I heard on NPR that Valentine’s Day is dying. It’s a close cousin to the tedious December holidays with all the commercialism and expenditures to hopefully obtain happiness and love. I am of the opinion that if you want a successful relationship, whether you are dating, living together or married, there are some simple things that far exceed the nonsense of candy, flowers, cards and dining out.
Important yearlong things to keep it hot, intimate, trusting, communicative and yes, romantic for the romantics of February. I am no expert, however I have lived quite a life and have seen many a relationships both Queer and Straight, good and horrible, and ones that endure and last. The type we all dream of.
Seven suggestions for love seekers of all ages.
1. Celebrate good news
It turns out divorce isn’t as much about increased negative things as it is about decreased positive things. The positives are more and more important; to sum it up, the amount of fun couples have and the strength of their friendships are a strong predictor of their future. Get it, and do it — celebrate the good moments more. Almost all research shows that couples who regularly celebrate the good times have higher levels of commitment, intimacy, trust and relationship satisfaction. It’s not enough that your partner knows that you take pride in their accomplishments. You have to show it. Making a fuss over the small, good things that happen every day can boost the health of your relationship.
2. The 5-to-1 rule
How many good moments do you need to make up for one bad one. Think about this: 5-to-1. You don’t need to count every single positive and negative, but if they’re nearly equal, your chances of separation or divorce shoots way up. I always go back to the concept of the “emotional bank account.” For every withdrawal from a relationship, it takes five positive deposits to remain balanced. If this is challenging for you, or if you are a smart-ass like me, then keep count.
3. Keep your standards high
More and more people are told their expectations of marriage are too high. From observation I say the reverse: People who expect more, get more. Don’t settle for a second-rate marriage. People who have idealistic standards, who really want to be treated well and who want romance and passion from their relationship/marriage, end up getting that kind of marriage. People with low standards, who don’t expect good treatment, communication or romance, end up in relationships that don’t offer those things. People who hold their partners to a reasonably high standard have better marriages. If you expect a better, more satisfying relationship, you improve your chances of having one.
4. Stay close to family and friends
Today marriage has become a two-person cocoon that we expect to get all our support and intimacy. That’s not healthy or realistic. Keep friends and family in the loop. Your marriage should be your primary relationship, not your only one. Don’t get me wrong, couple time is vital — carve it out, keep your promise to be together. However, too much togetherness is not necessarily good for couples. The way to strengthen a relationship/marriage is to put fewer emotional demands on each other. This doesn’t mean losing emotional intimacy, it just means that married couples have a lot to gain by fostering their relationships with family (blood or chosen) members and friends.
5. Don’t expect your spouse to make you happy
Most happiness eventually returns to a natural baseline, even after very positive events like a wedding. Happiness lies within the individual and expecting a spouse to change that forever is unrealistic and unfair. Most people return to their own personal happiness regardless of ups and downs in the relationship.
6. Have more sex
Over the course of a relationship/marriage, desire can lessen. Despite this, sex is healthy and has all kinds of biological and emotional benefits that should not be ignored. Over time, regular sex can improve your mood, make you more patient, dampen anger and lead to a better, more contented relationship. Most importantly remember the sex is adult ‘play,’ so play hard — spice it up, and play often.
Couples don’t need more “pleasant” activities — they need more exciting activities to hold on to the rush they felt when they first fell in love. Exciting time together increases marital satisfaction. Decide individually, and as a couple, what excitement means. Protect your marriage by regularly trying new things and sharing new experiences with your spouse. Make a list of the favorite things you and your spouse do together, and then make a list of the fun things you’d like to try. Avoid old habits and make plans to do something new, different and exciting.
A few more soapbox suggestions: Tell your partner you love him or her. Show more … much, much more affection. Show appreciation for your partner. Share yourself. Be there for your partner. Give gifts (all kinds). Respond gracefully to your partner’s demands and shortcomings. Make “alone time” a priority. Take nothing for granted. Follow the Golden Rule in your relationship— do unto your partner as you would have done unto you.
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