By Dani-Elle Dube
Over the years, you’ve heard the same words of relationship wisdom from your parents and grandparents, but how much of them can really hold true today?
Yes, over generations, relationship dynamics have surely changed quite a bit but what continues to remain the same are the fundamentals on which partnerships are based on, relationship experts say.
“I think times have definitely changed,” relationship expert Nicole McCance says. “Despite time going by, however, human beings still want the same things. We want to feel that we matter to our partners and we want to feel loved and connected. That’s just basic human needs.”
And while some may have advice from their elders go in one ear and out the other, McCance and Chantal Heide, relationship expert, both say not to brush it off entirely or immediately because you may be missing out on some valuable tips that can help strengthen and lengthen your relationship.
“For me, ‘old-fashioned’ just means good old common sense,” Heide says. “Old-fashioned marriage advice is simply a reminder that we began a relationship for the purpose of getting through this life together, not just this week or this day. It’s a reminder that what you invest in yourself and your partner today will grow with you through the tough times and be there waiting for you to benefit from once the job winds down and the kids have left to start a life of their own.”
These tips McCance and Heide have ripped from the page of relationship history books may seem old-fashioned, but in no way are they outdated. Here’s what they say are nine key things every couple – married or otherwise – should do and keep in mind when it comes to nurturing their relationships.
The small things do count
“Know what makes your partner happy and do those little things,” Heide says. “Get that cup of tea or buy that chocolate bar at the dollar store. Those random smiles you generate create a dopamine boost in their brain, acting as a reward signal and anti-depressant, helping them feel like every day isn’t just about surviving, it’s also about the little pleasure and kind, caring gestures.”
Ask yourself at least once a day what you can do to make your partner happy, Heide adds. And never underestimate the impact those small gestures have on your partner’s well-being.
This could be something as simple as greeting your partner at the door, something every couple should do every day, McCance says.
“Greet them with a hug and ask them about their day,” she says. “It’s good because it tells your partner that it matters to you that they’re home and that you care they’re home. Because if you’re always involved in a task where you can’t lift your head up when they’re home, then they’re getting the message they’re not that important.”
Pick your battles
“Don’t focus so much on what they’re not doing that you’re forgetting what you’re not doing,” Heide says. “Our brains have a natural tendency to focus on the negative… So if you find yourself spinning on the ‘He didn’t do this, she didn’t remember that,’ do a little exercise I call ‘balancing.’”
Think of scales, where that issue is weighing one side, and add your own “brain fart” to the other plate to balance it out again, Heide explains. This keeps you from fighting about the million small things that would chip away at the love and appreciation you could have for each other.
“Be sure to be aware of your own train of thought, and catch yourself if you find you’re spinning in negatives,” she says. “Redirect your thought process to what your partner IS doing right, and you’ll find you appreciate them so much more.”
Show gratitude for everything – big or small
“People who feel like their efforts are being recognized are willing to do more for you,” Heide says. “Those ‘Thank you, I appreciate that you’re such a good (man, woman, person, husband, wife, mother, father) really help build your partner up and gives them a reason to rise up to the wonderful impression you let them know you have of them.”
We want to be there for our partners and families and sometimes we try a lot, sometimes we try a little, but letting your partner know all their efforts are recognized gives meaning to their efforts – big or small, Heide adds. It also encourages them to keep working at maintaining happiness and cohesion in your union.
Make love your number one priority
“Help your partner know that you love them by understanding how they feel loved,” Heide says. “If you never take the time to understand and speak your partner’s love languages, all your efforts will end up on the floor and they’ll feel sad and unfulfilled. “
Once you understand each other’s languages then it will be easier and more efficient to make sure your partnership is filled with the loving gestures that will count, she explains.
And while some experts say weekly date nights are a good idea, McCance actually says to make them bi-weekly as striving for weekly meetups can be unrealistic and expensive.
“It’s something to look forward to and something you can have conversations without being interrupted,” McCance says.
Be a better you
According to Heide, if you don’t feel good about yourself, then you’re bringing your unhappiness to the relationship and clouding it with negative energy.
We infect those around us with our vibes, so be conscious of your feelings and do what you need to so you can bring happiness and relaxation to your union,” she says. “This good energy will infect your partner and encourage them to ensure their own mental and emotional stability, and they, in turn, will add a better sense of happiness back into the relationship.”
Let your strengths dictate division of labour and finances
Does one person work more than the other? Let them take care of the bills while you take care of household chores, for example, Heide says. By deciding whose strengths lie where, this will help both parties feel equity in the relationship and avoid fights.
“Have the honest conversation about how much time you each have versus how much you’re each making and split the household duties with your strengths and weakness in mind,” Heide advises. “Write it down and put that on the fridge if you have to, and if re-negotiations should be done because situations… be open to modifications.”
Don’t hold things in
“[Your partner] cannot read your mind,” McCance says. “If you are hurt they may not know and it’s very important when the time is right to let them know.”
If you don’t tell your partner that you’re hurt, that could turn into resentment later, McCance adds.
“And when you communicate your hurt, try not to blame because blame often leads to defensiveness,” she advises.
It’s not fair to ask for anything you’re not willing to do first, Heide says.
“If you want your partner to make you happy, figure out how to be happy,” she says. “If you want them to be calmer, then find out how to be calmer and invite them into that space. Model what you want and watch them learn from you.”
This will help you realize that the power of positive change always starts with you, Heide points out, and it keeps you from demanding more than you should.
“So if you find yourself feeling unsatisfied with something in your marriage, ask yourself if you’re looking for your partner to do something you yourself haven’t even figure out yet, and ensure you’re maintaining fairness in your relationship,” Heide says.
Take time to have sex
Despite busy schedules and hectic lives, McCance says it’s important couples schedule days to have sex. But because that may come across as unspontaneous, she offers a trick.
First, don’t schedule them on the same night every week, mix it up.
Second, schedule the night but don’t tell your partner, but make sure their schedule is open. Put the reminder in your phone if you must to remind you of when the night is. This will make the act seem spontaneous to your partner.