Your physical health as well as your emotional wellbeing is dramatically affected by the quality of your relationships. As we approach Valentine’s Day 2012, it’s worth thinking hard about the people on whom we most depend, and that may be your partner. An intimate relationship can so easily be overloaded with a mountain of expectations (No, your partner is NOT your parent…!). Or burdened by resentments and complaints. We can so easily be distracted by what we are not getting, rather than thinking about what we are mutually creating. Here are simple ideals and ideas that will transform and uplift any relationship where goodwill and hope continue to exist. My guess is that just one or two will stand out and provide a gentle nudge. I hope so!
1 Offer at least as much consideration, courtesy and interest to your partner as you would to your most valued friends. Oh, and never, never DUMP.
2 Remember how wonderful it was when you met? When this fine person looked your way and kept looking? Revive that gratitude – and express it.
3 Enjoy one another’s company. Have fun! Sustain a life beyond shared and separate tasks. Talk often and with real interest.
4 Differences are inevitable. And even conflict is not itself a “problem”. Problems come when you can’t resolve conflict intelligently. Recognise that each of you depends for your happiness on the kindness and thoughtfulness of one another. It makes resolving conflict and accepting difference more than worthwhile. Try: “We have a problem…” rather than, “YOU are a problem…” Solve it mutually.
5 Offer the version of love you would most like to receive.
6 Silence your complaints. (They are never worth it.) Speak up constantly about what’s positive. Have more of that.
7 Be loyal. Be trustworthy. Be good-humoured. Be kindness. Intimacy is your greatest chance to grow up.
8 If you have children know that they will learn respect and love from the way you treat one another. Be the example your children deserve. (In fact, the greatest gift you will give your children is loving and appreciating one another, as well as them.)
9 No woman finds a man sexually attractive if he demeans her, trivializes her, blames her for his misery, tries to control her time, money, friends or thinking, or “can’t” share housework and childcare. Conversation, tenderness, interest, laughter, appreciation: these are priceless acts of love.
10 No man finds a woman endearing if she nags, intrudes on his private thoughts, demands that he pays her constant attention, spies on him or ridicules his friends, his body or his emotional deficits.
11 Do things together outside as well as inside the house. No need to share “everything”. But do share something.
12 Your bad moods or ancient miseries do not justify criticism, stonewalling, sarcasm or verbal abuse. Those behaviors are fatal for your relationship.
13 Value currencies other than money. Kindness, consideration, care, keeping a house running, keeping a household emotionally and physically “fed”: these are priceless.
14 Check what you believe are your intimacy “entitlements”. Think much more about what you can give than what you should “get”.
15 Be completely clear that your partner is not your parent. Nor should they have to make up for your parents, your job, the failures of your earlier lovers….
16 Listen. Listen to what your partner has to say. Listen to how you speak to and about your partner. Is it uplifting?
17 Even if you don’t believe in God, thank God every day for your continuing relationship. Regard it as your most precious achievement.
18 Keep your relationship alive and pleasurable in the present moment. “Being married” or committed to one another is a promise, not an end-point. Every day is an opportunity for new appreciation, new gratitude, new interest, new delight.
19 Cultivate patience, intelligence and good humor. At any age these qualities are wildly attractive.
20 Be interested and interesting. Bring home the best of yourself, not the shell.
Finally, appreciate the ways in which your partner is different from you. If you want someone who will think, act and react just like you, remember that you could have married your mirror.
Dr Stephanie Dowrick is the author, among other books, of The Almost-Perfect Marriage and Intimacy and Solitude. There is also lots about relationships in her newest book, Everyday Kindness. To comment, please visit “Official Stephanie Dowrick” FB page.