In 2017, Russell Wilson was quoted in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as saying: “I’m truly grateful every day to get to come home and it puts a smile on my face every time.” He’s echoing a sentiment you and I know to be true: Life is nicer with a partner you like coming home to.
The word “home” really stood out when I read that because I remember a time when thanks to my partner, home didn’t feel like home. I hated going home and felt lighter when I headed out the door. Home is more than a place, it can also be the people in it. Home is where we want to chill and feel “at home.” But if you live with a fussy, controlling or unlikeable person, it’s none of those things.
The person we want to share our lives with and stick around for is the person who makes everyday life a little fun, sometimes exciting, and who puts a smile on your face when you get home. What are some of the relationship habits that make that possible? Here, I’ve put together some of the best relationship habits I see great couples live by and I flipped a few that ticks me off.
In relationships, so many people put themselves first. They look at only one side of the equation (theirs) and forget that relationships are partnerships. If you want a happy home, view what your partner brings to the table as equitable and try to be fair.
- No one likes your Diva-behavior and Lording ways. Even if you pay all the bills, yours cannot be the only opinion in your relationship that matters or that carry the most weight.
- Agree on who does what chores and confirm that it feels equitable to the other person.
- Don’t treat an adult like a child unless it’s in a loving way that s/he appreciates.
- If you hog the closets in every room, make sure he has a Man Cave or her, a space of her own.
- Lose the “Take me as I am” attitude. One of the most draining types to spend time 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—words that also describe what we want our home to feel like. Show up for each other the way you would a friend. Here are some relationship habits couples who are Friends First have.
- 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 back story and help each other feel safe.
- Build each other up! They point out the good (not just the problems) in their partner and relationship.
- Support what the other person is interested in, even when it scares you.
- Don’t cheat. Unless you agree to have an open relationship, it’s understood that fidelity is required. The same goes for financial honesty. Anything that’s important to know (like, I have a child with my ex) are disclosed.
Trust is big! One of the most unfriendly things you can do in a relationship is to hide important things from your partner. Once even a little bit of trust is gone, your relationship may never recover. Treating each other as friends first, this level of honesty becomes a given.
Be thoughtful and generous
After doing The Five Love Language quiz, I was surprised to learn that I love receiving gifts. Haha! Here I was thinking that I’m Ms. Spiritual/ Low Maintainance. Turns out, I will forgive a lot of “quirks” if you buy me stuff!!! I highly recommend finding out yours and your partner’s Love Language. Knowing it, you and your partner can ensure you meet each other’s emotional needs. Here are some examples of how to be thoughtful and generous:
- If your partner is studying for an important test or is under pressure at work, give them what they need to do well. Be a little more patient and give them quiet or other consideration they need.
- 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. You’re welcome!
- Go out of your way to do nice things for each other. It’s one thing to do the easy thing, it’s quite another to go out of your way or drive 100 miles to pick up your partner. When my friend Emily was Airbnbing with us for 2-3 months, her hubby drove 60+ miles every weekend to see her. They showed generosity in many other ways and I can tell you one thing, I’d be shocked if these two were ever to split.
- Learn to cook your partner’s favorite dish or learn something else that means a lot to them.
- Something I like to do for someone who shares my love language is to give “packages” for Christmas or milestone birthdays. I won’t just buy the golf clubs but a weekend outing with the boys too. I’ll add premium golf balls and nice gloves to the haul. Big gestures that mean a lot to your partner say “I see you and want you to be happy.”
Be kind and loving
What’s the difference between this habit and being thoughtful and generous? Thoughtful is what you do and kind is who you are. This is about how you show up and it’s one of those relationship habits that really matter in the long run.
Another celebrity couple that many people put up as relationship goals is Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell. Dax has shared that their relationship takes work, but it’s work he gladly does. He said that he and Kristen are very different, so different 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.”
- Work out your personal stuff and your stress so that your energy is loving and kind to be around.
- Accommodate a few idiosyncrasies and quirks. It’s a loving thing to do.
- The Love Language of physical touch is uber important to some people but we all thrive on touch. Physical touch, in general, can make anyone purr, feel closer to you and more at home.
- 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. Look at what’s changed and help them handle that situation better. Encourage your partner to take a walk with you without mentioning losing weight as an objective. Praise him/her more. The psychological boost can help eject your partner from their funk.
Have relationship goals
All good relationships devote the “right-for-you ” amount of time to you, me, and us. Each person should have their own lives and friendships that don’t threaten their relationship. You leave space for the other person to be themselves while simultaneously working for the growth of the relationship. The “us” in the relationship must be the priority and the two of you need to have shared goals.
- Design your life with someone who wants the same important things as you do.
- Understand that you’re individuals and WILL have differences to work out.
- If you need to unlearn some habits for the health of your relationship, get on it.
- Work as a team and keep your eyes on what you’re trying to build together.
- Like a business, meet regularly to review what’s working until you no longer need to.
Learn to communicate
Just as learning your Love Language will help two people meet each other’s emotional needs, learning your communication style will help each person feel heard.
- 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 out the nagging. It hurts your intimacy and drives your partner away. This is another area where learning to communicate effectively will help you both. Learn to negotiate boundaries and be heard without 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. Your apologies become hollow if you’re just going to keep doing what you know hurts/frustrates your 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. I’m not suggesting you should be compliant. It’s about having fun together, sharing laughs and letting your hair down with each other.
- 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, companionship, and want to feel loved. The habits above are how we get those bigger goals. Affection, for example, is possible when you and your partner have fun together, are kind to each other, and take care of each other’s emotional needs.
For almost all happy couples I’ve talked to or read about, the secret of their relationship is liking each other. Work on that and no one will want to leave.