Relationships are tricky. In the beginning of a relationship, life is wonderful.
Then, a few months in, it always seems that the allure and romance fades and the other person’s flaws, bad habits and not-so-pleasant qualities become more apparent.
More fights occur or there is less talking than there used to be. Maybe a vicious cycle begins that turns between great days, awful fights, hurtful words or emotional abandonment.
Often, a relationship implodes once both parties become trapped in that deteriorative cycle.
Here are the secrets couples should know to mature their relationships past the “allurmance” stage and establish healthy relationship patterns:
1. Learn to speak one another’s love language
According to Dr. Gary Chapman, there are five primary ways in which we all express and receive love best: words of affirmation, acts of service, gifts, quality time and touch.
One out of every 10 potential partners will share the same primary love language as you. Maybe you’re both lucky and share the same one.
If you don’t share the same love language as your significant other, you can always learn to meet him or her in the middle.
If touch is most important to him or her, greet your partner with a hug; if words of affirmation are the most important thing, send text messages throughout the day.
We don’t all feel love in the same ways, and knowing each other’s “love languages” helps make sure your partner knows he or she is appreciated.
2. The best memories are tied to spontaneous events
Maybe it’s the time you messed up getting to the water park, but he didn’t get mad at you and instead, together, you found a cool new spot on the beach to claim as “your spot.”
Maybe it’s the time you were sick and she cleared her schedule to show up at your house with a “get well” package and took care of you for the day.
The best memories you have together are the times you showed each other how much you love and cherish the other, without needing to be prompted by a special event (like a birthday, Valentine’s Day or the holidays).
Those are the days that you’ll think upon fondly and know, without a doubt, your partner truly, deeply loves you.
3. Learn to communicate well with one another
Communication is so important in a relationship, and that idea is nothing new. However, how people communicate with one another is a major factor in a couple’s success.
Some people prefer to have serious conversations face-to-face, and some find text message updates reassuring. Make sure you are aware of what your partner needs.
In any relationship — platonic or romantic — how communication is performed is extremely vital to the security that the other person feels.
Meeting your partner’s needs is an important foundational aspect of healthy relationships.
4. Be a listener more than a speaker
“Seek first to understand, not to be understood.”
In all of our time together, which has been over a year, my boyfriend and I have yet to be in a real “fight.”
We’ve argued passionately, we’ve debated, we’ve been in tears, but we’ve never spoken in anger and regretted what we said later.
We’ve never cursed one another out, and we’ve never disrespected each other during a conversation. We have always tried very hard to establish a pattern of listening, even if we did not agree with each other.
A good way to keep discussions on track is to ask, “What I hear you saying is,” and restate in your own words what you think your partner is expressing.
This allows you both to get a clear understanding of what the other is thinking. Listen fully and let your partner speak, uninterrupted, until he or she has finished his or her point before responding.
Interrupting one another incites frustration, which further fuels anxious energy in what could be an otherwise calm conversation.
Even if you don’t think the reason why your significant other feels upset is valid, it doesn’t change the reality of the situation.
Listen carefully to how your partner expresses hurt or confusion. It could just be due to a simple miscommunication or misunderstanding rather than a true conflict of ideas.
5. How you respond to “bids” matters
A study by psychologist John Gottman found that successful couples respond to one another’s requests, or “bids,” more positively and frequently than couples whose marriages deteriorated.
A bid is a request for connection. For example, your significant other may walk into the room to ask what you think of her new dress. Though the matter may seem trivial, what she’s really asking in this scenario is for your response and approval.
You have four options: a passive constructive, active constructive, passive destructive or active destructive response.
A passive constructive response would be not taking your eyes off of your book and passively saying, “I’m sure it looks great.” An active constructive response would entail looking at her directly and complimenting her.
A passive destructive response could be telling her to, “Show me later, I’m busy.” A negative destructive response (the most damaging) could be something like, “Why do you need another dress? That was a dumb decision.”
Bids are so crucial because they are a way to reassure your partner that he or she is important to you. Reacting negatively to your significant other’s interests suggests that what he or she cares about doesn’t matter or isn’t valuable.
Couples thrive on kindness. Striving to look out for your partner’s well being, greater good and emotional stability is a great golden rule by which to live.
Though it’s certainly hard, establishing healthy patterns of listening, meeting needs and making the effort to respond to your partner’s bids will make him or her feel secure in the relationship.
But, what if someone isn’t kind toward you, responds negatively and doesn’t want to try? Is the relationship beyond saving?
Take the initiative and humble yourself for a bit; try to speak your partner’s love language and make effort to show that you value him or her.
It won’t be easy, but your actions can reset the tone of the relationship and encourage your partner to change his or her patterns.
As it’s been said, healthy long-term relationships aren’t sprints, but a marathon.