Let’s not pretend that I am someone who should be giving relationship advice. At least once a week my husband and I have the “where does this go?” argument in the kitchen. Kyle and I have different ideas about what “organization” means. For example, I’m a fan of the phrase “organized chaos” – Kyle, on the other hand, is not. Everything must have its own spot. And the spot must “make sense”.
You can see how this would cause problems. While I’m not a couples counselor, a marriage therapist, or a relationship wizard – I’m the first to tell someone that “every couple argues”, because that’s what I’ve read on the Internet, and to imagine a couple that doesn’t argue sounds a little bit creepy. You mean they agree on everything? EVERYTHING? All of the time? Even when it comes to loading the dishwasher?
We are not that couple – the couple who agrees on everything. I have my way of loading the dishwasher and Kyle has his (even though his way takes twice as long, and he thinks by doing it my – more efficient – way the dishes “aren’t getting as clean”). To each their own. The goal here is continue growing, and to grow together as a couple.
We just got married this past October, and – to be honest – I would be surprised if we aren’t still arguing about the dishes and the house and having the “where does this go?” conversation when we’re in our sixties, but if we can continue building and strengthening our relationship over the next thirty years – I think we’ll be in pretty good shape when it comes to “the big stuff” (because let’s be realistic here – there will always be ‘big stuff’, even if it’s not happening all of the time).
- Focus On Communication
You should have known this would be first on the list. It’s almost a cliche at this point – communicate, communicate, communicate. It’s apparently the key to solving any problem in a relationship, according to podcasts, television, and Google. I used to think that I was great at this – who doesn’t love talking about their problems? I sure do! Bad day at work? Argument with my mom? The girl at Starbucks wrote “Jenna” on my cup instead of “Jenn”? I tell Kyle everything.
Except when I get upset because he made some joke about my cooking. Or when I was hurt because I texted him “goodnight” while I was out of town on a work trip and he didn’t respond until the next afternoon. What is he DOING that he can’t text me back? Did his phone die? Doesn’t he love me enough to at least text me “goodnight” before he falls asleep? Doesn’t he MISS me? These are things that I don’t say out loud. Because they would make me sound crazy – and, as women, we all know that we don’t want to be perceived as “CRAZY”.
So we keep quiet. And we do that SUPER crazy thing where we play the “I’m fine” (but we’re not really fine) game. We don’t want to be THAT CRAZY GIRLFRIEND/FIANCEE/WIFE, so we pout around for awhile until he asks what’s wrong, and we say “I’m fine”, but we’re not – and he knows that you’re not, and you know that you’re not – so then, if he’s a good guy, he’ll either play the guessing game, or he’ll say something along the lines of “please just tell me”, and then you’ll get even more angry/sad/upset because HE SHOULD KNOW and –
Do you know what would eliminate ALL of that? The quicker way to get from problem to resolution without having to go through the scenic “I’m fine/not fine” route? Communication. UGGH. Turns out – expecting him to know why you’re mad = not communicating. He doesn’t know why you’re mad, and by giving him the silent treatment, you’re only making it harder on both of you. Because while you’re giving yourself time to stew and get even more worked up about it, you’re also giving him time to get frustrated because you aren’t talking to him and he doesn’t know why and you won’t tell him because you said you were FINE. Remember that? You said you were FINE. Stop doing that. Stop saying you’re fine. You’re not fine. You’re upset that he said the black bean enchiladas you made the other night looked like manure. It was supposed to be a joke, but it wasn’t funny, and he needs to know. Done.
- Focus On Each Other
Sometimes in relationships, we take each other for granted. You’re in love, but you don’t always act like you love each other. For Kyle and I, this means bickering. We snap at each other. We get cranky. We take each other for granted. For the record – this is NORMAL for any couple who lives together (according to my mother).
In 2020, try dating again. EACH OTHER. I don’t mean, date other people. Try having a date night once a month, or even once a week – get dressed up. Act like it’s the beginning all over again. Remember WHY you wanted to be with each other in the first place.
