You always hear about the habits that ruin a relationship. It is not often that you hear about the habits that create a happy and healthy relationship.
When I was younger, I had a lot of experience in screwing up relationships. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve aimed to have more healthy relationships. I’ve succeeded in the healthy relationship part and that makes it a happy relationship as well.
This isn’t going to be a post that says, “cuddle every night,” or “watch the “sunset together.” Those are romantic things that you can do, but I promise you that alone isn’t going to make your relationship happy and healthy.
This list will be about some of the things that are harder for people to face or to do, but are the type of habits that will make your relationship happy and healthy. I am so confident from experience that they work that I will even guarantee that it helps your relationship.
1. Spend time apart
I imagine that everyone has one of those friends that is nowhere to be found the minute that they get into a relationship. You shouldn’t stop hanging out with your friends completely just because you are in a relationship. If you never spend any time apart, you begin to lose your identity as an individual. You don’t have to do everything the person you are with does either.
For example, my girlfriend loves Crossfit, but I don’t. That’s okay. I don’t have to go to the gym when she goes. However, because she loves it, I try to go to some of the events. It is okay to be a part of something your lover loves, but it is also okay to be apart from something your lover loves.
I know it feels good to be consumed by the feelings of infatuation. It is intoxicating. However, if you change to be closer to the person you love, you will cease to be the person they fell in love with in the first place. This causes a lot of relationships to fail. Many people don’t even understand why.
What if you are an introvert and don’t have a lot of friends? I am an introvert and don’t have a million friends. I still have hobbies or interests that I can maintain independently. Practice self-care.
If you give your relationship space (air) to breathe, the fire between you can continue to burn.
2. Don’t be afraid to hurt each other’s feelings.
Sometimes my girlfriend can be a little too opinionated without her opinion being requested. I let her know this. I also let her know when her behavior is negatively affecting me or anyone around her. It is important to call each other out on things. She does the same for me.
Maybe your girlfriend spends a lot of time doing makeup or in front of the mirror and she constantly asks you how she looks. Maybe she buys a new outfit and you think it is hideous. Don’t be afraid to tell her the truth. It’s better to tell her then her go out in public and feel embarrassed. Sometimes we have to hurt each other’s feelings. It’s necessary.
Don’t lie to make each other happy. Honesty is more important in a relationship than feeling good all the time.
I suffered from codependency for a long time. Through therapy, I was able to manage it and I grew as a person. That issue still comes up sometimes. My girlfriend calls me out when I am acting that way. My ego gets bruised at first, but I promptly admit to her that she was right. We both try to help each other grow as people. That is important in a relationship.
3. Accept your partner’s flaws.
Every toxic relationship includes one of these two things:
Someone who is trying to make their partner perfect by changing them.
2. Someone who thinks their partner is already “perfect.”
Everyone has flaws. You cannot force anyone to change. So, it is necessary that you date someone whose flaws you can accept and appreciate.
For example, my girlfriend can have OCD about cleaning sometimes. There are times when it bothers me, but I also find cleanliness to be an attractive quality. I accept it and I try to appreciate it. Flaws can be annoying sometimes, but there is always a positive side to the flaws of the person you love.
Wholeness does not come from two perfect people meeting. It comes from two imperfect people meeting.
4. Let some fights go unresolved.
John Gottman, who is a relationship expert with over 40 years of experience in studying the field, says that the idea that couples should work out all of their conflicts is not true.
The most successful couples understand that they aren’t going to agree on everything. Some conflict is necessary. There will always be things you don’t like about each other. There will always be things you don’t agree on. That’s okay.
You should never feel the need to change somebody for you to love them. Most importantly, you shouldn’t let a little bit of conflict get in the way of what is usually a healthy and happy relationship.
Sometimes, the best strategy is to live and let live.
5. Don’t ever just expect things.
Every night is not date night. If one of you is busy Friday night, you can make plans another day. It shouldn’t be assumed that you are going to spend every night together. That’s not healthy. It also isn’t good to expect things in a relationship. Setting expectations can cause things to go sour, especially if the expectations are expectations for sex.
You should never expect sex. That will cause it to seem like you are begging for it. Neither partner should ever expect sex or be begging for it. Expectations and obligations in a relationship can cause it to become toxic fast. Let things happen. Let your relationship occur naturally. Take your hands out of it sometimes.
Never forget that just because you are dating someone doesn’t mean your identity becomes “we” all the time. You are still individuals. You both still deserve to have lives outside of the relationship. In a healthy and happy relationship, that is something that is respected.
This post was originally published on Medium.