Whenever someone says something along the lines of "relationships are hard work" (typically with an emphasis on "hard"), typically my response will be, "I prefer to say that relationships require daily maintenance." While on the surface, it might seem like I'm splitting hairs, think about a garden and I think you'll get where I'm coming from.
When you first decide to grow a garden, it's definitely a lot of work to get it started. You've gotta break ground, pull up stones, fertilize the soil, plant seeds…I'm getting tired just thinking about it. But once your garden is all set, so long as you water it, make sure the soil (the foundation) is good, check for weeds and pests and keep up with when it's time to harvest, for the most part, you're all set.
So yeah, to me, a healthy relationship is a lot like a garden. It may require a lot of work at first because you're getting the foundation laid. But if you both are committed to nurturing the relationship once it's been established, it shouldn't require tons of blood, sweat, and tears. It really shouldn't.
And just what do two people need to do in order to maintain their relationship with one another?
1. Be CourteousGiphy
Have you ever noticed that some of the basic rules of courtesy we're taught as children are the ones that seem to go totally out of the window once we're grown and interacting with the people closest to us? Strangers and co-workers aren't the only ones who deserve to hear "please" or "thank you". They also aren't the only individuals who should receive actual requests when we need something or should be told that they are appreciated when said request is granted.
One of the main reasons why a lot of people feel taken for granted in their relationships is because their partner fails to show good manners to them. It sounds elementary, but I promise that if you're more polite, it truly can do wonders for your relationship.
2. Ask. Don't Assume.
Something else that most of us heard while growing up is if we assume, it will make a total ass of us. Yet, when I'm in the middle of a counseling session, I can't tell you how many times one or both people have told me that they are frustrated with their partner because they know they are thinking "this" or they know they are going to do "that".
Yeah, I know a lot of us women think that we are so intuitive that we can constantly read our man's mind. I also know that kind of presumption tends to piss a lot of men off. No matter how long you've been with someone, they're forever gonna be capable of doing something that surprises you. Therefore, if you really want to know something, give them the respect of asking rather assuming what they are going to say or do. And yes, require they do the same thing for you in return.
3. Apologize. And Forgive.Giphy
There is someone I used to be very close to who I had to stop being close with, basically for one major reason—they refused to apologize. Like ever. Something that life experience has taught me is if someone wrongs me or even just hurts my feelings and they refuse to address it, that's a form of toxicity that I can do without.
I did some research into why some people seem to be wired this way. Many psychologists say that some individuals don't apologize because they have trouble separating their actions from their character (they think what they are apologizing for is both). Others say people don't do it because they feel that apologizing will trigger other unwanted conversations (like they might apologizing for being perpetually late and that will turn into their other "flaws").
Personally, I think it has more to do with egomania than anything. Oh, and the title of this article right here—"People Who Never Apologize Probably Aren't Nice to Themselves, Either". If someone is not nice to themselves, it's only a matter of time before they show out, on some level, with their partner. Life is too short to not work through things. When you know you've done wrong or even when your partner simply brings hurt feelings (at your hand) to your attention, it's an act of humility and love to apologize.
On the flip side, in order for relationships to be healthy, it's also important to forgive. People who can't forgive also baffle me because it sends the message that others should accept their flaws, missteps and wrongdoings, but those same individuals aren't deserving of that very same reception. No relationship is perfect; that's because both people in them aren't.
A relationship that forgives each other stays together.
Apologize. And forgive.
4. Love with Intention
Intention. Did you know that two definitions of the word "intention" are "purpose or attitude toward the effect of one's actions or conduct" and "purpose or attitude with respect to marriage"? It's kind of a trip that the meaning of intention speaks to a type of romantic relationship.
And yes, if you want to keep your relationship healthy and strong, it's important that you thoughtfully and purposefully express your love and commitment to your partner on a daily basis. It doesn't have to always be an over-the-top gesture. It can be a mailed Hallmark card. Lunch from their favorite restaurant delivered to their job. A back massage out of the blue. Recreating their favorite date. Cuddling in bed while watching one of their favorite movies.
It's all about thinking about how much you love them and then doing something—whether it's big or small—to show them just how much you do. As often as you possibly can.
5. Lean. Don't Push.
I grew up on Beverly Hills, 90210. So, when I found out that Luke Perry (aka Dylan McKay) died in March, I was all up in my feelings. It made me want to watch some reruns. It also caused me to recall some great advice that another character on the show (Ian Ziering who played Steve Sanders) said to one of his girlfriends when they were having some miscommunication issues—"Lean. Don't push."
What he basically meant is sometimes, when we're in a really vulnerable place, rather than admit that to our partner and ask for help, we slick find ways to push them away or self-sabotage the relationship, all because we're afraid that they won't be able to endure our hard times with us.
Ian/Steve is exactly right. If anyone should be your advocate and source of support, it's your partner. At the same time, they should be able to feel the same way about you. Lean into your support system; don't do things that will push him away or have to "prove" that he's gonna stay. That kind of test may be one that you'll royally fail.
6. Laugh Together
If you got 50 people together in one room and asked them to list five things that attracts them to another person, I'd be shocked if 80 percent of them didn't mention the importance of having a sense of humor. Not only is it a sign that an individual knows how not to take life so seriously all of the time, it's also an indication that they can see the positive/funny sides of things too.
Plus, science reveals that laughter does everything from reduce stress and lower your blood pressure to strengthen your heart, increase T-cells and release endorphins too. Whether it's calling up your partner in the middle of the day to share a funny story with them or it's sitting on the couch and watching old episodes of The Boondocks (Tom singing Usher's "Let It Burn" and a pizza commercial that KevOnStage featured on his channel never get old!), make a point to laugh with the one who you love, just as often as you possibly can.
7. Remember Why You Started
Something that I recommend all of the couples that I work with do is jot down 10 things that they really like about their partner, then post it somewhere they can see it on a daily basis, whether it's their bedroom or bathroom mirror or even the fridge. It's a great way for them to remember what drew them to one another in the first place.
If relationships were easy, divorces would drop by at least a billion percent. Sometimes, when your boo is getting on your very last nerve and you're tempted to only focus on all of the things you don't like about them, you need a visual reminder of all of the things that you love. Refer to the list as often as possible. Sometimes even shoot a text to reiterate a couple of things that are on it—just so both of you can remember why you started your relationship in the first place.
8. Stay Consistent
Who cares how good the sex is if you only get it ("it" meaning "good") on your birthday? Who cares how romantic your man is if you can only recall two solid memories? Who cares how special your man makes you feel if it only happens after you've threatened to leave him for the fifth or 50th time?
Many a good relationships have crashed and burned, all because they lacked one very critical component—consistency. When someone is consistent, they are steady. They don't care about what they did last month, week or even yesterday. What matters to them is showing their partner, right in this moment, how special and wonderful they are. And when they get up the next day, they have the same mindset.
To me, consistency is a superpower. And there is a lot of truth to, what you did to get your partner, you need to do to keep them. Consistently so.
When it comes to keeping a relationship healthy and strong, consistency wins the race. No doubt about it at all.
Featured image by Getty Images.
5 Ways To Stop Self-Sabotaging Yourself - Read More
Knowing Your Partner's Love Language Can Transform Your Relationship - Read More
On Choosing Relationship Health Over #RelationshipGoals - Read More
Ask Ayana Iman: Have I Outgrown This Relationship? - Read More