Romance is a way to express your love, the icing on the cake. But don’t wait for special occasions to express your love. Make sure that you nurture your loving relationship by practicing these basic habits in your day-to-day life. These may seem very basic, but how many do you practice regularly? Don’t despair… it’s never too late to adopt good, loving habits.
Most couples who come to my counseling practice because of problems report that their marriage lost its romance long ago. It’s easy to feel romantic when you live separately and date each other, because every moment spent together is special. From the moment you begin to live together, such romantic moments are no longer automatic. Instead, much of your time together is spent on more mundane things: doing laundry, washing dishes, paying bills, or going to work. Although this can be new, exciting and fun at first, as soon as the initial newness of living together wears off, such everyday things cease to feel exciting and romantic, and you may find yourself feeling worried that your partner no longer cares as much or is as excited to be with you.
Developing these good relationship habits will make a big difference in your happiness.
Good Relationship Habits
1. Don’t resist, listen.
We often have a knee-jerk negative response to what a mate tells us, or wants to do. Instead of replying negatively, “That won’t work… ” “We can’t do that… ” Try listening and thinking for a few seconds more. You may find out your initial response changes, and at any rate, listening and understanding is not the same as agreeing. When your spouse feels that you care about what he or she is saying, the nature of the communication will change for the better.
2. Ramp up the sweetness.
Married life has its unavoidable stresses and strains. To keep things in balance, we need to put a bit of energy into increasing the sweetness between us. Thoughtfulness, ‘thank you’s’ and gestures of politeness and affection are the WD-40 of your marriage. Say “I love you” every day. Keep things running smoothly by remembering to add a spritz of sweetness frequently. You’ll be amazed at how good you feel, and how much more responsive your partner is.
3. Kiss good-bye and hello.
Throw in a hug while you’re at it. Affection keeps the juices flowing, and the romance alive.
4. Keep your courting behavior.
Treat your partner even better than when you were dating… Remember that you are sweethearts. Touch each other. Sit near your significant other, and gently place your hand on his or her shoulder, leg, or arm. If you’re in the car, lightly touch his or her shoulder or arm. You’ll find your conversation becomes warmer and more caring. If you’ve been struggling, or are ready to forgive each other, facing each other and holding both hands will help you feel more positively connected and reassured.
5. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
You can let his/her bad habits bother you to distraction… or you can accept them, and work around them. Does she leave the cap off the toothpaste? Buy separate tubes… Does he leave clothes laying around? Ignore them, or pick them up, remembering just how much he does for you in other ways. Or, make it easier for your partner to satisfy you… place hampers and clothes trees within easy reach.
6. Concentrate on the positive.
Instead of thinking about the ways that s/he lets you down, think of all the positive things about your partner that drew you to them in the first place.
7. Take a breather when you’re mad.
Don’t try to talk when either of you are angry. Take a few minutes to walk around the block, lay down, just get away from each other so you can regroup. A short break will allow you both to stay on track and discuss what’s bothering you instead of accidentally making personal insults that you will regret later.
8. Don’t use your partner’s secrets or weaknesses against them… ever!
What may seem insignificant, trivial, or cute to you may be serious to your partner. Recognize what is important to your partner, and don’t discuss it with your friends, mother, his family, anyone! And certainly, don’t throw the words back at them in an argument. A loving relationship is one of the most intimate and trusting that anyone can have.
9. Think about your partner first.
If both of you do this, then you can’t help but win! Remember that first and foremost, before anything else, you’re partners. Keep that in mind and check frequently to make sure you’re acting like partners, and not competitors or avoiders. You’re in this thing together, and partnership is what it’s all about. Say ‘yes’ to your partner as often as possible… go to that sports event with him, get him out on that golf course because he loves golf, visit her family, make life easier for your partner, and hopefully they will do the same for you! Mutuality is the key.
10. Respect each other.
Don’t badmouth your partner to anyone, even joking! Negative words have a habit of lingering around and popping up when things go wrong. When you talk about your partner, let your respect and love shine through. Unless your partner is talking about something really sad (job loss, death, etc.) where a smile would be inappropriate, look him or her in the eyes and smile while you’re listening. Your companion will automatically feel more understood and cared about, which will change the feeling level of the discussion. This doesn’t mean to stare unblinkingly, but just to look frequently for a few seconds at a time, to communicate your attentiveness.
11. Find a way to regroup together every day.
Discover what works well for you both… eat a meal together, meet for happy hour drinks, skip TV at night and just lay in bed in the dark, take a walk around the block, etc. You can even mix things up and vary your routine. If one of you is travelling, call home at night just to hear their voice. The point is to spend time together daily, just talking or breathing the same air, feeling connected. No matter how crazed you are with work, kids and bills, it’s essential to put aside regular time each week for the marriage. Have a “date night” which includes a “state of the union” discussion or take a pleasant walk or drive. Keeping connected means things don’t build up to fighting status, and you’ll remember how good you are together. Don’t forget to celebrate and appreciate each other. Motivation comes from celebration and appreciation, so when you spend pleasant time together, you’ll both be more motivated to make your marriage as good as possible.
12. Try laughter.
If something frustrating is happening, try easing the tension with a bit of humor. After a difficult interaction in a store, on the way out, you could say, “That went well.” with a touch of irony. Or, when someone drops something and makes a mess, you could say, “the gremlins are here again” “It’s always something” or “It could happen” to change stress to silliness. Don’t poke fun at your mate, but use shared humor as a way to say “I know this is tough, but we’ll get through it.” Your mate will think of you as someone soothing and helpful to have around when problems happen.
13. Use pleasant surprises.
Try a love note in your spouse’s briefcase, a post-it with a smiley face on the underside of the toilet seat, a flower, plant, card or balloon for no reason, or an unexpected gentle pat on the rear, a hug or a kiss to say “I’m thinking good thoughts about you, and I love you.”
14. Reminisce about Good Times.
“Remember when… ” is a great beginning to a loving conversation. It creates so much good feeling to remember how you were when you were dating, when you got married, when you first bought your house, when you had your first child, when you got that promotion. Reminding yourselves of your solid history together is a way to increase your bond.
15. Brag to friends in your mate’s hearing.
Of course, tell your mate to his or her face how much you care, but also be sure to tell your friends, while your mate is around, what a great guy or gal you married. “Harold is so thoughtful. Today he helped me around the house.” Or “Sue is such a great mom. She really gives the kids a sense that they’re loved and she still keeps them toeing the mark.” Or, “Did you hear? Fred got a big promotion. I’m so proud of him.” Or, “I don’t know what I’d do without Judy. She’s so great with money.” Or, “Doesn’t my sweetie look great today? I’m so lucky.” Don’t worry if your partner looks embarrassed. He or she will also be pleased, and remember your brag for a long time.
Remember… the more you put into your relationship, the more you gain! Make love and romance a part of your daily life!