Relationship wellness is one of those areas that many people don’t talk enough about. If you think about all of the other areas of our lives we talk about, it seems to me that “how your relationship is really going” is often glossed over. Sure it is easy to talk/complain about our partners: “He didn’t empty the dishwasher!” or “How she is grumpy I wanted to spend time with my friends” but what is really going on? How do you feel about your relationship?
Now I am not relationship expert but moving to another country, where you know no-one, with two small children will really force you and your partner to work hard to stay connected. Over the last two years our marriage has had some tough times and we have worked hard on our relationship. Just like you work on your brain doing personal development or when you work on your body doing fitness, your relationship needs work too. Just because you got married or you committed to someone doesn’t mean the work is over.
If anything being proactive about your relationship will help you in the long run. You don’t wait until your car is totally broken before you take it in…you maintain it with oil changes and maintenance to keep it running and healthy. Your relationship needs this too.
4 Ways to Stay Connected
After discussing with Tim, my husband, my idea to share what is working for us he jumped up and down and couldn’t wait share all the juicy ideas…just kidding but he was supportive and wanted to help so here we go!
1. Time spent together is a balance
This may seem like common sense but often we take it for granted. When was the last time you did something with your partner, which they really wanted to do, and you were not so jazzed about? For example, Tim and I often compromise on TV. When we are spending time together in the evening, we try to balance each other’s likes and dislikes regarding TV shows. Both of us have been pleasantly surprised when have tried each others TV shows. I loved watching “Breaking Bad”, even though it is not in the romantic comedy or food show category, but we watched the whole series and I really enjoyed it. Tim indulged me and has watched various different cooking and baking shows with me. He was surprised how much he liked “The Great British Baking Show”, although it usually ends with him sweetly asking me if I could bake something the next day :).
It has been great fun finding these shows that we are surprised to like. It has allowed us to communicate more about the things that we like and dislike about the TV shows and given us a fun topic to discuss. Another example that goes way back is mountain biking…believe it or not there was a time when I did not have fun mountain biking but I did know that it was important to Tim…so I gave it a try! Now it is one of my favorite activities to do both with Tim and on my own. What is something that your partner loves that you should give a try? You may be surprised how much you like it…and it is always more fun doing something with the one you love.
2. Understanding your partner’s Love Languages
Do you know what your love language is? Are you curious about what your love language is? There are five love languages: acts of service, physical touch, quality time, receiving gifts and words of affirmation. Check out this website https://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/ where you can take a quiz to see what your love language is. After reading the book I discovered that my main love language is acts of service and Tim’s was both words of affirmation and physical touch. We have very different love languages. If we are not speaking each other’s love language it is like we are speaking Latin to our partner when they speak English.
You cannot stay connected if you are not speaking the same language. This has been work for both of us as it does not come easily to speak the other’s love language. But working on it has helped us to become closer and appreciate each other more. Just seeing that the dishwasher has been emptied and refilled makes me feel so loved. For Tim giving him a neck massage makes him feel loved. By knowing these small things we are giving of ourselves to each other and showing love in a way that our partner will really appreciate it. Can you take the time to discover your partners love language and learn to speak it?
3. Finding opportunities to date
Tim and I have been together for 17 years. We have been through high school, university, long-distance living, moving across the country, more university, buying houses, having kids and now moving to another country. One thing that we have discovered in the last two years that has kept us more connected is: Say yes to the babysitter! We try to plan a date once every two weeks. Many times our actual date is free or cheap so the only expense is the cost of our amazing 13-year-old babysitter, who the kids love! We go for a bike ride or we go skiing, sometimes we go for coffee or a beer together or sometimes we meet friends. Either way, it is adult time just for us.
If you are lucky enough to have grandparents who live close and will babysit for free you have won the jackpot! It is so important to maintain this part of your relationship…this is how it all started and there is a reason you look back so fondly on that part of your courtship…it was fun! Why did it have to stop? It doesn’t! Spending time away from your kids, pets, etc and dating your partner will allow you the time to share and be together just as a couple. Some of our best life conversations have come during our date time. Think about how you and your partner can date each other again and make it happen!!
4. Respecting and allow each other the time you need for yourselves.
This has been a tougher one for me than Tim. Moving to Colorado was tough in the beginning for many reasons but Tim was really one of the only adults I had to talk to for a while. This meant that I wanted to spend lots of time with him and definitely overwhelmed him with my constant chatter. After a particularly deep conversation about Tim’s feeling like my need for conversation was taking over I took a step back and realized that he needed quiet and space just like I needed to talk to an adult. Allowing each other the time to do your own thing without guilt is so important in building your strong relationship. Just because you are in a relationship doesn’t mean you have to do everything together…in fact it is much healthier if you don’t.
I don’t feel guilty taking time to go to yoga. Tim doesn’t feel guilty going for a bike ride or playing a round of golf. We know that this time is important and we both come back feeling full and ready to be a stronger and happier partner. When we are together the time is spent enjoying each others company, rather than feeling upset or resentful that you didn’t get the time you needed. Most important is that you communicate your needs…we aren’t mind readers and if you feel like you need to do something just for you, ask, and if your partner asks you for some time to do an activity on their own, help them make it happen. Being fully connected to your partner means helping them meet their needs without any reward for yourself…you do it because you love them.
Our relationship is not perfect but we are working hard to keep it tuned up and healthy. We try the best we can to implement the above 4 ideas to help us stay connected. We hope that they will help you and your partner in your relationship too.