Written By: Salina Jivani of “The Great Word Nerd Blog”
Relationships are like caring for a baby. They take time to nurture and grow and require a ton of effort to maintain. We live in times when people are intolerant of imperfections, have limited patience, and are quick to walk away without a backward glance. Realistically speaking, every person is flawed, so expecting perfection from a union of two flawed creatures is not only foolish but can also set a relationship up for failure from the onset.
If you’re willing to accept your partner’s shortcomings and want to work toward deepening your connection with each other as a couple, then you’re already one giant step ahead of many others. And because it’s important you succeed, here are three (yes, only three!) basic fundamentals that must be maintained to create that rock-solid love you’re looking for.
This is by far the most obvious and one of the greatest factors in establishing the framework for a successful relationship. I grew up with parents who would completely shut each other out when they got angry. Days, weeks and even months would pass without a single exchange, as they sought opportunities to demonstrate just how upset they were through cold shoulders, altered sleeping arrangements, and messages conveyed vengefully through me and my brother, which would serve their purpose by further infuriating the offended party and leading to another more vicious round of revenge.
When I got married at the age of 22, I practiced the same behavior with my husband. There were times he would do something that bothered me and instead of trying to talk to him, I’d give him the silent treatment, expecting him to read my mind. The first time, he didn’t understand my silent treatment and refusal to speak with him. The second time, he finally caught on and sat me down. What he said to me totally changed my outlook on what a solid relationship really means. “If you stop talking to me every time you’re upset, how will I ever know what I did wrong or understand how to correct it?” And, I realized begrudgingly, he was right. The next time I felt upset, I took heed to his advice and forced myself to swallow my pride and actually communicate (but only after he picked up on my anger signals and asked me what was wrong. I’ve got a little bit of pride to maintain, after all!). And the difference was pleasing. We actually carried on a level-headed conversation that lasted hours. And I found that I’d bottled up so much over time that a lot of my frustration had been stuck inside me, just waiting to be released. Which of course is completely unhealthy and not at all fun.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s natural that right after a blow up, the last thing you want to do sometimes is redirect your frustration into calm collected communication, so it’s not a bad idea to walk away and give yourself a moment to clear your head. But once the fog has lifted, you most definitely should approach your significant other and have some calm, composed dialogue.
Think about what it is that angered you, how the situation could have been handled differently and what changes could be made for the future. Be sure that you give your significant other the same courtesy you respect as they share their feelings and thoughts. Lift all barriers, judgements and prejudices from your mind to make sure you’re practicing effective communication and really trying to comprehend and empathize with the feelings of your significant other.
If you’re used to giving the silent treatment, just remember that the first time will be difficult in putting your precious ego aside and actually taking that first step toward opening the lines of communication, but as is with most things, practice will make perfect and you’ll find it easier to make candid communication a natural part of your relationship.
Go to bed mad
No, that’s not a typo—you read it right. I’ve heard it a million times—I’m sure you have too. But the phrase “Never go to bed angry” makes me want to tear my hair out one by one every single time I hear it at wedding toasts, bridal showers and even in casual conversation. In my personal relationship, I’ve always found that the later my husband and I are up trying to sort out our disagreements, the more challenging it is to understand each another and the more exhausting it is to keep trying. Why? Because after a certain point, you burn out and just need to cool down your mind.
And I promise once you wake up in the morning, it’s a whole other ballgame, rendering the argument from the night before insignificant, even silly (on the occasions you even remember what it is you were fighting about!).
So take that pesky saying and dare those who preach it to try this new alternative and I promise you’ll be deemed a relationship guru. Getting a good night’s sleep and giving your mind a reprieve from the tiff will buy you time to cool off, and (I bet you my entire tub of Double Chocolate Chunk) that once you wake up, you’ll be more willing, and even eager, to move past the temporary road bump in your bliss, come to an understanding, and put it all behind you like the mature adults you are.
A home’s foundation is its most integral component. In the same way, the most important part of a relationship is trust. Without trust and truth your relationship’s foundation is as reliable as quicksand. It doesn’t matter if you’re the envy of every man or woman because your sig-fig always remembers your anniversary, showers you with praise, hangs on your every word and treasures you in front of the world. Without trust, all of those attributes mean nothing. Think of it as similar to garnishing a pile of rubble with beautiful shutters, paint and stone—what’s the point of the lovely add-ons if the slab of concrete that’s to hold up the house itself is diminished?
And let’s just quickly clarify that when we’re talking about being honest, we’re not talking about that occasional white lie that sneaks past everyone’s lips—because let’s face it, we all lie sometimes. However, excessive lying is a concern and certainly not okay.
The truth can sometimes be difficult to tell, but it’s more than likely that admitting the truth will result in a temporary fight whereas a lie, if later detected, will create a permanent fissure in your relationship. So be wise and be true.
In the end, nearly every defect in a relationship (aside from abuse and dishonesty) is mendable—and no matter which couple you admire, don’t fool yourself into thinking that their relationship is any less imperfect than anyone else’s. Instead of focusing on which couple you wish you could be most like, focus on practicing positive habits and cultivating your relationship to be the very best it can be. Trust me when I say: the grass really isn’t greener on the other side (it’s just that your kitchen window needs cleaning!).