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Keeping Love Real

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— November 15, 2017

Keeping Love Real

  • Here is some sound advice and steps you can take to improve your relationship with your significant other.
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Keeping Love Real

As couples tend to celebrate hooking up this time of year, we thought we’d offer you and your partner something to add to the chocolates and other gifts you exchange: advice on keeping it together with your bestie. We talked to relationship experts—and people in relationships—who weighed in on making togetherness work; here are pearls of wisdom they offered us. That’s one for each day of February, or you (preferably both of you together) can ponder one every two weeks to make them last.

  1. Don’t compare your relationship with the ones flaunted on Facebook. Relationships are on public display via social media, making it easy to get caught up in what you think a relationship should be, says Loryn Roberson, 24, who works for a PR agency called Text100. “With Facebook and Instagram, couples can boast about how great their life is,” she says. “The reality is, people, don’t post on social media when they have a fight or get disappointed with each other. This often gives the illusion that other couples are perfect and that’s just not the case.”
  2. Couples that play together, stay together. Roberson and her fiancé met longboarding, and they both compete on the professional level. Sharing passions with your partner is key, she says, because it keeps you laughing and playing together. “When we’re not skating together you can find us disc golfing, biking, hiking, practicing yoga and basically any other activity we can pick up,” says Roberson. “Because we’re often busy having fun together we don’t have time to pick each other apart.
  3. Create a home together. When it comes to cohabitating, move into a new place together when possible, suggests Lindsay Trujillo, 34, an HR professional. “If you move into your partner’s house— make sure to redecorate and make the house a place you can both call home,” Trujillo suggests. “Nothing is worse than feeling like a guest in your new home. It should be your shared space.”
  4. Lighten up. Don’t take yourselves too seriously. “Sing songs, send each other silly memes and Snaps, blast gangsta’ rap while cooking breakfast, make each other coffee and cocktails on a whim,” says Trujillo, who believes your partner should be your best friend and the person you laugh with most often
  5. Keep it casual on the first date. Skip the pricey steakhouse for a first or second date. Grabbing a drink is a low-pressure solution when you’re first meeting, says Erika Kaplan, 26, who works with the matchmaking company Three Day Rule. “Once you’re both sold on learning more about each other, try something more experiential—like a mixology class or a paint night, depending on your interests.”
  6. Get creative with your dates when you’re in a long-term relationship. Once you’re in a relationship, go “back to the basics” of dating, suggests Kaplan. “For a fun, unique date idea to bring you closer, learn something together that you can also try at home,” Kaplan says. Some ideas? Enroll in a couple’s massage class or a yoga class, she suggests.
  7. Stop Snapchatting your dinner. Make sure you stay mindful in your relationship, says Kaplan. That means when you wake up in the morning, give your partner a few minutes of your attention before you scroll through your newsfeed and check your e-mail, she suggests. “When you’re out to an awesome meal, try to leave your phone behind—or at least in your pocket—rather than Snapchatting your plate.” The idea: Share experiences with just each other to grow your bond.
  8. Chivalry isn’t dead. Call a woman for a date instead of texting, says Steven Morris, 32, a general maintenance technician working in stadium management. Pick her up or choose a place that’s close so she doesn’t have to go too far; open doors and put your phone away. “If you drove, walk her to her door at the end of the date,” he says. “That doesn’t mean you’re owed a kiss or you get to go inside. Thank her for the evening.” If it didn’t work out, be honest. Morris notes, “None of this is rocket science; it’s being courteous and considerate.”
  9. Go to couples therapy even if you don’t need to. Don’t go to therapy only when you need it, says Leah Charney, 33, operations director for a social media agency. “Go before you need it,” she says. “Go so you don’t need it.” Charney offers up this analogy: “A good couples counseling session is like getting the oil changed on your car. You may not think you need it, but routine maintenance keeps things moving so you don’t have expensive repairs later on.” Invest in your relationship to not only make it work, she says, but also to keep it healthy.
  10. But first…love yourself. Before you get into a relationship, you must first be a master at self-love, says Audrey Hope, a relationship expert and counselor. First, ask yourself how you’d rate on a selflove scale from 1 to 10, Hope suggests. If you score low on the scale, then you have work to do. “You cannot expect to attract healthy love if you do not love yourself, and you cannot expect a partner to be your dream mate if you do not value your self-worth first,” Hope says.
  11. The law of attraction is an inside job, explains Hope. For example, if you want respect from your partner, you need to first respect yourself, she explains. Also, the energy you project matters. “If you are negative, then you will attract negative people around you,” she says. Positivity and gratitude are a winning formula for building a healthy relationship, Hope adds.
  12. Find a work-love life balance. Have a conversation with your partner about when your busy times are at work so that you can adjust your expectations and support one another, suggests Artur Sousa, 27, founder of the pet adoption platform Adopets. Sousa and his wife communicate what months tend to be busier with work so they can give one another space for those more demanding times and be present when things ease up a bit. “As millennials, our ambitions, individual goals and desires have been our priority and many of us don’t know how to manage these instincts with a relationship,” he says.
