Relationships Don’t Work.

…you do.

And honestly, you don’t even have to work that hard.

I promised to share some things I’ve learned along the way, so I’m making good on my promise.  These are just 7 of the things that I wish someone had mentioned a decade ago… not that it would have necessarily made sense at that age, but I’d love to have been given a fighting chance, you know?

Make sure your values are similar.  If they’re not, don’t try to force it and don’t linger too long.  People don’t really grow apart, they were heading in different directions to begin with… they merely crossed paths.

“Values” is probably a topic for another day, but the lion’s share of it can be covered in “lifestyle”, how you view things, where you think you want to be going – and why.

When these things don’t mesh between two people, even if they’re in “the same place” today, they won’t be in another year… or ten.  If, on the other hand, you’re traveling in the same general direction, you can be companions to each other along your journeys.

Learn your partner’s love language.  Learn your own while you’re at it.  This is important.

Yes, I know that means reading a whole book, but you can also get it on audio (and/or take the online test), so there’s really no excuse.  This single item has the potential of completely transforming your relationship, so it’s definitely worth the effort.

When you have the option of doing two (or more) things for your partner, wouldn’t it help to know which things your partner would find meaningful?  Or, if you’re going to drop the ball on something, and you have a choice, wouldn’t it help to know which one won’t be taken personally?

Here’s an example.  My love languages are “acts of service” and “quality time”.  With this little piece of knowledge, you could determine that, should you need to (heaven forbid) break a date or something, you would already know that flowers and lots of pretty words / promises wouldn’t make up for it – they’d actually seem rather trite – but if you brought me a cup of coffee (‘cause I love it, live on it, and you know how I like it fixed), all would be better.  This kind of thing can really make or break a relationship, as silly as that sounds.   It’s about feeling loved and appreciated.  And we see things differently.  Know how your partner sees things.  This will make both of your lives easier, less expensive, and more enjoyable.

Another initiative that’s just as important is to figure out (if you haven’t already) how each of you learn.

This concept is still being adopted by schools (and slowly), so you may not be familiar with it just yet, but look into learning styles: auditory, visual, tactile, kinesthetic.  This is how you easily store and retrieve information.

The reason this info is helpful / important, is that you will better-understand how to communicate with your partner.  Talking?  Written dialog?  Are differing styles the root of many of your frustrations?  Could be.  It’s actually pretty likely.  How many issues could actually be resolved (or prevented) by knowing how to communicate with each other?

Do one thing every day (if at all humanly possible – if not, just as often as you can) for your partner.

This does not have to be a grand gesture, but should keep your partner’s love language in mind.

I mean this wholeheartedly.  Make this a part of your daily routine.  Look for ways to do something your partner would appreciate… and don’t expect accolades.  What you get in return (especially if you’re both striving to do this), is that your partner will be doing the same for you.

Here’s the breakdown: you’re both endeavoring to do something to make each other feel appreciated.  This also translates into making each others lives a little easier… less stressful.  You essentially eliminate the need to “look out for #1” from your relationship.  When each person feels appreciated and knows that the other is looking out for their best interest, the need for selfish behavior (even thoughts) is negated.  This is a beautiful thing, and you definitely want to be a part of it.

Remember your partner’s name, and use it.

Ok, this one is too easy not to use.  Seriously.

Studies in human behavior & biological reactions have shown that people have a physiological reaction to hearing the sound of their own name, especially from the lips of someone else.

If 2 years (or 6 months) into your relationship, you’re calling each other by terms of endearment (or just “hey”) exclusively, you’re missing out on the easiest form of excitement you can add to your relationship.  Physiologically, our brains react, our heart rates react, our blood pressure reacts… we want to hear our names.  And we want our partner to say it.  It’s our identifier.  It’s personal.  And it means the world to us.  Act like you know this.  Like you know who your partner is, and that they’re not just the latest person occupying the name “baby”.

“No, my first name ain’t ‘baby’.  It’s Janet.  Miss Jackson, if you’re nasty.”  ~ Janet Jackson

Be an active part of your partner’s life, and include them in yours.

This may take a little more effort, but not much.  Get a phone with a camera, and a data plan… don’t inundate your partner with things you’d tell anyone on twitter, but let them know what you’re doing when they came to mind.  Or, if they’re an auditory learner, call’em.

Here’s why it’s important: most of us, during the course of our relationships, become the “collector of information that has already taken place.”  We know about things after the story has a beginning, middle, and end.  We’re not a part of the process.  Even if we don’t have anything to contribute, we need to be involved.

Are you stuck inny-minny-miney-moeing your lunch options?  Ask your partner to help.  (See?  It can be simple!)  If you’re thinking about doing something, but haven’t thought it through yet… involve your partner.

This is easy stuff folks.  Think about it.  If the only time you know what’s going on with your partner is after the fact, you’re not involved with each other.  You could be watching it on tv just as well.

Get. Involved.

Two words: Buffer. Zones.

Not necessarily physical zones, but more in terms of when your partner needs down time.

Does chirping at your partner as soon as they walk in the door from work get under their fingernails and set the tone for the rest of the evening?  Then don’t.  Give’m 30 minutes.  What about first thing in the morning?  No?  Then give’em time to wake up before talking at/to them.  Are they an ‘early to bed’ person?  Then maybe midnight isn’t a good time.

Think about when you want to be given some space, and grant the same to your partner  – when they want/need it.  Remember, it’s not always about you.  And if all we’re talking about here is a little impulse-suppression, you’ll be fine.  Besides, I’m not saying don’t talk (by all means!  This is the person you should be talking to!), I’m just saying “let’s be courteous about it”.

Understandably, sometimes it’s unavoidable… but if this is the exception, not the rule, then it’s a whole lot more forgivable.

Simply being able to recharge your batteries or detox from a day/situation, or just wake up a bit, can mean the difference between frustrating and complementary.  If 30 minutes a day can transform your relationship, take note of it.  And use it wisely.

I realize that every relationship has its own set of hurdles, but these 7 things can apply to just about everyone… and can make handling your other hurdles a little easier on the both of you.

Go forth, and work.

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