This is a great time of year for me: it was my birthday yesterday, and Valentine’s Day is coming up soon. I love Valentine’s Day. Sure, I know it’s an invented holiday to sell shit, but we don’t actually buy each other gifts (take THAT, Hallmark!).
What we do get up to is to have a nice dinner together at home, maybe share a bottle of wine, and just hang out. Sure, we do that on other days too, but I love a day like that you can count on and look forward to. And knowing you’re going to get laid is always cool.
I’ve been in a few long-term relationships over the years. The first one was unhealthy and awful, the second one was fun and lovely, but just didn’t have all required to go the distance, and the third one makes my heart sing with happiness. And having been through the other two, I know just how special it is.
So I make it a priority to make sure this one sticks.
And yes, I know having little kids is exhausting, and that everyone is busy and that sometimes it’s all you can do to wear matching shoes and not greet your partner with a giant yawn, but the rewards of a bit of effort are worth it, right?
I’m going to assume you nodded enthusiastically just now.
So here are my 7 habits that I reckon make a huge difference.
- Don’t trash talk each other. If it’s an issue that your partner hasn’t taken the recycling out, or mown the lawn for seven months, bring it up at a quiet and calm moment and explain how it would help you if it was done. Don’t wait until you have friends over for a barbie to make snide comments about it while rolling your eyes and pouring yourself a seventh glass of bubbles.
- Build each other up. On the flip side of point 1, how about bragging about how awesome each other is to your friends? It has somehow become the trend to appear to be underwhelmed by one’s partner in public, but isn’t it a wonderful feeling when someone you love says great things about you within earshot of other people? I love it, so I try to do it too. (Of course, there are limits to this. Don’t take it to vomitish extremes.)
- Touch each other. I don’t mean in the pantaloons region (although, duh, that too). I’m talking about incidental touch when you’re talking. A hug to say good morning. A kiss when you get home from work. It’s so easy to let that stuff drift, but the more you touch, the easier and more natural it is to do it more. Touching reminds us of that connection we have, and it feels nice, don’t you think? And I also think it’s a wonderful thing for children to witness in their parents.
- Ditch the kids. Yes, I know you’re a wonderful parent who loves their child enormously, but remembering who YOU are – and who you both are as a couple – is crucial to maintaining that connection. If babysitting isn’t an option for you, create some special time together after the kids have gone to bed, or meet up for lunch during the day. But find time to be together. Reminisce about the past. Talk about your hopes and plans for the future. Allow yourselves to think outside of the daily functionality of what’s for dinner and whose turn it is to drop the kids off at school.
- Flirt. Not that overt boob-flashing type that an 18 year old girl thinks qualifies as flirting (although, hey, if that works for you…). I’m talking about paying full attention, maintaining eye contact, a sly smile, a private joke, a bit of touching. Actions that say, “I see you. I like you. You’re fun.”
- Ask questions. Be curious about this person. You may think you know all there is to know, but everything is constantly changing. What has made them laugh or cry lately? Where do they want to be in a year, or five, or ten? What is their favourite film? What do they think about the current state of the federal political environment?
- Cut the silent treatment and let shit go. This one took me AGES to get good at. Explain why you’re upset, what you would like to happen, and then let it go. You might not always get what you want, but you will feel better in the long run. Holding onto anger sucks and just serves to make you miserable and drive a wedge between you and the person you’re supposed to be closest to.