When you and I go to the place we call home, we want to chill and feel “at home.” It’s hard to do that if you live with a fussy, controlling or unlikeable person. 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. Even from afar, you can tell that Russell and R&B singer Ciara share good relationship habits.
You and I know that it’s the little things that will strain a relationship or make it joyous, and these two seems to have the joyous formula down. We’re taking notes!
Ultimately, most of us want to go to bed with, wake up next to, and Netflix and chill with someone we like. The person we like is who we will want to call in the middle of a bad day or a good one. Trust is built and safety felt. 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.
Here are what I believe are some of the best relationship habits and five examples of how to practice each to make your relationship one you and your partner want to be in.
So many people put themselves first. They forget that relationships are partnerships and often look at only one side of the equation—theirs. You’re heading down a slippery slope if you don’t consider what your partner brings to the table as equitable and try to be fair.
- 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.
- No one likes your Diva-behavior and Monarchy-madness. 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.
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 friends and friendly
Relationships built on friendship and mutual caretaking have ease and comfort to them. You show up for each other the way you would a friend. Here are some examples of friendly relationship habits.
- Have each other’s backs no matter what. Never let friends, in-laws, and outsiders come between you.
- Get to know your partner’s hopes, fears, and back story and help them feel safe.
- Build each other up! Point out the good (not just the problems) in your partner and relationship.
- Support what the other person is interested in, even when it scares you.
- Don’t fucking cheat. Unless you agree to have an open relationship, it’s understood that fidelity is required. Ditto for financial honesty and other important disclosures. One of the most unfriendly things you can do in a relationship is to do something that erodes trust. Once even a little bit of trust is gone, your relationship may never recover.
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. It’s how you show up and it’s one of those relationship habits that really matter in the long run.
Another celebrity couple that I and 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 they are very different and 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. Physical touch, in general, can make anyone purr, feel closer to you and at home.
- Assume the best of your partner. S/he will want to live up to your good expectations.
- If your partner put on a few pounds, don’t just tell them to lose weight. Investigate what’s changed and help them to resolve their underlying issue.
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.
- Being defensive, rolling your eyes and shutting out your partner when you feel down, are communication habits that put distance between couples. You need to work out your issues and learn to effectively communicate.
- Learn active listening because it makes your partner feel heard and valued.
- Nagging and nitpicking usually mean one of two things: the nagger doesn’t feel heard or has control issues. Nagging hurts your intimacy and drives your partner away so again, you want to find more effective ways to communicate, negotiate boundaries, and be heard.
- Touch and intimacy are positive types of communication that you want to create opportunities for. Soft lights in the evenings don’t hurt. Cute loungewear or tees and shorts combos 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. 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.
Put it all together
Two people rarely come together just for companionship or to procreate anymore. Most modern couples want to be each other’s family and best friends. Couples want to build partnerships, even businesses together and want to share a life where each feel loved and valued. Without the habits that make those things possible, one or both people are going to be unhappy when the honeymoon phase of the relationship is over.
Two of the biggies that keep couples together are having/building something important together and liking each other enough (or so much) that you don’t want to be without one another. Relationship habits like these make couples want to stay together.
These are, I believe, the habits that make all the important relationship needs like affection, trust, validation, companionship, and even love, possible. 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. When trade-offs need to be made, and bad habits cleaned up for the good of the relationship, you’ll happily do it because you’re with someone you think is worth the effort.
For almost all happy couples, the secret sauce is likeability.