In just under a week, Laurie and I will be celebrating our seventh year together.
Each new year together is considered, by us, as a cause for celebration and an opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come since we first met at university in 2006.
And while we’re happy with where we are today in our relationship, I would be lying if I said that the last seven years have been smooth sailing with not a single challenge faced.
We’ve argued. We’ve had to make sacrifices. We’ve had to adapt to situations beyond our control.
But the journey, the adventure and the path has been something we’re immensely grateful for. Not only has navigating the ups-and-downs allowed us to grow stronger as a couple, but it has thrown some important lessons at us about what it takes to be happy together.
As an engaged couple we’ve no doubt that marriage and starting a family will bring with it a flood of new and exciting lessons, but what I wanted to share with you in this post are three factors we believe have helped us enjoy a great relationship.
Pay Attention To The Little Things
What do you remember about the first few weeks and/or months of your relationship? What would you do without questioning? How many of these things do you still do today?
For us, it was the surprises, the lunches and dinners that would go on for hours as a result of being immersed in the exquisite flow of conversation, and readily accepting fun challenges laid down by each other.
I still recall one of the first challenges I accepted.
At the time, I was a student in my final year where conjuring up beautifully presented baked beans on toast and meals made possible by the trusty microwave was the extent of my cooking skills. When acting as Laurie’s sous-chef one evening at the place she was staying at in London, I ran into difficulty when asked to prepare the garlic and onion. Yep – my knowledge was that bad!
My challenge was therefore to be able to cook up a delicious three-course meal without the use of a microwave by the time she returned to London from New York a couple of months later. In hindsight, this was probably one of the catalysts behind our current love and enjoyment of food: from cooking new recipes together at home to checking out recommended eateries around the city.
Unless you regularly pay attention to the little things, relationships can often be taken for granted.
We can become so caught up in the everyday busyness of things that we forget how much fun it can be to surprise each other when our partner least expects it! How could you surprise your partner in the next week?
We can innocently let the things we own end up owning us, such that we fail to spend sufficient quality time together. So many of us are easily distracted by our phones in today’s society. When we wake up/go to bed, eat with our partner and are supposed to relax together, our attention will never be 100% if they have to beat the phone for our attention.
Failure to spend quality time together leads to a breakdown of communication and understanding.
How could you schedule more quality time with each other allowing for deeper connection?
We can let the need to do things together fade as our individual ambitions and priorities take precedence. Growing together however, is an area that needs just as much attention as it has consistently been shown to be beneficial for your relationship.
What activities and goals could you take on together that will allow you to tackle them as a team?
Let Go Of Ego
It’s easy to overlook the fact that there are two individuals in any relationship and with it, different needs and wants. What I want to do on a weekend may differ to what Laurie wants to do and vice-versa.
In relationships, you will sometimes have to do things you don’t want to do. It reminds me of a lesson that I’m always reminded of – that the key to success in any field is giving.
Sometimes I will cancel my evening’s plans and what I wanted to accomplish to listen to Laurie’s problems if she’s experienced a particularly stressful day. And sometimes Laurie will accompany me to a football game to understand what all the fuss is about!
Being an emphatic partner means that you’re more aware of the other person’s feelings and are able to benefit from having a greater sense of perspective. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of being understood and understanding your partner in return.
A lot of us tend to see the world as we are, not as it is, and thus we find it an obstacle to listen with empathy.
But when we do, we’re able to create a loving space filled with mutual understanding in mind, and driven by the ability to listen and communicate effectively. And to do so, we must let go of ego.
Nothing kills a relationship more quickly than ego.
When you’re in an argument with your partner and you find yourself so focused on defending yourself or making sure they see your point of view first – that’s ego. Why not hear them out first and seek to understand the source of their feelings?
When you believe that your way is the only way and are quick to make judgments about your significant other before you’ve even listened to them or given them a chance – that’s ego. Why not be present when speaking with your partner so you can connect from the heart, rather than being caught up with what’s going on in your head?
Remember That Every Relationship Is Unique
This can often be overlooked by couples, especially when going through a difficult patch or experiencing a plateau.
I remember having dinner about three years ago with two other couples, both of whom had been together for less time than Laurie and I. After we had enjoyed a delicious meal and exchanged a number of stories, one of the women turned to her boyfriend and said: “Why can’t we do more of what Simon and Laurie do in our relationship?”
While it can be all too tempting to compare your relationship with others, what this question fails to realise, is that what may work for one couple may not necessarily work for another.
Truth is, none of us really knows what is going on in another couple’s relationship.
You don’t know what goes on behind closed doors and so can’t possibly make a proper assessment of someone else’s relationship. All this will do is get you in trouble!
It’s much healthier to focus your time and energy on your own relationship. There’s nothing wrong in being inspired by what other couples have achieved, but by concentrating on your own relationship, you will strengthen the connection between the two of you and work out your own way of getting to where you both want to be.
Remember: there’s no ‘one right way’.
If you’re in a relationship, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below as to what you’ve learnt from your time together! It will be awesome to read them and am sure it will be useful to others reading this post.
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