Romantic relationships can play such important roles in our lives, and not only our mental but our physical health also.
Despite the fact that I still do have some health issues that I am working on, I have marvelled at how much healthier I have become over the last year and a half. Many people that have known me for some time have commented on how much more upbeat and positive I seem to be, and how much healthier I am. There have been lots of factors involved in this transformation for me, but I firmly believe that relationships, with friends, family, and romantic partners can play a huge role in our overall health and well being and certainly have done so in mine.
In my earlier posts, you may have noticed I do definitely caution becoming the relationship (letting the relationship define who you are as a person). I still believe in this 100%, but I do know that these relationships do have a role to play in our health even if we aren’t defined by them as such, and so I have decided to compile some behaviours that I think are really important to maintaining positive, healthy relationships. I’m focussing on romantic relationships here, but a lot of these behaviours cross over to every kind of relationship from family and friends to co-workers.
1. Use positive affirmations, DAILY.
There is nothing better than waking up to a “Good morning beautiful/smarty etc” message, or some other affirmation that shows your partner is not only thinking about you, but also acknowledging some of your strengths. For a lot of people, appearance is important, so I find beautiful/handsome work really well, and tend to do so better over terms like “sexy” or “hottie” which are more loaded with sexual connotations. A frequent reminder to your partner that you find them attractive is always beneficial, however, I would strongly recommend using affirmations that also build up other aspects of your partner’s character. Sometimes when faced with challenges, whether it’s not getting a promotion; not getting the grades we wanted; or being constantly reminded of society’s pressure to fit a physical mould of “perfection”, we begin to experience self-doubt and a lowered sense of self-worth. Having a partner that reminds you that you are still worthy of praise even when you’re down is so important.
2. Fight fair
It came as a shock to me recently when I realised that in a whole year my partner and I have never had a “fight”. We have had disagreements, of course, but we have never yelled, name-called, or played the blame game. I think this is one of the most fundamentally important aspects of relationships. You are two different people. You will disagree. That is inevitable. If this doesn’t occur in your relationship, you may want to go back and think about whether you are defining yourself by your relationship, and whether that is healthy. Disagreements are a healthy part of a relationship, the key is to fight fair. If you have an issue you need to raise with your partner, do so in a neutral setting. This means you are not interrupting something important to your partner (like work or their favourite movie, and certainly not another discussion!). It also means not starting out with “I can’t believe you would….[insert complaint here]!”. Approach the issue neutrally, explain your take on what happened, how it made you feel, and any context that is relevant. Most importantly, give them concrete actions they can do to ameliorate the situation. “Next time I would really appreciate you prioritise helping me with chores before doing leisure activities.” etc. Then give your partner a chance to respond. This sounds so formal, but I promise it works, and you will both be so much happier for it.
3. Learn the other’s love language
If you haven’t heard about love languages, you can check them out here. I managed to score almost equally on every language… except acts of service. Which is coincidentally my partner’s main love language. If you’re like me then you may risk making your partner feel unappreciated by not returning love in their way. I had always acknowledged that my partner did great acts of service for me, but I have recently realised: DOH! You have to give it back to them! Here he was making dinner, driving me around and doing acts of service for me, while I was sending him little gifts and using words of affirmation and wondering why we were talking past each other. If you and your partner can become fluent in all the love languages you each use, and make sure that you use a fair share of each of your native tongues then you will find yourself feeling much more loved and loving!
4. Share plans and be upfront about expectations
There is nothing more scary for someone who wants to settle down than hearing perpetual stories of bachelor/bachelorette type life styles; and there is nothing more scary for the other than hearing about babies, wedding dresses and house prices. Be upfront with your partner about what you want out of the relationship. If you want different things you need to evaluate whether you can both compromise to find a happy medium. It may feel strange, and you may not want to scare your beau, but it will save a lot of heartache in the long run if you each make your expectations clear from the get-go. Not working this out early leaves room for feelings of resentment and anger to brew- and this will take their toll on not only the relationship, but also your own mental and physical health.
5. Give each other space, and enjoy quality time
There is a fine balance between giving someone space to still be their own person, and making them feel like the are not valued. Similarly, there is a balance between investing in quality time with your partner and suffocating them. Happy couples manage to find this balance and enjoy it! I think the key to this is making sure that you check in with your partner regularly. Check in with your partner, but I think generally it’s good to have some kind of general guidelines in place. Ie. we see each other in weekends, and once a week at the gym, or whatever that balance is that is right for you and your partner. Make sure you use the time well. When you are apart make sure you focus on getting you business sorted, like personal goals, work, study and so on. Then when you are together you can spend quality time together rather than risking making the other feel unloved/unwanted when you are taking phonecalls during your “romantic dinner”.
These are just a few things that I’ve found useful- please feel free to share any others you may have in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter!