Valentine’s Day is upon us.
In a day and age where relationships don’t seem to last, love seems lost, people are more worried about chasing tail than chasing the one, cheating is all around us, and marriage has lost its magical appeal, I compiled a list of advice to building, enjoying, and maintaining a happy, love filled relationship. These tips and words of wisdom come from people of all ages, backgrounds, 50+ years of successful marriage, those in their second or third marriages finally getting it right, those looking back on the mistakes they’ve made, and my own personal experiences and lessons.
DO have a solid foundation.
- Having shared values and common beliefs are an integral part to building a future with someone. You and your partner should have a clear understanding and mutual agreement on expectations of each other and your relationship, what you want, and where you are going. Go through the seasons of life together, build a sound friendship, and get to know one another for who you truly are. Looks and lust eventually fade so you and your partner should have a deep understanding of one another and what you want out of a life together. You should be aware of the other person’s faith, family values, morals, and opinions on marriage, spouse roles, children, and the type of home you want together.
DO enjoy each other’s company.
- Your partner should be your best friend. They should be the person you want to share good news with first and the shoulder you cry on when you’re hurting. They should be your adventure buddy, your partner in crime, your confidant, your rock. Be silly together, learn new things together, cook for and with each other, go learn a new skill together. You should enjoy road trips and sitting by the fire, and going out or staying in. You should just enjoy their presence.
DO have fun together.
- Laugh. Hike. Joke. Camp. Dance in the kitchen. Sing in the car. Find things you enjoy doing together and do them often. Whether it is an evening walk around the neighborhood, finding a favorite restaurant, having a secret spot at the lake, going to the gym together – find things you both like and share in that!
DO be intentional.
- Your relationship is an investment. You should be fully invested and involved with this person. Don’t play games, don’t manipulate situations, don’t mess with each other’s emotions. Be direct, be authentic, be real. If this is the person you love, they should know it. Your actions always speak louder than your words.
DO be their #1 fan.
- Build your partner up. Cheer them on in whatever they are doing. In their career, in their hobbies, in their sports, in their life. Be their cheerleader! Encourage, support, and uplift them in everything. Don’t belittle their dreams, build them up. This is so important. Tell them you are proud of them. Show them off to the world. Write silly FaceBook posts just to make them feel valued and known. Put their photo up on the fridge with a nice note to make them smile. Let them know you’ve got their back, always.
DO the little things.
- This can’t be overstated. LEARN YOUR PARTNER’S LOVE LANGUAGE. If his love language is quality time, find ways to spend time together (cook dinner, go fishing, go for walks along the river, hang out at the house, take classes together); if her love language is acts of service, do little things to surprise her (write her letters, give her cards just because, buy her her favorite snack, surprise her with flowers, make her feel special); affirm each other with kind and loving words, and do things for the other person. Love is selfless and you should train yourself to think of what will make your partner happy, and then by fulfilling their needs, you’ll find yourself feel happier too. One of the biggest reasons couples find themselves drifting apart is because their personal needs are not being met and they are left feeling undesired or unloved, not because that is true, but because they don’t understand that what might be one person’s love language doesn’t mean its the others.
DO your own thing.
- Enjoy your “me” time. Pursue your hobbies and your “things.” Go out with the boys, have girls night, do what you love. Many people feel like they “have to” give up their interests to always do things with their significant other but it is important to have space and to pursue the things you are passionate about. Having your own identity is necessary for personal growth and fulfillment. Doing things together is great too, but just make sure you don’t forget about self care and personal goals.
- Talk to each other. Have an open dialogue. Listen to the other person. Share your thoughts and feelings. Be open. Talk about your day, share your hopes and dreams, and if something is bothering you, let your partner know. Talking about things is so important. Send each other playful texts throughout the day. Talk on the phone when you spend time apart. Be transparent. Communication is key.
DON’T hold onto your past.
- One of the biggest relationship killers is when you can’t let go or move on from your past. If you still are holding onto past hurts, feelings, mistakes, and regrets, you shouldn’t be in a relationship. Holding onto your ex in anyway is unfair to your partner and your future together. Too many people either never heal fully and try to move on too soon, causing damage to the next person in their life, or keep ties which perpetuates feelings of their ex, and prevents them from fully giving themselves to their new partner. Either way, let go of your past or let go of your future. You can’t have both. Don’t allow old, unsettled feelings to fester. Delete the photos, the text messages, block their number, and move on. People who spend their lives looking back and wondering “what if” or holding onto old baggage don’t realize how much they’re damaging the person who is trying to love them fully in the present.
DON’T get distracted.
- Relationships can be hard work. There will be times when your significant other makes you upset, frustrates you, or you honestly just feel burnt out. Don’t turn to distractions. Don’t look for validation in other places. Don’t flirt with the cute girl across the room, don’t send suggestive signals to the guy at the gym you know is into you, don’t start having a secret conversations with an old flame. Focus on the person you’re with.
DON’T have social media you don’t need.
- Delete it. SnapChat, Instagram, WhatsApp, whatever it is. If you don’t need it, delete it. Why do you need to have apps to send private messages or photos to others? Why are you having DM conversations on Facebook or Instagram with other guys or girls? Why are you watching your exes’ story? If you have anything on your phone that you wouldn’t want your partner to see, you may want to check yourself. If you can’t securely and confidently leave your phone face up at the dinner table, or if you’re fearful of your partner knowing your lock code, you may need to reevaluate your commitment to that person. Don’t give your partner a reason to be suspicious if they don’t need to be. Period.
DON’T go to bed angry.
- Simply put, don’t say goodnight or goodbye to the person you love with bad feelings. Even if you are upset with each other, the last thing you want to remember of that person is how much you loved them. You never know the last time a good bye may be the last. You’ll both sleep better knowing their is peace.
DO overuse I love.
- Say it when you mean it. Say I Love You all the time. Say it before bed, say it before you leave, say it just because when you look at them, you’re like “Wow, I love you.” Don’t ever let your partner feel like they’re not your world, even when they’re being a little butthead.
DON’T stop falling in love with one another.
- The number one piece of advice I got — never stop chasing them. No matter how long you’ve been together, don’t get complacent. Continue to woo each other. Continue to challenge each other. Continue to find new ways to love them better. Don’t settle. Every morning wake up and choose that person. Thank God for giving that special person to you. Tell her she’s beautiful. Take him to his favorite sporting event. Show her off out on the town just because you want her to feel wanted. Tell him you’re proud of the life he has built. Open the door for her, pay for her meals, cook him dinner, and never stop having fun. Don’t let the romance die. Every day remind yourself why you fell in love with them.