As a bit of a follow on to my previous blog, I wanted to write about some of the things I have learnt about relationships and how to keep the peace. I’m no expert or professional when it comes to relationships, and in ten years I’m almost certain I’ll look back and laugh at my own naivety, but for now, these are the things that seem to help my current relationship survive.
Pick your battles
When I was in my first relationship, the second my ex did anything ‘wrong’ I’d always assume the worst and be so quick to anger, no matter how small and insignificant it was. I think for a lot of people, that seems normal. We are conditioned to believe that a good relationship requires a partner who never steps a toe out of line, and always puts you first. In the real world, people are selfish, and nine times out of ten will think of themselves first, so its better you erase that perfect romantic comedy boyfriend from your mind. One thing I learnt very quickly is that people, especially men, don’t take well to criticism. You start to become a mother of sorts to them, which isn’t fun for anyone, and like any disgruntled child, he will start to act out. Boundaries are important, but if you’ve made them clear from the get-go, he will know when he’s done the wrong thing, there’s no need to persistently nag him. I like to stop myself before I speak sometimes and think, “Is this worth fighting over?” If the answer is no, or even just probably not, then I leave it. A perfect example of this is the age old argument about changing plans last minute. The other day my family organised a dinner and the plan was that I would pick my boyfriend up when I finished work, drive him to my apartment where I would get ready, and we would go to the restaurant. He called me just before I finished work to tell me he had booked himself a physio appointment in an hour, mid way through the time I had planned to be at home getting ready. The old me would have told him he was inconsiderate which of course would have sparked an argument. Instead I told him that was fine, I’d take him to the appointment, and we would then carry on with the plan after that. Seems so simple, but its so effective. It really didn’t cause a problem, so why make one?
There’s not one person on this planet who doesn’t need a bit of ‘me time’. Some people need more than others, and in my experience, men seem to need the most. Time to just be alone, thinking about things, or not thinking at all. Watching a movie, reading, going to the gym, whatever it is that relaxes you, refreshes you and gives you time to enjoy your own company. It’s widely known that women tend to need more one on one time than their partner, and this can actually be so detrimental to your relationship. Trust me, I’ve been there, done that, and I get it. Why wouldn’t you want to spend all your spare time with the person you care about most and who makes you feel good about yourself? Unfortunately, that’s neither how things work, nor what’s going to be best for you.
When you give your partner that time to spend alone, it makes the time you spend together so much better. You have more to talk about, you have a chance to miss each other’s company, and you’re more likely to crave intimacy, all the things that are so important for a healthy relationship. Now that I’ve learnt this, time apart actually makes me feel so much closer to my partner when I do see him, and I also have time to work on myself and do things that I love, like writing blogs!
Learning how your partner works
Very early on in our relationship my boyfriend and I did a ‘love language quiz’. This is something you can do with anyone that’s important in your life, to better understand how to show them you care. For example, the most important one for me was words of affirmation. When my partner tells me I look pretty or when he tells me he’s proud of me, I feel most loved and cared for. For him, it’s a close tie between affection and quality time. He hates when we are spending time together and I’m on my phone, or just not absorbing what he’s saying. For him, its important he has my full attention at all times as well as lots of cuddles and touching. It’s so easy to express the things that make you feel good to your partner and assume it makes them feel the same, but this is rarely the case. Now I know this about him, I try to be more affectionate and to listen and interact with him when we have time alone.
I think all it takes is just mindfulness. Making sure you think before you act and speak as much as possible and trying to put your partner first where you can. At the end of the day, you can only control your own behaviour, so just try and be the best partner and version of yourself you can be.