February is upon us, and that always makes me think a lot about relationships. I met my husband when I was fourteen years old. I fell for him instantly, and he, for me. We dated throughout high school and into college, and married when we were nineteen. We have now been married 18 years, and I have no idea where the time has gone. I still feel like that fresh faced child bride with utter optimism and complete faith in love. I am shocked to see a wrinkle or strand of gray hair when I peer into the mirror! Many of my clients are drawn to me for relationship help. I used to wonder why, as I have not dated in practically ever, and married my first real boyfriend. My husband pointed out that after being together for so long, perhaps we have learned few things. After some brainstorming and soul searching, I have come up with six vital things to remember about relationships.
1- Love more than you battle. I know this seems simple enough, and it is. However, I constantly see people battling each other on small stuff, losing sight of the big picture. Will you really care in five years if he wears that ugly shirt to your family reunion? Probably not. But you will care that he came and gave horsie rides to a herd of shrieking kids for three hours, because he loves you. Choose your battles wisely, and offer more love and affection than reprimands.
2- Equality is a thorn in the side of love. Sure, everyone one dreams of the perfect balance of chores and responsibilities. That would be great. But is it worth your relationship to make it happen? You may say, “I love you,” more than they do. They may take out the trash more than you do. That doesn’t mean that you are lazy or they love you less. Avoid keeping score or becoming the martyr. It isn’t loving, and it negates everyone’s efforts.
3- Be your own best friend. It is not your spouse’s job to ensure your every happiness and joy. It is yours. They should support that, and they may some coaching to learn how, but it is up to you to make sure that you feel like your best self. Do your own work, and love yourself. When you can do that, you are so easy to love.
4- Do not expect to marry a mind reader. Not going to happen. If you need something that you are not getting, speak up! Do not give in to the urge to stew and resent the person you love most on the planet because they are not giving you something that you did not ask for. See how silly that sounds? Use your voice, and request more compliments, affection, romance, etc.
5- An attitude of gratitude will get you far. Your spouse is not the only one who has bad days, gets grumpy, looks like a train hit them in the morning, etc. You do too, and they tolerate and adore you anyway. There is plenty of give and take in a solid relationship, and you both deserve a little gratitude for being a willing party.
6- In the iconic words of Simon and Garfunkel, “Slow down, you move too fast...” Impatience is not a good look in most relationships. Be patient and kind with each other. Put down your phones, talk more than you text and don’t expect instant gratification. I have seen too many budding relationships stomped out because one party got anxious and impatient and wanted everything right now. You have all of the time in the world to develop something worth keeping.