5 Tips for a Healthy, Happy Relationship
Everyone wants to have a happy relationship with the person they love and are committed to. I don’t believe anyone gets into a relationship and says, “I can’t wait to be miserable together in 5 years!” Why would we ever get together if that was the case? We wouldn’t, but we all know that life happens and where once we experienced happiness we now find it missing.
Every couple has that moment where they wake up and feel like something has changed, that their relationship isn’t what it once was. It can feel like that spark is missing, or it can be a bigger realization that we aren’t as happy together. However it presents itself, it is the sign that the once blazing fire has diminished, that life has gotten in the way and we are not as close as we once were.
First, don’t worry. This is normal. Every couple goes through this. That romantic energy that initially brought us together is not meant to be be sustainable. It’s designed to get us moving down the road towards a much more mature and deeper love and connection for one another. But how do we get there? What does that look like? What does it take to start having a happy relationship again?
1. Slow Down
Life today is busier than ever, and everyone feels it. Our jobs have become increasingly demanding, our phones chirp and beep at us constantly vying for our attention, our children are always on the go and asking us to shuttle them around; our calendars are booked. And our partners, spouses, relationships and marriages invariably get pushed to the margins. We have no time for each other.
So slow down. Breathe. Take a minute to assess where you are. All of those other demands won’t work if your relationship isn’t working. We must have time to connect, and to do that we have to put the brakes on our other commitments and our lives the best we can to create space for our marriages, our relationships.
Practically this looks like taking five minutes to make eye contact and reconnect when you come back together at the end of the day. It looks like hugging a little longer than normal. Push through that moment where you want to pull away and instead sink in more. It looks like considering each other in those slower moments throughout the day.
2. Schedule Time
For many people, their calendars run their lives, from appointments to meetings, grocery shopping to cooking dinner, time with friends and hobbies. My calendar does one important task in addition to all those things, it schedules time with my wife.
When we first got together we never dreamed we wouldn’t have time for one another, after all, all we were doing was spending time together! But for those of us who have been married longer, together longer, we know how much of that time gets sucked away. So if you are in that place where there is simply “no time to connect,” start by scheduling it.
Block out chunks of time, or 15 minutes here and there. Someone once shared with me a conversation they had with an elderly couple who had been married for over 50 years. He asked them what advice they would give to young couples to keep their relationship healthy over such a long period of time. The couple said that each day after work, coming home, they would take the first 10-15 minutes to sit together, look each other in the eyes, and connect through catching up about how they were doing (not just the details of their days) and how they were feeling that day. They explained that it created a habit of taking time for one another and they were able to keep that going for decades. 10-15 minutes is not a lot of time at once, but over the course of years it adds up.
So start by scheduling some time and build from there. Maybe it’s as simple as 10-15 minutes a day. Maybe it’s a date night once a month. Regardless of the amount of time, the fact that it is on the calendar means you are prioritizing your relationship and one another.
3. Talk About Experiences, Not Just Details
I can’t tell you how many times I hear couples say that they don’t have anything to talk about besides the kids or work. We all know that our level of connection and intimacy is limited when these are our only two topics of conversation. But when those two things are all consuming, what else is there? Believe it or not, a lot! We all go through our days experiencing different moments and feelings.
Take this common question, “how was your day?” Often we answer with the details of what we did but fail to talk about how it was. Instead of the usual answer, try something different. Talk about what you felt during your day or what you experienced. Use the details as a foundation to go deeper into what it is like being you.
Take this possible exchange for example:
“How was your day?”
“It was fine. I had a tough client meeting but I got through it. The rest of it just flew by.”
That dialogue doesn’t offer much about the feelings or experiences of the day. It just recounts the basic details.
Here is another way that conversation could go:
“How was your day?”
“Oh man, I had this client meeting that was really tough. I felt unprepared and just unsure what direction to go. There’s a lot of pressure on me to close this deal and I honestly just didn’t feel up to the task today. But you know what? I stuck with my script and things worked out. I felt so relieved when the client resonated with what I said and I could tell I was connecting and moving things forward. It’s moments like that when I love my job and feel good about what I do.”
Notice the difference? You really get a sense for what it was like to go through that meeting and even more so what that meeting meant. That’s what it looks like to talk about feelings and experiences and not just details.
And trust me on this, I haven’t heard a spouse say they don’t want to hear about feelings, but I do hear how often the details get boring.
4. Remove Distractions
Screens. They are everywhere and constantly vie for our attention. We are inundated with videos, images and text, all designed to grab our focus. And to make matters worse we have to compete with notifications from our phones and email alerts from our computers. Our world is increasingly noisy, and most of that noise adds nothing to our lives.
Intimacy and connection take time and focus to develop. It’s simply not possible to have a deep and meaningful conversation with your partner if every few minutes something else is drawing your attention away.
If you want to have a healthy and happy relationship, remove the distractions. Turn off the TV. Silence, or better yet turn off your phone and put it away. Unplug from work when you get home. Sit side by side or facing each other on the couch. Go for walks together instead of engaging in a passive entertainment experience.
Actually look at and notice each other and talk about what you see and feel.
This only happens when you aren’t distracted.
Technology isn’t the only distraction we need to be mindful of. Work can be distracting. Activities can be distracting. Relationships and other commitments can be distracting.
Kids are distracting.
Anyone with kids still in the house knows how tough it is to get time with your spouse. Regardless of age, kids take up a lot of time and attention. Your relationship needs you two to find time away from those distractions and focus on one another. This goes back to the previous points.
Sometimes you need to schedule time without distractions. Other times you can simply just turn them off and focus on each other.
5. Consider Each Other and Initiate
This final point is perhaps the easiest out of all of these to follow and implement.
Start to think of each other more, and when you do take action on those thoughts.
I’m guessing that throughout the day a multitude of things consume your thoughts, enough that I won’t even try to list them. We live in a busy world with constant demands on our time, energy and attention. So much so that it is often hard to be intentional with our thoughts and actions.
Often times some of the most important things are forgotten about or take a back seat to an immediate need. I don’t believe we intentionally try to ignore or not consider each other. In fact I truly believe if given the space we would like to do the opposite – consider one another more.
The good news is that this isn’t hard to do. With some intentionality and planning you can actually refocus your thoughts and attention and begin to consider your spouse more.
It starts with willfully bringing your partner to the forefront of your mind. Make a decision to prioritize thinking about your spouse – about how she is doing, what her needs are, her interests and passions.
And then act on those thoughts. Reach out via text and let him know you are thinking about him. Call her on your way home from work to just check in and let her know how you are doing. Pick up something on the way home, write a card or leave a post-it on the mirror expressing how you feel.
It doesn’t just much, but those little thoughts and actions go a long way. We all love to know someone is thinking about us and considering us. Especially when that person is your spouse. Consideration is an easy way to have a happy relationship together.
Take some time and talk through these five tips together. Get on the same page as far as how you are doing in these areas, what it would like like to implement some of these points and if there are specific needs that could be addressed.
If you are looking to take things to the next level and better understand your spouse, check out this post about the foundational needs of any relationship.
Ready to figure out how to connect with your partner and improve your relationship? I invite you to call me today (720-588-2005) and learn how have a happy relationship together. Or you can schedule an appointment online today.