- Focus On Yourself
With that being said, do you remember who you were when you first started dating? That fun, cool, sexy version of yourself that landed you a second, and third, and eventually tenth date? And now, if you’re anything like me, you’re in sweats by 7pm with no make-up, cuddling up to that same guy whom you used to get DRESSED UP for.
I’m not saying this is a bad thing. I think – and I’m no expert – but I think it’s actually a good thing? It means you’re comfortable with one another, which is something that you should be when you’re in a relationship with that person.
HOWEVER – I’m not the same person I was when we first started dating. Fun, cool, sexy me. Which is not to say that I’m NOT fun, cool, or sexy now… but I don’t know, maybe I’m just less independent? You know when you get into that mentality of “I already have a man, why do I need to get my nails done every week?” — that’s where I am.
It’s easy to “lose yourself” in a relationship. You opt for an evening on the couch over a night out with your girlfriends. You pay a little less attention to your hobbies because you’re too focused on binge watching Netflix with your significant other.
It’s okay to have couch-time with your hubby – believe me, it’s one of my favorite things to do – but don’t lose sight of YOU. Don’t neglect your hobbies, or your friends. Don’t stop getting your nails done just because you’re in a relationship.
- Focus On Growth
We’re all going to grow as individuals, and we should all strive for that. Pick up a new hobby, learn a new skill. It’s equally important to grow as a couple. Try picking up a new hobby this year to get out of a rut. Join a gym together, start cooking together, plan.a trip together, go hiking whatever. Just get out of your comfort zone – but do it together.
- Focus On How You Respond To Arguments
I have a tendency of being “a dweller”. I dwell on things. I bring up old arguments during new arguments. I snowball, I dramatize things. I have a hard time letting something go if it still feels unresolved. I am the complete opposite of my husband, who has a tendency to “shut down” during arguments. He gets quiet. He retorts with negative comments that only fuel the fire instead of either one of us trying to talk it out.
- Focus On How You Respond To Challenges
This one can be hard, but can also be something to remember individually. There’s this saying that you’ve probably heard before – “You can’t change the situation, but you can change how you respond to it” (I’m paraphrasing, but you’ve heard this one, right?) This should apply to your relationship as well.
Last October, our car was broken into and Kyle’s camera bag was stolen out of the backseat. This was – for lack of a better term – an “unfortunate event”. Now we were faced with – who pays for the broken window? How long will it take to repair? What are we supposed to do until then? “Dilemmas caused by the unfortunate event”. Two things could have happened from here – Kyle and I could have blamed each other. He could have blamed me for choosing to park in the location where we did, I could have blamed him for leaving his bag in the backseat where someone could see it, we could have let this unfortunate event (which, frankly, was neither of our faults – it’s just a shitty thing that happened to us, that’s what an unfortunate event is) – tear us apart. But we didn’t. Instead we worked together, had compassion for one another, and paid off the repairs together.
The key is to work together and have compassion for one another. Never forget that you’re on the same team.
- Focus On Listening
My husband doesn’t listen. Does yours? He says that I don’t listen, but really, he doesn’t listen.
Okay – in truth, we could both use a little extra work in this department.
- Focus On Appreciating The Imperfections
“He’s not perfect, and neither are you”. I don’t know if this is truly a Bob Marley quote, but that’s what the Internet told me. It’s the beginning of a very long quote that I used to have embedded onto my Myspace page (remember Myspace? Remember Tom?!) Something about “Smile when he makes you happy, yell at him when he makes you mad, love hard when there is love to be had”….? I don’t know, I’m paraphrasing.
My point is – the beginning. It’s a phrase that has stuck with me since the days of Myspace (it’s weird, the things that hang around around in your brain). I’ve often remembered it when…. well, when things aren’t going so hot. When we’re going through one of the “lows” that people talk about when they reference “the highs and lows” in a relationship. Sometimes he messed up, sometimes it was me. But at the end of the day – just because you found your person and the two of you are happy together doesn’t mean that he’s perfect. And neither are you, but the point is to love each other anyway.