  13. Table for two, meals for one. Dining out can become part of your regular routine, especially if you are short on time to spend in the kitchen, says Alexandra Oppenheimer, 29, a registered dietitian. For a healthy relationship—quite literally—she offers this tip: Share dishes together. “This will help you have a more balanced portion instead of going overboard and finishing your meal as well as your special someone’s meal,” Oppenheimer says. If you want to have separate dishes, commit to having half, and enjoy the rest together for dinner at home the next night. “That will save you calories and dollars,” she says.
  14. Squeeze in some workouts with your main squeeze. It’s easy to fall into a rut of watching TV or ordering movies on iTunes. But keep your heart (and relationship) healthy by mixing in some workouts, Oppenheimer suggests. Your streaming devices make this a seamless process. “How many people welcomed Amazon’s Alexa into their homes during the holiday season?” Oppenheimer says. “Between episodes of a Netflix binge, ask your new roomie Alexa to start a 7-minute workout to get your bodies moving.”
  15. Say “Thank you”. Whether it’s a grand gesture or a small act of kindness, acknowledging your significant other’s contributions make both people feel great, says Desiree Marie Belmarez, 31, a life insurance underwriter. “Plus, the more you say ‘thank you,’ the more gratitude you feel,” she adds.
  16. Know your self-worth. Be aware of what attributes and strengths you can bring to a relationship, says Dane Jardine, 33, a business travel sales manager. “Don’t sell yourself short in an attempt to force a relationship,” Jardine says. “That never works and only leads to resentment.”
  17. Be your best self. Jardine has a motto: “It’s rarely the world, it’s usually you,” or as he explains, “Examine your behaviors and you’ll start to see patterns.” Do you come off as cold, or as snippy or rude? It could be that your attempt to be charming and witty overwhelmed your date, Jardine says. “Try to correct behaviors that don’t represent the true you so that you’re always presenting the best version of yourself.”
  18. Don’t allow a hurtful past to affect your future. Embrace your past relationships and dating experiences as lessons learned, says Jasmine Jones, a 27-year-old engineer and author of The Single Ladies’ Commandments: Songs for Love, Healing, Freedom, and Purpose (Amazon Digital). “If you fear the next guy will hurt you because you were hurt in the past, you close off your heart to love,” she says.
  19. You have to settle, and that’s not a bad thing. All relationships involve “settling,” says Jonathan Bennett, a certified drug and alcohol counselor and founder of thepopularman.com, which helps men develop social and success skills. “Many millennial men think they’re owed a supermodel who will treat them like a king, while large numbers of millennial women have the belief that they won’t settle for anything less than a tall, dark, handsome Disney prince.” Attraction can be messy and irrational and can’t be distilled into a checklist, he says; resist wanting to always “upgrade.
  20. Sorry, you’re not entitled to a perfect relationship. Many millennials think they “deserve” to be in a perfect relationship, says Bennett. “Sustaining a relationship requires hard work,” he notes. “Great relationships don’t come because you ‘deserve’ them, but rather because you put in the hard work necessary to sustain them. Even then, they won’t be perfect. That’s life and it’s OK.”
  21. Avoid ‘dating burnout’. Online dating makes it easy to date mindlessly. This can lead to the why-bother mindset of dating burnout, says Jennifer B. Rhodes of Rapport Relationship, a relationship consultancy. She says the idea is to commit to a goal, such as a monthly number of dates or new people you want to meet, and stick to it. “The minute self-care takes a back seat,” Rhodes says, “burnout can happen.”
  22. Create a dating “support group”. When you’re dating it helps to create a “mini support team” with your friends, Rhodes says. “By meeting one time per week or biweekly to talk about your successes—not complaining about your lack of options or how much people suck—you are much more likely to keep a positive mindset and find a new partner.”
  23. Agree on what constitutes ‘cheating’. If somebody sends an unsolicited nude photo via Snapchat to your partner, is that cheating? How about flirting through ‘secret messages’ on Facebook? Or is cheating defined by just physical acts? Corina Thayer, 25, a migrant student education advocate, suggests having an honest discussion with your significant other to agree on how you both define cheating. “We completely trust each other,” she says, “because years ago we agreed that cheating is a deal breaker.”
  24. Fight fair. You will argue at some point, says hairstylist Sarah Bustamento, 26. So argue cooperatively. “You and your partner are a team,” Bustamento says. “A disagreement isn’t about being right, but having a good understanding of where the other person is coming from and finding a solution that’s beneficial and satisfying to both of you.”
  25. Be honest, while being compassionate. It’s a balancing act to be honest while also taking your partner’s feelings into consideration. Earn one another’s trust through actions, says Mandy Kroetsch, 34, a process engineer, and try not to be easily offended, but rather appreciate your partner’s honesty. “Trust in a relationship is very important,” Kroetsch says. “But giving your significant other the reason to unconditionally trust you is the key.”
  26. LOL together. It’s important to be your genuine self and for both partners to be honest about what they want, says Sara SpruchFeiner, a 25-year-old writer. But never underestimate the power of humor. “Making each other laugh is the best exercise a relationship can do,” she says. “That keeps you strong even through tough times.”
  27. Be truly present. Young adults tend to thrive in a sea of distraction, says Michael Russer, an international speaker and author on issues of intimacy and human connection. It’s easy to confuse “engagement,” which includes things like social media and texting, for “connection,” he explains. They’re not interchangeable, however. “Being present simply means allowing no distractions, judgements, agendas or expectations, while being fully aware of the other person,” Russer says. “Only within that space can meaningful human connection from the heart take place.”
  28. Money talks. About three-quarters of Americans experience financial stress at least some of the time, according to the American Psychological Association. That can cause friction in relationships, but having discussions can help avoid that. A good rule of thumb? “Always discuss and agree on big purchases,” says Kira Valentine, 34, a stay-at-home mother.

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