When Russell Wilson told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “I’m truly grateful every day to get to come home… it puts a smile on my face every time,” I thought about what that meant… really meant. Based on the rest of the article, which mainly focused on him being a new father, you could tell Wilson wasn’t implying that he had an easy-going (old-timey) wife or that he enjoyed coming home to a 4,000 square foot mansion befitting a baller. You got the clear sense that he looked forward to coming home to his family, and the love and safety he feels at home. His candor got me thinking about what type of relationship habits make it easy to be around our housemates and partners; the types of habits that make us feel at home.
Except for one particularly controlling dude, I’ve been lucky to have lived with friendly SOs. That experience though taught me how much of a difference, who we come home to makes. Other people’s vibes affect ours, which can impact our productivity, creativity, self-esteem, and other areas of our personal development. If you haven’t yet, you’ll learn that life is just nicer when you have a partner you like coming home to. And you want to be THAT person for someone else too.
Practice these relationship habits for peace in your home and as one of the steps to making your life awesome.
Seth Godin said this about fairness:
Fairness isn’t a handout. Fairness is the willingness to offer dignity to others. The dignity of being seen and heard, and having a chance to make a contribution.
Who among us hasn’t known someone who believed that what they bring to the table (a larger salary) was worth more than what you (or their partner) brings? Don’t be that idiot, do this instead:
- Even if you pay all the bills, remember that value comes in many currencies, including care and attention.
- Agree on who does what chores and confirm that it feels fair to both of you. Work out compromises (including getting help) for those chores that no one wants to do.
- If you hog the closets in every room, make sure he has a Man Cave or she has a space of her own.
- Credit your partner on IG, at dinner parties, to the parents, etc., for the good things that they do.
- Lose the “Take me as I am” attitude. One of the most draining types of people to spend your life with is someone who believes that love means accepting any version of themselves they show up as. This type believes that accepting 100% of their bad behavior is a gesture of love. It’s not.
Be friends first
Relationships built on friendship and mutual caretaking feel easy and comfortable. Couples who are friends first, show up for each other and practice honesty. Here’s how:
- Have each other’s backs no matter what. They never let in-laws and outsiders come between them.
- Know each other’s hopes, fears, and backstory and help each other feel safe, given what they know.
- Build each other up by pointing out the good (not just the problems) in their partner and relationship.
- Support what the other person is interested in, even when it scares them.
- Don’t cheat. Unless you agree to have an open relationship, it’s understood that fidelity is required. Anything that’s important to know (like, “I have a child with my ex,” or “I’m $40k in debt”) should be disclosed ASAP.
Be thoughtful and generous
It was only after taking The Five Love Language quiz that I realized getting stuff meant a lot to me. Before that, I thought of myself as the Spiritual/Low Maintenance type who was content with whatever I got from my family and friends, but the quiz said my #1 love language is Receiving gifts. I began to notice how much… and it’s a lot. I’ve noticed that I feel some type of way when I don’t get gifts from certain people on my birthday. I will forgive a lot of your “quirks” if you buy me stuff or bring me homemade treats. And if you’re my partner and messed up? A simple apology or back-rub won’t get you off the hook!
You and I may THINK we know a person based on their actions or who we “type” them to be, but we humans can be so much more complicated than we appear. I highly recommend finding out what you and your partner’s Love Language are. With this kind of understanding, you can ensure you meet each other’s emotional needs in his/her language.
- If your partner is studying for an important test or is under pressure at work, give them what they need to do well. A little more patience? Peace and quiet? Or be direct and ask, How can I help?
- If your person’s Love Language is words of affirmation, bookmark these examples of words of affirmation and make sure you keep their love tank filled.
- It’s one thing to do the easy, but for some people, going out of your way says so much more. A friend of mine knew her now hubby was the one when he drove 100 miles to pick her up from an event she was hosting.
- Learn to cook your partner’s favorite dish or learn to do something else that means a lot to them.
- Be lavish! Something I like to do for someone who shares my love language is to give “packages” for Christmas or milestone birthdays. With packages, I won’t just buy the golf clubs, I’ll buy a weekend golf outing with the boys. I’ll add premium golf balls and nice gloves and really “package” their gifts.
