Help keep your partnership afloat with these six tips — because sometimes love takes work.
– KEYS SOULCARE
Being in love is all thoughtful texts and couch snuggles, until one of you keeps canceling date night for multiplayer gaming or leaving dirty socks next to the hamper.
It’s important to remember that while these little struggles can be annoying, they create the perfect opportunity to hone your communication and problem-solving skills together. “Relationships are often difficult, because the person who is causing the most immediate disruption in your life — your partner — is also the person that you need to address head-on when things aren’t going as you would like,” says New York City-based therapist Jor-El Caraballo, LMHC, co-founder Viva Wellness. “The partnership is the only connection that offers a real resolution to whatever concerns you may have. Always lean into that discomfort.”
With that in mind, here are the six things to foster to help your romantic relationship thrive.
It may seem easier to wait silently for your partner to pick up on your subliminal cues than it is to directly express your feelings. After all, opening up creates the potential for rejection. Still, being able to honestly share your thoughts as they arise is one of the most important things you can do to build intimacy and understanding in a relationship, says Caraballo. “Without this kind of courage, resentment and miscommunication can easily turn into relationship killers in the long run,” he adds.
Your move: The next time you’re feeling some type of way, say, “I’m actually feeling X right now and don’t want to do Y as we planned. Can we reschedule for another day?” Or “What you just said really hurt my feelings because it reminds me of X, which I’m already trying to work on.” “While it’s scary to share these things at first,” Caballo says, “It’s incredibly helpful long-term.” Practice, practice, practice.
It’s OK to disagree. Really. It’s all about the way that you argue, says NYC-based therapist Rachel Gerston, LMHC, co-founder of Viva Wellness. The key is to bring up concerns before they magnify, she explains. “A simple ‘Hey, could you please do X?’ or ‘Would you mind not doing X anymore?’ can be way more effective than letting it turn into a bigger conversation or a hostile argument,” says Gerston.
It’s normal to be tempted to confide in your group chat about your partner’s latest annoying habit, but you have to resist if you want to actually solve those issues, says Caraballo.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t keep your family, friends, and a therapist on deck for extra support, but there’s not a ton they can do to help you solve those sticking points head-on. For that, you’ll have to go directly to the source.
A willingness to negotiate and compromise
Yes, compromise is important, but you can’t get there if you kick things off flustered and aggressive. That’s where a solid negotiation strategy comes in, says Caraballo.
“Negotiating is about opening up a conversation so that no assumptions are made,” he says. That might mean starting out with something like “How do you feel about X?” Then, you and your partner can take turns talking about your wants and desires to negotiate the terms rather than assuming one way is the right way, Caraballo explains. “Try to be as respectful and patient as possible, because sometimes it’s hard to figure out how all parties can ‘win.’”
A commitment to listen
Do you ever catch yourself spending the non-talking portion of your conversation coming up with responses without actually processing what your partner needs or feels? That’s an indication you aren’t really listening, says Gerston. Take the time to truly hear them, and if you still aren’t clear what their message is, just ask. Gerston suggests trying something like this: “I’m not sure I understand or get where you’re coming from, can you explain it to me again?”
“It sounds counterproductive, but one of the best things you can do in your relationship is take space from each other,” says Gerston. Spending solo time with your friends or just yourself can help you be a better partner and overall person, she adds. “Not everything that allows you to thrive involves your significant other — and that’s okay!”