Someone asked me recently if I could write down a few tips for a new couple – they asked this of several people who’d been married/in long-term relationships for a while (read: old(er) people like, well, me, apparently) and I thought I could make an article out of it.
Keep in mind that these tips are things that I’ve find useful in my own life and/or have observed in other couples that seem to do well. Also keep in mind that I’m a woman so those might be biased, but the husband nodded along in that quiet way of his when I told him what I’d written down, which means he agrees!
Full disclosure: we’ve been together for 16 years and married for almost 13. We also have two children, a cat, and about a dozen of plants and cacti.
So, without further ado:
- Talk. That is the most important thing of all. Talk to each other, about anything and everything. Exchange ideas. Make your needs known and ask about your partner’s. Don’t let things fester, talk about issues you might have. If I had only one advice, that’d be it. It might be uncomfortable sometimes, it might be frustrating, but you’ll be grateful for it in the end.
- Don’t take anything for granted. Appreciate the little things you do for each other, acknowledge the tasks and chores that each do. (see how that one could also be filed under the ‘talk’ one?). Keep on saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ as the years go by. Yes, each time. As I say to my children, it goes without saying, but it’s better if you say it – it goes for them too. I expect my kids to clean their room and set the table, but I still thank them every time. Your partner deserves the same, as you do. It’s also a form of positive reinforcement, and it’s good for each partner to have their work acknowledged.
- Let go of the little things. Life is too short to hold petty grudges. In the same vein, your way is your way – doesn’t mean that your partner’s is wrong. Let them fold the towels as they wish. It doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Don’t keep tabs of what they do/don’t do as if it were a grocery list, either. It’s tough to measure such things anyway. If you feel that things are really too unbalanced, then it might be beneficial to have an honest discussion about it.
- Talk about the hard stuff. And talk about it early on. Talk about death, yours and theirs, and your wishes. Talk about children – do you want them? What would you do if you couldn’t get pregnant naturally? Would you get an abortion if your child was severely sick or disabled? Talk about your long-term projects. Talk about what each of you would want if you were badly injured/sick (resuscitate or not? Heavy treatments or not?). Such subjects are difficult, and uncomfortable. But it’s really important to do so, both to strenghten your relationship and to see if your views are compatible in the long run. And of course, if you’re ever faced with such issues, it will be a relief to have talked about it beforehand.
- Have short-term and long-term projects together. “Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction”, said Antoine de Saint Exupéry. Short-term projects are great because they’re more easily doable and are motivating, whereas long-term ones will help you chose a common direction to look at. That will evolve over time, of course!
- Accept that everything changes over time – you, the world, your partner. When I was a young first-time mom, I remember reading that having a baby was like walking on a wire: you have to constantly adjust because your child is constantly growing and changing. All relationships are like that in a way: everchanging, requiring you to adapt and adjust. It’s also what keeps things interesting, to be honest!
- Have a prank war going on! Okay, that’s totally optional, but it’s fun. My proudest moment was when I managed to stick a date kernel up the husband’s nose, while his was probably the time when he hid behind the bathroom door and I shriek like a banshee for 2 minutes straight. Fun times.
- Don’t try to change your partner. As a French magazine once wrote, that’s about as smart as buying a red coat to dye it black, when there are a lot of black coats available out there. Of course, as time goes by, you will ‘smooth each other’s angles’, as we say here. But don’t try to mold them into something they are not. It never ends well, and it’s toxic for both partners.
- Just because the honeymoon phase is over doesn’t mean that your physical relationship is, too. Keep on touching each other: I’m not only talking about sexy times, but also the kind of casual, gentle touches and kisses that you barely notice doing at all. One thing though: some people are not comfortable with such displays in public, but will gladly cuddle in the safety of their home, and that kind of boundaries should be respected, of course. Once more: talk.
And that’s all she wrote, folks! As you’ve seen, I could have just said: talk to each other and be done with it, but I felt like it would be more interesting to go a little deeper! What do you think? What are your own tips?
As usual, be well, be thankful, be kind. Until next time!