The Unlikely Things that People in Fantastic Relationships Do Differently.
Facets to great relationships that we don’t tend to talk about.
We all know the usual indicators of top-notch relationships, such as healthy communication, respect for one another, trust, and joy.
What are some not-always-so-intuitive signs of great relationships, though?
A flexible and open mindset.
In the majority of relationships, we tend to have certain closed thought-processes (most of which stem from fear), such as not allowing friendships of the opposite sex for your partner, feeling threatened or as though it “takes away from the relationship” if your partner has a hobby apart from you, and feeling angry as well as wildly jealous if your partner experiences attraction to someone else.
All of these are restrictive, fear-based, closed off mindsets and those which are present in many (or even most) relationships.
Over time, they can result in bitterness, resentment, feeling smothered, and even losing a degree of sexual and romantic interest in one’s partner.
To avoid this? To have a different kind of and far better relationship? Dare to cultivate a more courageous, flexible, open mindset. One that is more realistic and which honors the complex range of human emotions and experiences.
Feeling attracted to someone else is normal. It’s going to happen. It doesn’t mean one is no longer in love with their partner. Restricting friendships and activities of our partner can lead to them feeling suffocated, trapped, resentful, and more drawn to those relationships. Instead, allow them this freedom to grow and experience life fully. They will be far more invested in and drawn toward the relationship with you over the long-term for it.
The pursuit of continued learning, both together and as individuals.
This is crucial, both for a life well-lived, being a healthy individual, and for keeping a relationship vibrant and interesting.
And it should not only be learning in relation to one topic vein. If one is solely interested in, say, dolphins or gardening, while this is a wonderful thing, it can also be quite limiting over the course of one’s life, if this is all one chooses to read and learn about.
Expand beyond what you think is the only stuff that interests you. Let your partner inspire you. There is so much in this world which we do not know, have never heard of, and know little to nothing about. The scope of what we do know? It’s the size of a penny, which lies in the bottom of the ocean (the ocean representing everything we don’t know). Your life should be a process of growing and becoming. Purposefully doing so will result in much emotional richness and interest within you as an individual and in your relationship.
Take purposeful time apart regularly.
While there is no “right” amount of time or frequency of this, I recommend once a month, spending a few days apart. Or, once a week, spending at least a day separate from one another. Why? It’s rejuvenating, healthy, and reigniting for a relationship to miss each other. It prevents taking each other for granted. And when you come back together, you have more, as well as new things to talk about. There feels an excitement to the connection in seeing them again.
If you never have the chance to miss your partner, it can snuff out some of the flames. It’s healthy and a positive thing to miss them once in a while. It keeps the connection vibrant and on its toes a bit. It’s also important for our individual health to have some space to ourselves, even if we don’t think we want or need it, still, it’s a good thing.
Venture toward the edges of your relationship.
Most people tend to stay where it's safe. Meaning, keeping conversations placid and easy, not wanting to upset/anger/offend each other and thus, hiding feelings or other things from their love. “Staying where it’s safe”, also meaning, getting into a sexual rut, defaulting to “what works” and the things they “usually do”, and meanwhile, avoiding trying things which seem different or make us nervous. And, “staying where it’s safe”, meaning, not taking much risk with regard to making relationship choices as a couple and instead, keeping our routine and what feels comfortable and predictable.
Instead, access the courage to have those scary, potentially difficult conversations. Make a point to venture toward the edges and limits of where you feel comfortable, maybe even slightly beyond. Take some calculated risks together as a couple. Adventure together. Brave the unknown and try something totally different. This will actually result in bringing the two of you closer, and, it will add novelty and excitement to the relationship.
Be open to influence from one another.
According to one of the top relationship therapists, people who allow their partners to influence them (this especially applies to men) have happier marriages and are less likely to split up. Comparatively, when a man is unwilling to share power and be influenced by his partner, the couple is 80% more likely to eventually split.
Being open to influence is, of course, not to be confused with being a doormat and blindly, ever saying yes to one’s partner. This is not one and the same.
Keep in mind the key phrase: being open.
This does not mean being a “yes” man or woman. Instead, it means being willing to consider strongly and incorporate the wisdom or perspective of your partner into your own thoughts and actions.
In healthy relationships, one should be able to trust that their partner has their best interests at heart, as well as, contains a valid perspective and intelligent insights to share.
Do not stay when the relationship is largely unhealthy, a glaring mismatch, or no longer working.
