5 Keys To A Happy, Healthy Relationship
Happy Valentine’s Day, love! Given the nature of the holiday, I couldn’t resist writing about one of my favorite topics, which, of course, includes my favorite person: relationships and my darling husband, Ryan.
You may wonder why I’m writing a post like this before we’re even two years into our marriage. Well, besides the fact that I feel like we are wise beyond our years when it comes to marriage, I’ve had plenty of experience with relationships prior to Ryan.
In my past, I was what you would call a “serial monogamist.” Between the ages of 17-30, I can only recall a span of nine consecutive months where I was truly single. I was always dating or in a somewhat serious relationship.
This wasn’t on purpose; I was never boy crazy or constantly searching for the right man. I simply enjoyed having a partner and going through the craziness of life with a buddy by my side.
I learned many, many lessons from each and every relationship I was in.
I truly believe the relationships that don’t work out are meant to teach us lessons and help us explore what we do and don’t want in our future partners.
I share all of this with you because I want you to know that despite being in a very happy marriage at the moment, I’ve been in all types of relationships throughout my past.
Many of my prior relationships felt far from “easy,” which led to my once tainted view on marriage. You may not know this, but…
Until I met Ryan, I wasn’t really sure I ever wanted to get married. Ask any one of my friends, and they’ll confirm that marriage wasn’t on the table for me and the topic generally scared me sh*tless.
Marriage came up in several of my relationships, and I was so afraid of the topic that I would eventually do something to sabotage and end the relationship because I knew deep down I didn’t feel the same way. (I only realized this recently, by the way).
All of this changed when Ryan came along, because I finally “got it.”
I realized it was wholly possible to co-exist in a relationship while completely being myself. For the first time in my life, I understood the concept of unconditional love (outside of a parent).
Ryan and I recognize that relationships take work, and we are always coming up with new ways to have fun and reinvent ourselves as a couple. The second you stop wanting to do the work is the second things tend to go awry.
The “work” I’m referring to should never feel like work. It should be the most joyful parts of your relationship (married or not!).
Ryan and I put our heads together to come up with what we believe are the top five keys to a happy, healthy relationship and today we’re sharing them with you! I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback in the comments below.
1. Keep lines of communication open, 24/7.
Even though these are in no particular order, I would say communication is the most essential component to a healthy relationship. This may seem like a no-brainer, yet more often than not, failure to communicate properly is what ultimately leads to distrust and the eventual downfall of a partnership.
It’s not always easy to be open and honest and have the more difficult conversations, but if you’re truly committed to your partner, you have to make the effort. Part of the reason communication is difficult is because we’re afraid to allow ourselves to truly be seen and we’re equally afraid of hurting our partner’s feelings.
Letting fear go in both of those instances is what makes us vulnerable and, ultimately, brings us closer.
So when you’re feeling upset, angry, happy, excited, or maybe even a little bit jealous, let it out. I’m a Taurus through and through and tend to react in the moment, and I’ve had to train myself to simmer on a difficult conversation before I approach Ryan. This way, I’m able to collect my thoughts and approach him from a logical standpoint rather than an emotional one.
This took time for me to master, which leads me to #2.
(By the way, never express your emotions via text. And don’t use texting to have a difficult conversation. I’ve never understood this and am shocked when I see people in raging text wars with their significant others. Pretend it’s 1990 and have the conversation in person so you can be in the moment together:)
2. Understand who your partner is, and practice patience and tolerance.
Knowing who your partner is at their core is what makes for a seamless relationship. I have to give Ryan a shout out here, because he is so good at understanding my moods and how I approach certain situations, and because of this, he’s able to react appropriately.
I could give you a million examples, but I’ll stick to two smaller ones…
I’m kind of crazy when it comes to cleanliness in our house. I blame my Mom, because there were rarely messes in the Hayes household. We do have a housekeeper who comes twice per month, but in-between her visits, I do clean here and there and can spot a mess from rooms away.
This could drive Ryan nuts, as it has my past partners. But because it’s a piece of me that will never go away, he accepts it. If he’s still home, he’ll help me make the bed in the morning. He’ll wash the dishes after I cook dinner because I like to have everything done before we go to bed. He’ll help me unpack after a trip because I want to get everything settled instead of waking up to full suitcases. You get my point. Instead of bitching (which happens very rarely), he lends a hand and practices patience in an area where he differs in opinion.
