Most of us have heard of the concept of looking at our relationship with our partner as a garden that we plant and tend. The concept being that as with a garden, we plant the seeds of our relationship with another, and watch as it blooms into something that brings beauty and joy into our lives. We need to tend to the relationship as we would a garden; nurturing it, “watering” it, paying attention to weeds, (problems) that tend to overgrow and could eventually take over. But what does that look like exactly? What qualities do a thriving, happy relationship actually possess? Simply put, when it comes to staying happy in your relationship, what does that entail? Here are 6 tips:
1. Strive To Really Understand your Partner and How they Are Different From You
Actively seeking to understand another person is probably one of the most significant steps you can take to building a solid foundation with another. What might feel like joy, caring, or nurturing to you, may not be perceived by someone else as an attempt for connection at all. How you negotiate differences, competing needs and even experience every day life and the differing rhythms people can have, can either bring a couple closer or put walls up between people. Our tendency is to project out of our own histories what we think other people need or want to feel cared for. Take the time to map out your partners needs, feelings, interests and if both of you are doing that for each other, the garden will allow for each of you to bloom.
2. Create a Bubble Around Your Relationship
Your relationship between you and your intimate partner needs to be nurtured and dealt with as a sacred space in order for a foundation of trust to grow. There should be a part of your relational life that is off limits to everyone else in order for that foundation to take root. This is not to say that you in any way need to isolate yourselves from the rest of the world. But when problems occur, the relationship needs to learn how to manage conflict between the two of you-not between the two of you, your best friends and your mother-in law.
3. Get Physical
When you and your significant other first met, chances are you enjoyed the initial stages of physical intimacy. Holding hands, hugging each other, passionate kissing usually are the preludes to sexually intimacy. Those “basics” can get lost in an ongoing relationship and actually are needed as the “fertilizer” for intimacy. Make touching a habit and the payoff will be bountiful!
4. Laughter and Fun
Life can be overwhelming, stressful and difficult at times. But take time as a couple to find joy in different ways and it’s like a dose of sunshine warming, and connecting you. Joy can come in many forms both on a large scale like planning a vacation together, or on a small scale like taking a walk at sunset together or listening to a new favorite artist album together. Don’t underestimate the value of a date night, a shared goal or project, or even watching a show or movie that connects you through laughter.
5. Take Good Care of Yourself
You are responsible for taking care of you with the same energy and commitment that you care for anyone else. In order for you to bloom into the strongest, healthiest, most radiant person you can be, you need to tend to yourself. That means looking at how you care for you. What kind of food are you putting in your body? Are you regularly exercising to keep yourself strong and healthy. Do you practice self care that makes you feel good? If you don’t care about you, chances are the bar will be set pretty low for anyone else to take care of you. Do you tend to relationships that feed your soul? Friends, family, creative outlets, satisfying work, hobbies, are all a part of finding balance that encourages you to shine brightly and needs to be attended to or we begin to wither.
6. Celebrate Life and Each Other
We all remember the good feeling of being told “good job” and getting a “gold star” on our paper in school. We can somehow along the way begin to take life’s milestones as well as life’s little successes for granted and we don’t bother to thank and celebrate each other. A simple “thank you for a delicious meal” or a comment on how handsome/beautiful your partner looks is a simple and effective way of recognizing and validating the person you are with. It also has a contagious effect-like ground cover that is planted individually but all grows together, celebrating each other creates good will, joy, a sense of value and of being cared for, and makes each of you more generous with each other instead of measured and guarded. Take the time to share positive feedback and to celebrate life, accomplishments, milestones and each other.
Debra Alper is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice in Chicago, specializing in relational therapy and divorce recovery. She has worked extensively since 1999 with individual clients striving to experience deeper, more meaningful relationships, couples in the midst of marital crisis around infidelity and unhappy, lonely relationships, and clients struggling to get through the emotional, and life changing hurdles of pre and post divorce. Debra received her undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and her Masters in Social Work from Loyola University, Chicago. Debra can be reached through her website at www.lifetransitionschicago.com.
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