Three Tips for Keeping our Romantic Relationships Healthy and Fun
When romantic relationships first develop we are overcome with giddy feelings of excitement, and our moods soar. Our thoughts focus the object of our affection, and we listen attentively, hanging on their every word. Remember talking on the phone for hours with a love interest? Recall how every love song on the radio must have been inspired by our perfect and beautiful love story? Yes, it is easy to maintain a zesty and healthy relationship when everything is shiny and new.
Without proper maintenance, the magic can fade over time. Most of us have experienced this effect, or at least we have seen it in romantic comedies at the movie theater. Add a dash of life stress, mix in a cup of financial challenges and dump in a heaping spoonful of unmet expectations; and you have the recipe for relationship conflict and heartbreak.
Does it have to be this way? Is it inevitable that all relationships fade? Who teaches us how to communicate and nurture a relationship anyway?
The sad truth is that few of us learned the communication skills and conflict resolution strategies that build our relationships and fortify bonds with romantic partners. These skills are not magic and can be learned. It takes commitment to the process as with any new skill. Don’t feel alone because you certainly are not! Most couples don’t take the time before committing to a relationship to learn these necessary skills.
Try these relationship enhancing tips.
Have a relationship meeting! It is a good practice to regularly schedule time to overview things that are going well in the relationship. It is also important and productive to discuss goals for the relationship. It is reinforcing to hear that we are doing something right. “I really appreciated it yesterday when you texted me at work wishing me luck on my new project.” Furthermore it is inspiring to work as a team toward a common goal. “I hope that we can save enough money to take that weekend getaway trip. Let’s talk about how fun that would be.” If you have to bring up something negative, try to phrase it in a way that is not critical. Avoid angry words. Look at problems without blaming. Be solution focused. These relationship meetings remind couples that they are part of the team. So, set an agenda including mostly positive items, and meet often. Businesses that thrive meet regularly to discuss what is going well and what could be improved. Sports teams that win meet regularly to discuss their strategy
and promote team spirit. You and your partner should too!
Prioritize the relationship. It is a great idea to designate a regular date night and eliminate all the distractions you can. It is truly a challenge to find time for just the two of you with the demands of family, work and other obligations. But remember a strong couple relationship is the glue that holds everything else together. These outings don’t have to cost a bunch either. There are plenty of free or low-cost activities around. Pick up a pizza and eat it in the park. Take a walk hand-in-hand on a nature path and admire the outdoors. Look through old photographs or have dessert by candlelight after the kids go to bed. Do an Internet search of inexpensive date ideas. With a little bit of creative thought you can plan a meaningful night out on the town or a cozy night in with your partner. Do this consistently over time and watch the magic!
Pen an old fashioned love note to your partner. Your first reaction may be that this is teenage behavior, but consider the thoughts and feelings that go into this heartfelt action. You will spend a fair amount of time thinking of the endearing traits of your partner. In addition when your pen hits the paper, these positive thoughts will no doubt muster tender feelings, reminding you of what attracted you to your partner when the relationship was shiny and new. Now consider the butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling as you leave your love note to be discovered as a surprise, or hand deliver it to your love in person. Finally watch in amazement as your love interest responds. Who knows, you may inspire your partner to pen YOU a love note in return.
Maybe your romantic relationship just needs a little pizzazz, or maybe you and your partner face serious relationship issues. There is hope! The symptoms of a disconnected relationship affect all aspects of our lives, and people often feel embarrassed, confused or angry. The average couple waits much too long before making positive changes. After creating and carrying out plans to enhance intimacy many couples say “I wish we would have done this months or years ago.” It is amazing what two motivated people can do to repair hurt, poor communication and emotional distance. I have seen it time after time in my every day work, and seeing the healing it makes my heart smile.
Michelle Salazar, LISW-S, LICDC-CS
Momentum Counseling & Consultation, LLC