There’s a lot that goes into having a happy and healthy relationship. Much of it is about compromising, about working together with your partner to bring your two lives together. But sometimes the best way to have a happy and healthy relationship is to look at your own habits and ideas.
Sometimes it’s more about what you do as an individual to make sure the relationship is fair and in harmony than about the compromises you make.
Whether you’re already in a relationship or hoping to make your next one better than the last, these simple habits can make a huge difference.
Don’t hold back on sharing your feelings
Whatever your gender, sharing your feelings is important. Your partner can’t read your mind. If you’re upset, sad, angry, or hurt, they won’t know unless you tell them. They also won’t know why you feel that way unless you tell them.
Sharing your feelings should always be about you. It should be things like, “I feel…” rather than “You hurt me when…” or “You made me angry by…”
If you’re so angry or hurt or otherwise emotional that you can’t express your feelings without screaming, yelling, or otherwise risking a fight or being misunderstood, it’s okay to take a little time to calm down and get your thoughts in order.
But don’t keep your feelings to yourself. It will create resentment and build a wall between you and your partner.
Don’t play the blame game
When a problem arises in your relationship, don’t point fingers. Even if you believe a problem is your partner’s fault, there’s no need to say so. This puts you against each other rather than being on the same side against the problem.
Resist the urge to blame your partner and be willing to admit that you play a role in the problems that come up. It may be a small role, and your partner may have a bigger role, but if you get caught up in assigning blame, you create a rift between you and you also fail to solve the problem.
If you find that you’re blaming your partner for everything, it might be worth taking some time to consider why that is. There may be a bigger problem at work than your partner leaving the kitchen a mess or forgetting to gas up the car.
Share relationship responsibilities
If one person is doing all the heavy lifting in a relationship, it’s going to get unbalanced fast — and that will lead to resentment, arguments and an eventual breakup. Make sure that you and your partner are sharing the responsibilities of your relationship.
Remember that this will look different in each relationship. In some, it might mean splitting the finances and making sure each partner is paying their fair share. In others, it might look like one partner being the financial provider while the other stays home and holds down the fort. And in still others, it might look like a combo of splitting the finances and splitting the household responsibilities.
But it should also be about sharing the responsibility for things like date night planning, making sure that you talk to each other, and taking an interest in each other. One partner shouldn’t be responsible for making sure the relationship stays alive all by themselves.
Take time for yourself
For women especially, it’s easy to get caught up in taking care of the relationship, your partner, your kids, and others. In a healthy, happy relationship, you make sure you take time for yourself.
Make sure you’re not taking on your partner’s responsibilities in addition to your own. If you are, hand them back so you can focus on those responsibilities that do belong to you. If you’re busy trying to do all the things you need to do plus all the things your partner needs to do, you’ll exhaust yourself and burn out fast.
Take the time to step back, evaluate all that you do, and give back anything that isn’t yours to deal with. Then take time to assess your own needs and wants. Engage in some self-care, express the needs and wants that you need someone else to help you with, and make sure you’re taken care of. Set boundaries and enforce them.
Be thoughtful of your partner’s feelings and needs
Just because you shouldn’t take on your partner’s responsibilities doesn’t mean you can’t be considerate of their feelings and needs around them. You can listen when they need to vent and even offer to help if you’re able to.
This can also look like eliminating a food from your kitchen because your partner can’t eat it, or swapping laundry detergents because they’re allergic. It might even mean not inviting a friend or relative to your home if they don’t get along.
Always be willing to listen and try to understand your partner’s feelings and needs. Even if you’re not able to meet that need, by letting them feel heard, you can still end up closer to your partner than before.
Spend some time apart
Whether it’s just a couple of hours here and there or taking separate vacations, a little time apart can do wonders for a relationship. You don’t have to do absolutely everything together.
You might love spending time with your partner but time spent apart will make you appreciate them even more. Of course, too much time apart can have the opposite effect, causing you to lead separate lives that ends in a breakup.
But finding that balance of time together and time apart that’s right for you and your relationship can make it better than ever.
Make family and friends a priority
Everyone knows that when you first start dating someone, you spend a lot (translation: any free moment you have) of your time with them. But in a healthy, happy relationship, that eventually stops and you start spending time with friends and family again — both with and without your partner.
Whether you live with your partner or not, making sure you spend time with family and friends is important. If you’re not living with your partner, it can be tempting to avoid making other plans because you want to be available to see your partner when they’re free. Resist that temptation.
Seeing others you care about and who care about you helps keep you balanced. It can also help you see when the relationship you’re in might not be healthy or happy because you can see how you feel about seeing others compared to seeing your partner.
Don’t let go of your hobbies
Just like you need time for yourself and time with friends and family, you also need your hobbies to have a healthy, happy relationship. Shared hobbies with your partner are great for helping you bond and have things to do together.
But your own hobbies give you something to do when you’re spending time alone. And that gives you something to talk about when you come back to your partner. You don’t have to tell the same old stories a thousand times over or recount memories you both share because you have new things to tell them from your time spent engaging in your hobbies.
It’s also important to remember that just because you and your partner both share an interest in a hobby doesn’t mean you have to do it together all the time — or ever. If there’s a hobby you both enjoy but one or both of you would rather do it separately, that’s perfectly fine. You only need to worry when you don’t ever want to do anything with your partner.
The key to a healthy, happy relationship is the work you put into it. And the good news is the work is sometimes as easy as having healthy habits that help build the foundation of the relationship.
Wendy Miller is a freelance relationship writer & meditation teacher. After years of settling for abusive and otherwise toxic relationships, she got fed up. Using meditation and other tools, she got to work on healing herself, setting boundaries, and only engaging in relationships (romantic and otherwise) that bring her joy. She wants to help other single parents find the love they seek, including and going beyond romantic love. She lives in Florida with her two sons, where she homeschools while solo parenting, while surrounded by what feels like a zooful of animals.
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