The topic that never gets old, a friend and I agreed over Bloody Caesars a few days ago, is certainly that of relationships. What makes relationship work? Why do some fall apart? How are some so simple while other so intense and complicated? The connection that takes place between individuals is quite a fascinating theme that we continuously try to analyze in order to better understand human behavior and, in the end, to also understand what makes us happy? Relationships or bee-lationships ;) are particularly interesting as their tendencies have widely changed over the decades. From forced marriages (still present in some areas) to having multiple partners or staying single for long periods of time, especially in individualistic cultures such as the North American one. In today's day and age, most types of relationships are not taboo at all or even praised actually, so long as the individuals involved are happy. As my friend and I discussed, we chewed over the latest tendency, those getting divorced in their sixties. Not even that comes as a surprise anymore. Yet, we can't help but wonder about the reasons that are behind such decisions and the courage that comes with ending such a life shared with a person for so long.
Having myself been in a, dare I say, long-term relationship with my now fiancé (11 years), and following many relationship discussions that I have had recently with, per chance, my male friends, I was inspired to share some elements that I found are important to have in a relationship. Nothing scientifically researched of course, just my very own take on the matter, including the little things I picked up along the way in our "beelationship"! ;)
You and your partner are essentially a team, trusting one another fully. For this team to function properly, clear communication is imperative. Always put all your cards on the table and there will be nothing you can't overcome. I find it is important not to expect your loved one to know exactly how your thought process works and how you feel at all times. You're angry or sad about something? Say it and explain why. At least, you both will now be on the same page and will be able to discuss it or better yet, now that the reason for your anger or sadness is known, this may even resolve the issue actually because: "Don't keep silent your current state of mind, your feelings now expressed, a stronger self you'll find"" (I wrote that ;)). It is the same the other way around. Trust your instincts as well, if you feel something is off on your end or the other, check in with one another and do it often. Talking things through is very important in building a solid foundation on which you will rely. This of course means facing reality head on (yes, that includes honesty, courage and saying sorry when you have to). Same goes for positive emotions! If you are happy, proud or whatever! Let it be known and explain why...taking the time to do so could alleviate any existing stress or simply boost both your moods and confidence.
A no brainer right? This comes naturally. I know listening is part of communication but I thought it deserved its own spot. In my opinion, if you really want to understand and know the person you are with, listen. Being patient is an investment within listening as it is sometimes hard for some to find the words and open up fully. In a relationship (or friendships even) listening offers a great deal of comfort as you become the armor that shields from judgement during that moment. Usually, the more we listen, the more we gain others' trust as we demonstrate genuine interest in what they have to say and in their thoughts. It's the little things...
3. Having Alone/Friend Time
This to me is very important. Obviously, being in a relationship means spending more time with that person but it doesn't mean taxing your friendships altogether. Maybe some believe in being together 24/7 and god bless if that's what makes them happy. For myself, I have always valued my friendships very much as my friends have been part of my life for a long time and have continued to be as Phil and I grew together. A relationship with a partner should also allow for new friendships to be born. Authentic and solid friendships shouldn't disturb your relationship. Obviously much can be debated here but in essence, when trust and communication are present, there is no problem. My friends all bring me something different as each friendship is unique in its own way. Being who I am (and being an extrovert) I value and very much treasure my friends.
Do you have a hobby, a passion or a special activity? Those are very important to keep as well (In a relationship or not). A passion, (Phil gets up at 5AM to go fish with his buddy) allows you to have an intimate relationship with yourself and one that no one can undo or understand as well as you do. Our hobbies allow us to develop other skills and practicing them reminds us of who we are and who we want to be. Spending time in those activities can only inspire us to improve in other areas of our life...i.e. our relationship(s), work, etc. Not to mention, how inspiring is it to witness your loved one fully engaged in something that he or she excels at or truly enjoys. Spending time alone whether it be at the gym, at home, walking at the coffee shop around the corner, is important. Being able to be alone with your own thoughts, acknowledging your own state of mind should still be done while being in a relationship. In other words, your identity shouldn't be: me + my partner. You should still be you as you are growing together. A solid you = a happy you thereby happy you = happy relationship since you'll have adaptive coping mechanisms and a better attitude (most of the time anyway!).