Be kind and loving
What’s the difference between this habit and being thoughtful and generous? Thoughtful is what you do (give stuff and show up). Kind, however, is who you are. Being kind and loving is one of those relationship habits that really matter in the long run.
A celebrity couple that many people claim as relationship goals is Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell. Dax has said that he and Kristen are very different, so different that they had to have couples therapy at the beginning of their relationship. Why does he bother if they’re so different? Kristen, he told USA Today, is genuinely the nicest person I’ve ever met. “She has a personality that I want to be sitting on a porch with when I’m 80 years old.”
Kindness may not matter on Twitter, but it matters in our homes.
- Work out your personal stuff and your work stress so that the energy you bring to your partner is loving and kind to be around.
- Accommodate a few idiosyncrasies and quirks in your partner. It’s a loving thing to do.
- The Love Language of physical touch is more important to some people, but everyone loves non-sexual physical contact. Putting your head in someone’s lap (even if it’s for you) can make the other person feel so good (needed).
- Assume the best of your partner. S/he will want to live up to your good expectations.
- If your partner puts on a few pounds, don’t just tell them to lose weight. The kind thing to do is to look at what’s changed for them and help them handle that situation better.
Have relationship goals
In every healthy relationship I’ve seen, the partners leave space for each other to be themselves. The “us” in their relationship is the priority, but each person has at least one night a month for themselves. Setting relationship goals looks out for the “us” and the “you.”
- Design your life with someone who wants the same important things as you.
- The differences you’ll have are more likely to get ironed out if you have goals you’re working toward.
- Work as a team, and keep your eyes on what you’re trying to build together.
- If you need to unlearn some habits for the health of your relationship, get on it.
- Like a business, meet regularly to review what’s working and what needs more attention.
Learn to communicate
This is another one of those relationship habits that I can definitely relate to, as do most of us. Poor communication is draining for everyone involved and I personally, have lost patience with anyone over 30 who still can’t express themselves without animus. I’ve learned that for healthy relationships, we have to work on learning to communicate. Everyone wants to feel heard… just having that awareness can help us comport ourselves better.
- Shutting out your partner when you feel down are communication habits that put distance between couples. Behaviors like being defensive and rolling your eyes fall in this category. It isn’t cute, it feels awful. Work on yourself, get help with old habits and fears and learn to communicate effectively.
- Learn active listening because it makes your partner feel heard and valued. Cut down on the nagging; it hurts your intimacy. This is another area where learning to communicate effectively will help you both. Women who get what they want have learned that there are more effective ways to get what you want than nagging.
- Looks matters. Torn tees and smelling funky says “stay away!” In a nice tee and shorts combo, you will feel comfy but still, look inviting. If you have kids, put toys away and keep your bedroom looking like a bedroom.
- Apologize and admit your mistakes! When it matters, apologize with more than words and don’t keep repeating your mistakes. Our apologies become hollow when we keep doing behaviors that hurt/frustrate our partner. No one has time for that!
Have fun with each other
Your partner is going to want to stick around if you’re easy to be around, and one of the easiest ways to do that is to make time for fun. Some relationship habits take work; this one is just the opposite… so why not?
- Don’t take everything too seriously or dial every conflict up to a “10.”
- Find your partner’s inner child, and help him/her express it.
- Have at least a few sports and interests you share and do together.
- Have a weekly date night, no matter how modest.
- Know your partner’s ideal sexual frequency and fantasies, and if it doesn’t line up with yours, negotiate and find alternatives to each other’s satisfaction.
In relationships, most of us have needs like affection, trust, validation, and companionship that we hope gets met. It’s by practicing the habits above that we lay the foundation for them to happen. Affection, for example, grows when you and your partner have fun together, are kind to each other, and take care of each other’s emotional needs. And you know that companionship is about more than sharing a space with each other.
Almost all of the happy couples I’ve talked to or read about say that the secret to having a good relationship is liking each other. Work on that, and no one will want to leave.
Christine is a lifestyle coach living in Los Angeles. She believes the way we live predicts our future health and motivation. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out about working with Christine.