Whether you’re all into the dating world and swiping through the apps, or you’re in a committed LTR that has few bumps in the road here and there, we can all use a little room for improvement. Dating is about learning what we want and don’t want, and learning comes with making mistakes that result in complications, arguments, and even breakups.
Truth is, your love life should not leave you exhausted, strained, or questioning your entire existence like you’re on an episode of Girlfriends. It should make you happy, energized, and hopeful. If it’s not, take a step back to the drawing board.
If you are single and not looking to settle down anytime soon, then this might not be the most applicable post for you. But if you’re currently in a relationship, or are looking for a relationship, here are a few ways to make it the happiest one of your life:
1. Cultivate a better mindset
If you’re anything like me (or most people), you probably have a few things you wish you would’ve done better or differently in relationships. It’s so easy to shift the blame for setbacks in dating & relationships and say the other person is the only flawed one. But let’s be serious, we all have some things we could work on — and the only person you can control is yourself. This is why it’s often stressed to change the way you think and look at situations from all angles, instead of hoping the people around you change.
When you’re looking for a relationship, first know what you deserve, and don’t make any exceptions. Be clear about what you want early on so you’re aligned from the very beginning. There should be no room left for uncertainty in terms of desired outcomes. If you are in a relationship, focus on what you can be doing to improve the relationship. Often times, when we see the good in people, it brings out even more good. The same goes with your relationships — see the good, and the other person will be motivated to become better as well.
2. Be honest about your dreams and desires
The best thing you can do in a relationship is maintain honesty. Do you want to move to a remote area and live on a farm? Take a year off to travel before starting a family? Publish your own book? In the beginning of my relationship, we started to share these fine details. Finding out quickly whether or not your goals compliment someone else’s will save you time and heartbreak. It’s incredibly difficult (maybe even impossible) to build a life with someone whose dreams are not compatible with yours.
3. Don’t hesitate on your deal breakers
In order to get the relationship you want, you need to know the relationship you want. The best way to have a firm idea of what your deal breakers are is to truly know your inner self. Not only will knowing your deal breakers help you to find the partner you desire but establishing these as boundaries for yourself are important. You will need to maintain and enforce these boundaries no matter how great the chemistry is. I know it’s easy to get caught up in the infatuation, honeymoon phase, but that quickly fizzles out when the little quirks & bigger issues come up. This is a list of non-negotiables. Think: doesn’t want children, isn’t nice to servers, sexist, or doesn’t have a good sense of humor. Don’t consider someone who has any of your deal breakers, and if you’re in a relationship, trust that everyone has flaws — as long as all of your deal breakers are met, work on loving your person through their flaws and getting better together. Relationships don’t revolve around opinion pools. They thrive when two people can accept some similar things, compromise on others, and draw limits on what one or both simply cannot tolerate.
4. Learn each other’s stress patterns
Stress isn’t going to magically disappear when you meet the right person or are in the perfect relationship — it’s more so how we handle it that matters. They’ll still be annoyed by the guy in traffic who tried to bait them into a road rage fiasco. You’ll still want to curse out your coworker who constantly overlooks things. Knowing how to hold space and understand how the other person wants their stress to be handled is the key. If you want them to just listen while you vent, communicate that. If you think their help will fix the problem, say that. Create the opportunity for you and your partner to feel better, so you both can move forward feeling lighter.
5. Be present
You know that feeling after a long day where you meet up with your partner and can’t seem to find the right rhythm together? Well, I can’t stand that. Our time together is sacred, especially during the work week. So we’ve found ways to reconnect after a long day. We lie on the couch or bed, debrief each other on the day, and hold hands. This helps our bodies sync and our minds to find the same rhythm. It may seem corny, but this is my favorite ritual we’ve created because of the immediate effect it has on the intimate quality of time we spend together.
6. Explore personal growth and goals together
Don’t just focus on making each other happy in the relationship — think of how to feel more fulfilled in all areas of life, and then pursue your goals together. Whether that’s brainstorming together for your passion project or cheering your partner on with their new fitness goals, accomplish what you want out of life with their support, and be there however you can with what they’re trying to achieve. Help each other become the best version of yourselves for a fulfilling life.
7. Let your relationship be a mirror
OK, this may sound like something right out of a motivational speech, but it’s 100% true! All of my dating experiences have guided me on the fastest path of personal evolution. They each allowed me to ask myself what kind of partner I wanted to be, what kind of love I wanted, what I feared the most from others and myself, and what made me happiest. Guess you can call it a continuous journey to self-connection. With all of this said, embrace the ride! It’s not easy, but it’s worth it in the end.