4. Rediscover Each Other
This is something I do regularly. Why have you chosen this person? What made you fall in love? What are the amazing things about him or her? Think about it, this person is with you for many reasons and same goes for you. It is easy for time to let us take one another for granted but I find it should be the opposite…with time, I realize how short life is and how precious what we have truly is. I often stop and stare ("Stop and staaaaaaare" -One Republic) and look at Phil as he is doing something and realize wow, look at that beautiful face! That dark hair, those green eyes those pudgy cheeks (that unfortunately for him I enjoy biting). I then admire his brilliance and intelligence and today still, I find it great that he finds those things in me as well. He believes in me, my talents, my abilities and my dreams. I see every day how he let's Ivana be Ivana but also encourages her to reach her goals and be happy. Think about it, what are the things that your partners cherishes in you? Do you know? If you are unable to answer these questions you may have to evaluate your situation and take the pulse of your relationship and that's ok! In fact, it's good because that means: communicating!
As the years go by, you rediscover one another and remember what started it all but then also, how much you've grown as individuals and together all at once. I like to believe relationships get better and more fun with time as you truly learn to know each other and become life companions who see each other through it all. I don't necessarily believe it takes great lengths to rediscover each other like a trip to Hawaii (though it would be cool!) but rather it's during the in-between times. When you walk to the grocery store, when you are having breakfast together, when you are prepping to cook a meal. It's the little things...
5. Laugh, Kiss & Hug Everyday!
Laughter has indeed its therapeutic effect on individuals in general, however, the way I see it in a beelationship is that world of inside jokes that you build together. At one point, you know each other's sense of humour so much that you may start having your very own codes, gestures and quite frankly, your very own language that only you two speak. After many years, there are even faces your partner makes that you quickly understand and decode in a matter of seconds while no one else notices. It's the little things...
Kisses and hugs: I may be biased, but I am not one to delay kisses. When I look at Phil, immediately, the idea of a kiss starts to take shape in my brain (those cheeks, they are begging for it). No, I am not referring to a sloppy-get-a-room kind of ordeal. However, I won't hesitate to grab his chin, peck his cheek and hug him when I feel like it. Never does he stop me. I believe that each time you delay those gestures, the moment just passes you by and it's gone. To me, it is important to still share a minimum of affectionate gestures on a daily basis. Think about it, we touch our phones, keyboards, steering wheel, doors and more objects all the time. Then we get home and we don't as much as touch our loved one's shoulder at the end of the day? Not on my watch. Given the context of decreasing human touch in an increasing technology dominated society, I would say to make an extra effort in showering each other with affection. I mean in theory, you should want to. If you no longer feel the urge or the need to kiss your partner, you may want to stop an evaluate what is going on there and go back to no.1: communication!
If you are able to kiss your dog, pet your cat and play candy crush for hours but yet aren't able to grab the person you are with for a hug? It makes me wonder. I mean, I get it, the dog, cat and smart phone or iPad give you unconditional love (in some way!). Therefore with another human, it means lowering you armor and letting someone in. Being in a beelationship though means taking those risks, but what you receive in return is priceless. True, some are less touchy-feely than others, but I insist on increasing the human touch. It's the little things...
It was even demonstrated in a study I had read a long time ago that endorphins and oxytocin (bonding hormones also released during breast feeding) are released during a 20 second or longer hug. What more can you ask for? Here is an article that describes the benefits of kissing, hugging and other tips.
And in the end...
No two relationships are the same and my tips are merely based on what I have experienced throughout the years and biased by my very own perception. It all depends on what makes YOU a happy person. What are you looking for? What are you expecting from your current or future relationship?
One of my best girl friends, a person I have known now for 26 years (yeah, I usually go for the long run with pretty much every thing I love) once said this to me: "the truth is, we are all packages with qualities that will be liked while others will be disliked"". We have to find the package that fits us best but always remember that we too are packages to others.
I hope you are all happy campers, whatever your situation! The MOST important, before relationships of any kind anyway is to be your very own best friend first and be happy with and by yourself, the rest will follow and the person you will be with will simply add to this already existing happiness.
As for me, I still can't believe I live with that cool and cute boy who lived up the street from me! Like I said, it's the little things...there's nothing bigger.
My name is Ivana. I love photography and meeting people. I hold a Master's in counselling psychology and work as a career consultant. Music is my fuel and an important source of energy in my life. I drive my vespa around the city and I love what I do! :) About this blog: me on my artistic soap box!
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