This post isn’t about how happy I am in my relationship (although I could write an article about that as well), but about some things you can do to improve life in your couple. I have no PHD in couple therapy, but if you want to read the opinions of a simple man who has gone through enough experiences in his life, then this article is for you.
I’ve never been the type of person who speaks from the bottom of his heart or opens up a lot. Like many of you, while going through different experiences, I developed some sort of defense mechanism, the sort that keeps people away. Today and on any other post on this blog I will try to do differently.
I generally lived a pretty paradoxical life. One of the aspects of living a paradoxical life is that, in some twisted way, although you desire something badly in your heart you do the exact opposite. I’m not going A to Z about this so I’ll just stick to the primary topic of 2inabillion: relationships.
I always desired to have one, but most of the time I stuck to one night stands or 3-4 weeks long relations. My ego was feeding with this adventurous life and somehow tricked me into believing that I was happy. The truth is that each time I “scored” one I was damn proud of me and kept challenging myself to improve. The problem is that pride goes away after 2-3 days. And then there is just emptiness and shades of gray.
I may surprise you with what I’m going to say, but the moment I discovered this was no life changing revelation. I just simply realized that one, ten or 100 more girls don’t really matter as living a superficial life won’t ever bring you happiness. I know as I’ve been there.
And now I’m here. So if you ask yourself what makes a relationship happy, here are my answers:
1. Be Happy with Yourself
I think the first and most important thing into having a happy relationship is to be happy with yourself. Arrogance is ugly, narcisism is stupid, but you have to love yourself in order to be capable to love someone else completely and, most importantly, to let yourself loved by another.
Not loving yourself can lead to hundreds of problems. For example, you will always keep that defense mechanism on, even inside the relationship, therefore you will also keep your partner away. At some point he/she will feel this distance and could get a feeling of being rejected. This will also make your relationship get stuck at some point and neither of you will achieve total happiness.
Another problem caused by not loving yourself is the fact that you won’t respect yourself as much as you deserve. This will not only make your partner not respect you that much, but it will also make you feel inferior in the couple and you will always try to compensate one way or another. While compensating you will get the feeling that you are offering more than receiving, which could cause frustrations. You know where frustrations lead, don’t you?
I’m not the most adequate person to give you tips on how to become happy with yourself, but here’s some great posts you can read: thechangeblog.com , gretchenrubin.com and youtube.com and books: Happy This Year!: The Secret to Getting Happy Once and for All or Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence .
2. Have a Passion
While it’s important to set goals as a couple (we’ll talk about this a little bit later), it’s also important that each of you has a passion and separate objectives. A passion gives you purpose and as Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun (sorry, not my fault the title is so damn long) states “a passion gives you a reason to keep learning and to work toward mastery”. Most important of all, a passion makes one happy.
Setting and achieving goals, doing what you love, knowing and talking to people that do the same thing you love are all important ingredients of living a happy life. Now, if you were to connect this thought with what I said above, they all also become important ingredients of having a healthy and happy relationship.
But one of the greatest things about having a passion and being in a couple are the moments when you’re sharing the successes of your passion with your loved one.
3. Stop Trying to Look Perfect
I know that it’s hard for you to talk about the things you see as negative in yourself, but if you don’t they will hunt you for the rest of your relationship. Let me put this down for you in a simple a, b, c and even a d) and probably an e).
a) Your partner also has defects. You know that nobody is perfect!
b) Your partner may not consider the same things you do as negative. He/She may even find them cute.
c) While time passes, your partner will eventually see those flaws and when you’ll realize that he/she noticed them you may have the chance to get even more complexed about them.
d) If you don’t communicate about what you don’t like about yourself, you will always have a burden on your shoulders, a burden that will become heavier through years. Just as in reality, carrying a weight makes you move harder so will your relationship.
e) You will feel like your partner doesn’t understand you or doesn’t know you.
