Moving in with your partner is a big life change. People say you don’t really know everything about your relationship until you live with your special someone.
Well, I thought I knew everything about my fiancé when we moved in together after six years of dating, and I did – for the most part.
After living together, though, I learned a lot more about him. Don’t get me wrong, most of it was great, but living together also shed some light on some not-so-favorable habits of his. And he got to know all of my bad habits as well.
We realized that we had to break certain habits – not just habits of him leaving dishes in the sink or me kicking my shoes off all over the house – but deeper ones. Once we dealt with these habits, our relationship became stronger than before.
Here are 10 things I had to learn in order to create a happier relationship:
1. Forgive More
When you’re unable to move on from a conflict or a wrong that’s been done to you, it stays not only within yourself but also within the relationship. Bitter feelings can cling to you until you don’t even realize you’re living with them, and then they have potential to harm others.
Acknowledge that whatever happened is now in the past, and the only way things will get better is if you look toward a brighter future. Forgiving someone is liberating and shows how much you love that person.
2. Be Selfless
Relationships are not meant to be self-indulgent. They involve give and take, and that is what’s beautiful about them. You each bring different qualities to the table and care more about each other’s happiness than your own.
Instead of looking for what you can get out the relationship, think about what you can give to your partner, whether it’s making him laugh, helping him overcome challenges or compromising on something.
3. Make Time for the Relationship
Movies make relationships look easy with a happily ever after, but in reality, they take a lot of time and effort. When you have work, errands, bills and a million other things to do on your plate, time with your significant other becomes more difficult to squeeze in.
Find that time to spend together, no matter how busy life gets. It can be a simple phone call when you’re on break, trips to the grocery store or a few hours on the couch to unwind and talk. Choose a weekend in advance to take a break from the stress of work and simply relax together. Devoting time solely to your relationship is healthy for both of you.
4. Try Not to Be a Perfectionist
Studies show that 50% of our everyday lives are habitual, meaning we’re repeating the same actions and thoughts in the same context for half of our days. Because we’re so set in our ways, a little change in our environment causes a lot of stress. Not everything in life works out exactly how we want it, making it difficult to go with the flow.
Living with someone awakens this uncomfortable feeling because your partner has different ideas of doing things than you. The way you used to live in your house may not be how your partner is used to living.
Again, these situations are all about compromise. Don’t sweat the small things like putting the cap back on the toothpaste or glasses on a different shelf. People get used to things over time, and you might not notice these small changes after a while. Bigger things can be talked through until you reach an agreement that you’re both satisfied with.
Remember that your partner is probably feeling the same things you are and has his own set of rules in mind.
5. Admit When You’re Wrong
We are all inevitably flawed and make mistakes. We say things we don’t mean, forget to do something important and act on impulse, sometimes without realizing that our behavior was unacceptable to others.
When you realize that you’ve done something wrong or your partner tells you so, don’t be stubborn about admitting your faults. Acknowledging that you made a mistake lets your partner know that you care and helps you move on much faster than if you do nothing.
A genuine “I’m sorry” feels good to hear, even if it was something as simple as leaving a mess on the counter.
6. Don’t Treat Fights Like Competitions
Normally, winning a competition feels victorious, but relationships are not meant to be knock-down, drag-out fights. In the end, no one wins in an argument.
Most disagreements can be solved by simply talking through them. Don’t go into a conversation thinking you have to beat the other person. Be calm and open, and don’t rush to end the discussion if things aren’t going your way.
Don’t envision a tallied chalkboard and keep score like you would in a competition. Accept your mutual agreement and put it behind you so that you don’t harbor bad feelings.
7. Open up and Be Honest
Relationships can’t be treated like a guessing game, and chances are if something is bothering you, your partner might have no clue.
Instead of bottling feelings up and waiting for opportune moments, let the other person know what’s on your mind. Speak your thoughts calmly and without putting blame on someone. Allow your partner to also be honest if you ask for advice or a reaction. Remember, no one can be there for you unless you let them.
8. Break From Ordinary Conversation
We get a lot of “how are yous” and “what did you do todays” without really meaning anything. Our responses even come out as “fine” or “nothing” even when we’re feeling the exact opposite.
Sometimes shaking it up or asking specific questions shows how much we’re listening. Ask instead if your partner accomplished something they set out to do that day or if something made them laugh. This generates better and longer conversation that small talk just can’t do.
9. Invest in Your Personal Life
You don’t have to be with your significant other every moment of the day. Getting some distance and doing things for yourself makes you miss that person more and be happy on a personal level.
Keep your friendships strong. A social life is more than just the time you share with your partner, and you don’t want to lose friends you’ve always had. Take moments to be alone with your thoughts and recharge. Sometimes we need a little me-time to stay emotionally balanced.
10. Find Some Good Habits
Habits don’t always have to be bad. Good habits can come from a relationship, too. Find something that you both enjoy, and commit to doing it periodically no matter what. It could be taking a walk, a kiss goodnight, staying in bed all day or anything that keeps your relationship healthy and happy.
Learning to live together is a challenge, but it’s one that can be accomplished with time, effort, kindness and a lot of understanding.
Photo by Christian Gonzalez