Okay, this example is a little more personal. I’m legit the most indecisive person ever during my period. I can’t make a decision for the life of me. “What should I wear? What are we having for dinner? What about this weekend? Should we go into the city or stay home?” It goes on and on…and on. The best part is that I’ll ask Ryan for his advice, and then do the opposite. He pointed this out recently and we both laughed it off, because again, I’ve had this reaction during my cycle for as long as I can remember, and it’s not something either of us can change. I’m more aware of it now and am working on being a more decisive person in general (I’m one of those people who beats myself up if I feel I made the wrong decision), but I’m grateful to Ryan for allowing me to work through this on my own without feeling like he gets annoyed by my indecisiveness.
Trust me, Ryan has his own list of “isms” too, but I’ll save those for later :)
3. Schedule non-negotiable weekly date nights.
Nearly every Friday night, Ryan and I make a reservation for our weekly date night. Yes, it’s easier for us to do this because we don’t have children yet. But, this rule applies especially once little kiddos come into play and they’re old enough to be with a babysitter. We have several friends with children who also have standing weekly date nights.
The days fly by and life can move so quickly that once the weekend rolls around, we feel disconnected from our partners. A routine date night (either ordering take-out or heading out of the house) is the simplest way to make sure you “catch up” and create space for your relationship to thrive.
It doesn’t matter what day of the week you chose to be your date night, but I would suggest making it the same day every week for consistency and for something both of you can look forward to.
4. Have sex, even when you’re “too tired” or don’t feel like it.
But really…how can I discuss keys to a happy, healthy relationship without bringing up sex? I was watching a TV segment the other day and there’s new research suggesting that sex is going to be the latest “prescription” recommendation by doctors and therapists who handle cases of depression, anxiety, and certain hormonal imbalances.
Can’t say I’m surprised. It’s more like…why haven’t they thought of this before? I could devote an entire blog post to sex so I’ll keep this short and sweet.
Sex is a different way of communicating with your partner. It’s just as important as having one of those difficult conversations I mentioned above (except this version is a lot more fun).
As time goes by and families grow, having sex often feels like a chore for many couples who simply want to check having sex off of their to-do list. If you’ve ever felt that way, don’t worry, because it’s rather common.
Despite sex still being taboo (even though it’s promoted EVERYWHERE), it is one of the foundations of a healthy relationship and our bodies literally depend on it.
Yes, we’ve all felt “too tired” after a long day of work and there are always going to be times when you “don’t feel like it” (especially during certain points of your menstrual cycle), and there still will be, but think of it this way: once you get things moving and get over the mental aspects of feeling too tired or not in the mood, have you ever regretted having sex?
Didn’t think so.
5. Remember your “why.”
The beginning stages of a relationship are full of bliss and euphoria. You’re getting to know one another, your body is full of crazy hormones that have you falling head over heels, you’re having the most incredible sex of your life, and all you want to do is spend time with that person.
We’ve all been there, and it is literally the best feeling in the world.
But what happens after many years have passed? Whether it’s five, 15, or 30, things change. You change. Your partner will change.
Newness and excitement will always fade. Things become familiar, you cross barriers you never thought you’d cross (these tend to happen in the bathroom), and there’s less to discover.
How can you remember your “why” for being in a relationship with your partner in order to remind yourself how much you love them?
There are plenty of ways, and I would suggest coming up with your own within your relationship.
Here are a few of ours:
- Take at least two trips per year just the two of us to somewhere new
- Watch our wedding video every anniversary and every Christmas morning
- Keep cards from each holiday in a box and read through them when need be
- Create monthly ceremonies or rituals—I’m pretty in touch with moon energy, so every month I have a ritual where I write down goals for the month during a new moon, and jot down things that haven’t served me for the month prior and burn them (carefully!) during a full moon. Ryan takes part in this with me and it helps keep us connected.
Those are a few simple examples but feel free to steal them if they work for you!
I hope you can relate to these tips and I’m so excited to be able to share them with you. I’d love to hear from you in the comments below…
Do you have any tips you’d like to share with us? Is there something in one of my tips that you tend to struggle with? What’s worked for you? Tell me more!