It feels like yesterday that I first met my other half, Rodrigo (or Rod for short!), and honestly, I have been through more life changing experiences, growth and ups and downs in our years together than my whole life. We’re coming up to our 6 year anniversary this Sunday so I wanted to sit down and write 6 important lessons that we’ve learned over the years so far that have made us stronger as a couple, better and healthier people. Marriages and relationships take work, attention, nurturing etc and there are lots of times we don’t get it right because, well, shit gets in the way, I get it. So in honor of our 6 year anniversary, here are 6 important lessons that we’ve learned along the way…
Listen with your feelings.
Sometimes we only listen with our ears. That’s great – it works on a day to day basis of catching up, communication and such. But try and listen to your partner on a slightly deeper level. I call this listening with your feelings. It’s not just about interpreting words, but about piecing together as complete a picture as you can of your partner’s current place including feeling their energy, their mood patterns, are you noticing a lot of distraction in their aura or are they quite present? Are they asking you for a little extra love and attention? What could that mean for them? Perhaps they’re sensitive or insecure about something currently going on. A real world example from our relationship: Let’s say Rod is going through a transition phase or big project at work and he comes home and starts to tell me about it from the kitchen while I’m sitting at my computer finishing an e-mail. I’m listening with my ears. Then, as he chats away to me about his meeting/music session etc, I sense him question whether I’m paying full attention, getting more and more worked up with me because he feels my level of listening investment isn’t matching up with his level of desire for 100% attention to the matter. In that moment, I’m often tempted to huff and puff (because maybe I have important e-mail to finish too and he’s distracting me!), but I find that the outcome is much better when I lovingly try and let him know how much time I need before I can devote 100% of my listening to him – both ears but above all, feelings.
I know. These sound stupid at first, I mean, you live in your relationship on a daily basis so why would you need to check on it? But let me tell you, you’d be stunned what you might learn about your partner’s head space (and your own!) with regards to your relationship together when you both venture safely and respectfully into that communication space. It’s very simple. really. All you do is find a calm and good moment to check in on things like feelings, likes and dislikes as of late, things one another may have been doing that are annoying, naggy etc. If you keep an open mind, this gives you both a chance to stand back and look at this beautiful painting you are creating together and see where it could be even better or different. Perhaps strike out bad habits creeping in, addressing minor things that can lead to build ups over time and the like.
Strive to live with intention and connection.
When you live with intention and connection then you raise your levels of both self-awareness and also consideration of others. Strive to do everything you do, say everything you say with a purpose and reason behind doing it and saying it. The healthier, the better. That way you both avoid unnecessary tension, winding-up and bickering. Saying connected to yourself and in tune with your emotions is tough to train because feelings are so instant and unfiltered. I’m not advocating for suppressing feelings ever, but just taking a little step back and thinking things through before reacting with words and actions. Striving to see the big picture is intimidating and honestly, sometimes not remotely what we have the patience for (trust me, I know!) but in the end it helps to keep the harmony.
The key is respect.
If I had a nickel for every time respect comes up among my conversations about relationships! Isn’t it the ultimate goal? Lots of people say trust is the basis for a relationship, but I truly think it is respect. If you think about it, if you respect your partner, who they are and what they came with as a person when they appeared in your world, then that’s all the basis you need in order to build trust, love and wonderful moments together. If you don’t respect your partner then you don’t respect yourself, plain and simple. At the end of the day, why would you accept being with someone who you feel doesn’t deserve your respect?
Make time for yourselves.
This is a tough, but important lesson for any couple. family, parents. Since we welcomed our little girl into the world this year, it’s been a big learning curve to adapt to being first-time parents and find all the nooks and crannies of time to spend together to dedicate our focus to one another. We make a point of putting Zoe to bed just before dinner time so that we can both make a meal together in the kitchen and then hang out on the couch watching a series and cuddling! Sometimes we also squeeze in a sneaky coffee right around Zoe’s last nap in the late afternoon. Do what you can, but make the effort. Often you’ll find even just a simple a snuggle in bed will make you feel closer instantly. Sometimes sex will have to be scheduled (sorry, it’s true), and I always say that if you’re not my lover then you’re just my friend! And last I checked, I don’t want to be just friends with Rod so… Like I said, making time to be together is one of the hardest ongoing efforts Rod and I make in our relationship.
Beware of unrealistic expectations.
Oh here it comes again, that big old word: expectations. Aren’t they just the worst? That’s why it’s best to keep them in check. It’s natural that over time we all build up expectations for our friendships, relationships, with our kids, our work life, ourselves. It’s OK, it’s a way for us to measure what would fit into the structure and values we hold ourselves to (or at least, think we do). We always want our expectations of others to match where we set them – high or low. But I consistently notice that people who are miserable in their relationships have set completely unrealistic expectations upon their situation or their partner. That then leads them to this other big old word: disappointment. You can learn to set your expectations realistically by being more accepting of who your partner is, studying how their thinking patterns work and communicating about what you both need and whether you are in a place in life to fulfill those needs for each other realistically.
I hope you guys enjoyed reading through my 6 important lessons and I would love to hear about other great and valuable lessons you’ve learned along the way. Please leave them in the comments below! I’ll catch you on the ‘Gram and see you back here soon!