramming for classes, and I’m doing my work less than 30 feet away, but we actually schedule time apart sometimes.
This alone time is so important, because it gives you room to breathe. It gives you time to do the things that your partner might not enjoy, whereas “no alone time” means “we must agree or compromise”. Yeah, sometimes the time apart is hard, and I usually want to curl up in bed with her on the days she leaves, but it’s important that you allow yourself time to miss your partner – and just when you’re at work or school isn’t usually enough.
I’ve seen posts on Facebook that say “it should make you physically sick to be apart from your partner”. Wrong! I know this is meant to be romantic, but realistically, it’s closer to an addiction than love. And no one wants to feel trapped in a relationship because their partner “can’t” live without them. This is a hard situation to be in, but when you have trust, respect, and appreciation, a little alone time can be a wonderful thing. Don’t take it for granted.