Relationships are valuable. They are important not only to our satisfaction in life, but to our very health. And yet, many of us take our closest relationships completely for granted. We have forgotten the joy in being together. It often feels like it used to be so easy and effortless to be happy and joyful and playful together, but somehow, now it's just not there.
The usual reason it's 'just not there anymore' is because we've stopped trying. Relationships, in the beginning, are exciting. We put our best face forward as we get to know the other person, and we put an effort into one another that feels like play instead of work. As we get to know one another, and get comfortable, we expect each other to look past our faults, and tolerate our moods understandingly.
In other words, we become takers where we were once givers.
Cultivating joy requires us to become givers once more. It requires consideration of the wants, needs, and desires of your partner, while at the same time not giving up your own. It's about finding the spaces in between where you can meet, and uplifting one another. It's about remembering your own playfulness again, and having the courage to share it, even though you've been hurt.
Ultimately, (re)discovering joy in a relationship is about forgiving your grudges.
Joy is really an inside job, but we can certainly make it easier for the people around us to find a vibe in the right direction. In fact, they want to. We have an innate desire to feel good, and everything we do is, in some way, in an effort to get to there.
These 11 little tips, applied consistently, can transform any relationship, starting with you. If your partner doesn't respond or reciprocate right away, that's okay. Don't give up. They are trying to figure out if they can trust this change in you. But even more than doing this for your partner or your relationship, do it for you, because it feels good, and it's who you want to be. It will change your life.
1. Smile more
Smiling is a great way to use your face, and it lets your partner know that you are friendly and approachable. Our smiles are one of our most under-utilized assets.
2. Acknowledge your partner when they enter the room
Everyone needs to be loved, and one of the basest ways to say 'I love you' is to acknowledge someone's existence. Notice them. It may sound silly, but it's very powerful. And this is the perfect opportunity to use your new smiling skill! A quick glance, combined with a smile or grin can go a long way. If they want to know why you are doing it, tell them you love them, and are happy to see them.
Bring the fun back to your relationship. It was probably fun when it started, so if it's not fun now, it's because you have stopped doing what made it fun. Flirting is one way to communicate to your partner that you still find them attractive, and that just feels good. Don't have any expectations that flirting will lead to sex or romance. Just flirt for the fun of it.
4. Say 'please' and 'thank you'
As a society, we find these sentiments so important that they are one of the first things we teach children, and yet our own manners are often missing, and our partners taken for granted. Saying 'please' and 'thank you' lets your partner know you are grateful, and acknowledges their efforts. Being polite is another way to show you care about your partner and their feelings. It's a recognition that their time (and therefore life) is valuable.
5. Tell your partner what you appreciate about them
Don't be weird about it. Just mention, "Hey, did you know that one of the things I love so much about you is how gentle you are with animals? I really admire how you took care of that injured bird." Or, "I really love that you are such a friendly driver. I feel really safe with you behind the wheel."
6. Make time for each other
There are times when quality time is most important, and times when quantity is most important. Ultimately, there needs to be some sort of balance to meet the needs of all parties in the relationship. Some couples are so busy and motivated in their careers, that it works for them to get together for brief stints of quality time. Others feel loved when someone is sitting next to them through the more mundane aspects of life. Figure out what makes your partner feel like quality time has been spent, and give them your time in that way, with no strings attached.
7. Drop your expectations
Dropping expectations is one of the most freeing things you can do for yourself, your partner, and your relationship. Expectation leads to suffering. Expectation builds walls of imprisonment around our partners (and ourselves). When expectation exists, freedom does not. Remembering that all behavior is an effort to feel good, we can discern that too many expectations may eventually cause rebellion and distancing in the relationship. Most people don't want to be told what to do or how to live, and that's what expectation does.
8. Accept your partner for who they are
Relationship advice columnist Dan Savage talks about the 'price of admission' in relationships. There are going to be things that annoy you, or that you tolerate, in order to have the awesome benefits of your partner's presence in your life. If your partner leaves their socks on the floor all the time, for example, instead of hounding them to pick up the socks that aren't bothering them at all right where they are, just pick them up yourself and be over it. Accept that the price of admission in this relationship is having to pick up socks. Once you accept that, it won't cause so much resentment anymore.
9. Dream together
When a couple stops dreaming of the future together, the relationship begins to wither on the vine. Part of keeping the excitement alive is in having something in common to look forward to and work toward together. Make an ongoing bucket list together, with both simple, local things to do, as well as bigger dreams, and knock stuff off that list together as often as possible. However you dream together, understand that when you are looking at a common destination, you are both going to be heading the same direction. If not, then it's anyone's guess where you will each end up with the dreams you are unwilling to share with one another.
10. Get intimate
Sex can be part of intimacy, but that's not what I'm talking about. Intimacy is something entirely separate from sexual relations. People have sex that lacks emotional intimacy all the time. Rather, what I mean by 'get intimate' is to get connected. Get vulnerable. Let your partner see you. Let them into your emotional heart space. Dream with them. Be spiritual together. Stretch your boundaries together. Get out of your comfort zones together. Try new things together. Succeed together, and even sometimes, fail together. Drop the walls, borders, barriers and boundaries you have guarding your true self from your partner. Be you. Really, truly you. Shine your light. Sing your song.
11. Be your true self
Remember the person your partner fell in love with, the person you were before you were ever hurt or disappointed? Be that awesome version of you again.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
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