As much as we don’t like to admit it, we all have complexes and flaws. While we may have a problem in escaping them, the worst thing we can do is try and hide them. If you don’t communicate them to your partner, if you don’t talk to him/her about them and the fears you have about them, with each day passed they will just wrap around your mind to the point where they will suffocate your happiness in the relationship.
I may not know much. but I’m certain of one thing (from my own experiences): the worst choice you can make when being in a couple is to not be yourself completely.
4. Have a Life Outside the Couple
Few years ago a heard a friend of mine saying something that really scratched my ear. She said: “If it was by me and R.(her boyfriend, can’t give names sorry) we would live a perfect life forever, just the two of us, on an isolated island. We wouldn’t need anything or anyone else, except our favorite shops”.
The problem is that forever comes faster when you have no life outside the couple. While life is much better in two, it’s really bad to live in a world of your own, the only place where everything happens. Find out why this sucks below.
Both me and Tiberiu are freelancers. This means that we both work from home and, considering that we live in an one bedroom apartment we also sleep in the same room where we work. Still, while we’re basically together 24/7 most of the times, we never got bored of each other. And this is mainly because we understood from the beginning that each of us needs his/her own time and space. We also understood that time spent outside the couple will not bring us apart, but closer and, of course, will make us a much healthier and happier couple. Therefore, routines came out and while I’m seeing my friends at least once a week, she goes out with her girls. Now let’s find out why spending life outside your couple matters in a relationship:
– You keep a feeling of independence. This is as important for me as I’m sure it is for you. Even though you are in a couple you don’t have to feel constrained by the relationship. Nobody does. Feeling constrained will just make you want to break free and this could push you do some stupid stuff, like cheating on your partner.
– As much as everyone tries to avoid this, routines appear in every couple at some point. Routine is the first road you can take to boredom and living life only inside the couple is definitely one of the main reasons why routines appear. Boredom in a couple may often trick you into believing that things aren’t going well in your relationship and it’s certainly one of the main ingredients for not having a happy relationship.
– You will have new things to talk about. You may be the best communicator in the world, but at some point of your relationship you will have still repeated the same story at least three times. Even if you’re going to separate work places, sometimes the same things will happen again and again and again, so nothing new to talk about there. So, instead of telling the same stories or talking about the same things over and over again, instead of gossiping people around you, why not go out separately from time to time, create new stories through action, hear new stories through communication, come back home and talk about something new?
Bottom line is that it’s much healthier for you to miss each other sometimes instead of suffocating yourselves. If you have a life of your own you will also have a life in a couple!
5. The Power of Compromise
I’ve seen relationship experts who don’t agree with compromise in a couple. Just last week I read an article saying compromise is bad. Well, I don’t know if my way is the best way, but I know compromise worked for me and for most of the happy relationships that I see around me.
Sometimes it is good to argue about some things, but once this becomes a habit, you can be sure that your relationship isn’t a happy one. While no one in this world is right, but at the same time we all are, who holds the truth? I’ve guided my life by the principle that everyone is right in his/her own way, so hear his/her arguments before thinking that you’re smarter.
Compromise also means that you are considering your partner equal and this should be a fact in every couple. If you see yourself as superior, then your partner will feel inferior. Do you really want this?
If you really want both of you to be happy and your relationship to work, then you must learn to sacrifice every once in a while. Think what would happen if everyone in this world would like things to go his/her way? I can imagine only wars. What about you? Well, this brings us to the end of part one of this article. I didn’t want to share this with you now but I couldn’t wait another week until I posted part two. I’ve just finished reading a really really good book, one of the best I can recommend for couples: Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. The book is based on Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), which clinical psychologist and researcher Sue Johnson founded and outlines several stages of healing work that couples can do together. So if our advice doesn’t help into having the happy relationship you want, reading this book is a must.
To tell you the truth, this article seemed more like a long, but beautiful journey instead of a time consuming resource. This being said, I can’t wait to “hit the road again”! Stay tuned for part two of Anatomy of a Happy Relationship.