This is a tough one for a lot of people. Humans hate change. We fear ambiguity and the unknown. Letting go is often deeply painful and wrought with many unpleasant emotions (fear, anxiety, the worry of regret, etc). So, many of us avoid it and we stay when we shouldn’t.
We are so afraid of the unknown that studies have shown people prefer a miserable or unsatisfying “known” to a mysterious “unknown.” Meaning, we will stay in crappy relationships because we feel somehow “safer” in it being “known” rather than letting go and venturing forth into a likely healthier and better (at least over the long-run)unknown.
People who will have fantastic relationships throughout their lives do not do this. Instead, they face, with courage, the letting go of something when it’s necessary. They are brave enough and strong enough to release themselves and the other person from the union which is no longer working, in order for each of them to find something healthier and better fitting.
This is not to say that they ditch a relationship at the first sign of challenge or trouble. On the contrary, commitment means trying your best and putting in much heart and effort to navigate through challenges together. It means turning toward one another rather than away. It involves putting in the work to keep the relationship healthy and great. It means sticking things out at times when it feels incredibly hard.
Yet, there will be times when, despite this effort, the relationship still should be let go of. And people who have fantastic relationships are willing to do this.
Do not let it all hang out.
I know some people may disagree with me here, pointing out that they have a great relationship and are “completely comfortable with one another.” I am not advocating against complete comfort though. And, “complete comfort” is often the enemy to maintaining a vibrant and sparkling romantic relationship.
Sorry, folks, but letting oneself go is not a recipe for a great romantic relationship. It also isn’t an especially respectful move to either you personally or to your partner.
Give yourself the respect of maintaining yourself. Commitment with a partner is not an allowance to then throw up your hands and stop trying with regard to health (physical and/or emotional). It’s quite the opposite, actually. A relational commitment is very much connected with our commitment to caring for ourselves. If you take poor care of yourself, you can bet you aren’t going to have the emotional and mental resources to be a top-notch partner to your love either.
In terms of basics like manners, do not belch and fart around your partner with wild abandon. Occasional slips? Human and totally ok. Just letting loose, no holds barred? Disrespectful and disgusting. This will eventually chip away at the mystery and respect in your relationship. It can (and almost certainly will) result in your partner feeling less attracted to you and potentially even frustrated and resentful.
Put in the effort to maintain your physical health too. Exercise. Eat well. Get enough sleep. Be mindful of your stress levels. All of these will help you remain healthy and thus, able to be a present and wonderful partner.
Care for your emotional and social health too. Read. Continue learning over the course of your life. Cultivate a few friendships and connections outside your relationship. Have a personal project or hobbies of your own. If at some point, you are struggling with your mental health, speak with your partner openly about it. Seek help outside the relationship such as speaking to a therapist- because your partner cannot be your counselor, that will be too much weight on the relationship.
All of this helps keep your relationship a healthy and fantastic one.
Offer routine reminders of the love and respect you have for one another.
Fantastic relationships do this frequently. A combination of written, verbal, and behavioral actions that make obvious the love, care, and investment you each have for one another and the relationship.
This can be anything, from making your partner tea or coffee in the morning, just the way they like it, to a surprise love letter. It can include assisting them around the house with projects they wish to do, helping care for the household pet, and thanking them regularly for the kind things they do for you. It can mean kissing and hugging them often, bringing them flowers, and listening with rapt attention when they speak. It’s putting aside your work to spend time with them and tend to the relationship. It’s taking the time to hear about and experience their personal projects and passions. It’s complimenting them about their great traits or accomplishments.
It is letting them know you are grateful and joyed for the love you share. It’s remembering birthdays and anniversaries, as well as recognizing recent accomplishments, and celebrating them accordingly. It's taking their hand during a walk. It’s being there when they are in need or struggling, jumping in to help and support. It’s partaking in the activities you know they love most. It’s letting the little things go. It’s being forgiving and remembering the reality of human error and flaw.
People in fantastic relationships regularly remind and let each other know, in these ways and many others, just how much they value and love the other.
To create and maintain a fantastic relationship, consider notions like these, along with some of the other already great advice and insights you might be reading and learning about.
A great relationship is not something you just step into. That is called lust and the honeymoon stage, and while it’s a ton of fun, it does not necessarily mean the relationship will be a great one over the long-term. Everyone loves that part. No, building and maintaining a stellar relationship comes with time.
That is something you make.