Nine Habits of a Healthy Relationship
Nine Habits of a Healthy Relationship
Learning to love someone is a joy. Learning to live with someone is a whole other story. People are messy. People have different views of “clean”. People prioritize differently. People grocery shop differently. People do laundry differently.
In spite of all those differences, how do two people merge two independent lives into one? Here are a few habits to build into your relationship to help navigate the differences, and to make it last a lifetime.
Deal with conflict (we need to talk)
Sweeping issues under the rug never works. It may seem the best option at the moment, but in the long run, it makes matters worse. Avoiding confrontation builds tension up like water in a dam, and sooner or later that dam will break, and the floodgates will pour out months (or even years) of tension, hurt, and anger towards the other person. Usually that breaking point is over something insignificant, but it’s always the last straw that breaks the camel’s back. The first 100 times you ignore something just build up for that 101st time that will cause an eruption of pent up emotions. To avoid that, it’s necessary to deal with conflict as it arises. If you have a hard time discussing things calmly in the moment, then take some time to cool down. But, make sure you follow up with your partner about the issue. Instead of yelling at the other person when you get upset, take a time out. No one responds well to angry words or lectures; let your mind cool down and then calmly bring up the issue. If it is an ongoing issue, ask if you can talk about whatever is bothering you while out to dinner or on a walk. That way everyone is calm, and the other person will likely hear what is being said much more clearly. In order to better love your spouse – a love that builds for a lifetime – you need to take the time to listen to their concerns, present yours, and respectfully come to an agreement on how to handle the issue.
Encourage each other (while it is still today)
A kind word can go a long way. Take the time to encourage your spouse each day to let them know you love and appreciate them. The book of Hebrews says, “Encourage each other daily – while it is still called today” (Hebrews 3:13 HCSB). It is important to do this each day, and not put it off. Compliment your wife on a new outfit. Praise your husband’s efforts at work. Spend time getting to know the other person’s love language so you can speak right to their hearts. Whether it’s buying her flowers, listening to his stories, or watching TV together, encourage your spouse in the way they need to be encouraged, and they will return the favor. And don’t be afraid to get creative – leave a post-it note on the bathroom mirror letting them know you are praying for their day at work, surprise them with their favorite meal (themed decorations and all!), plan a get-a-way trip for the two of you. Let Pinterest be your best friend with this one! There are all kinds of inexpensive and creative ideas on how to encourage and support someone.
Pray together (chord of three strands)
Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “A chord of three strands is not easily broken” (NIV). Strive to keep God at the center of your relationship. Whenever you face an issue, take it to God together. He will be a building block for your marriage, and he will hold the two of you together. If God is woven into every aspect of your marriage, it will not be easily broken. If both partners are in regular communion in God, he will draw them closer to each other through that shared communion.
Respect each other's opinions and ideas (give respect to get respect)
Everyone likes to feel like they are respected and valued—especially by someone they love. Take the time to listen to your spouse’s ideas and give them consideration; don’t shoot down any idea that comes out of their mouth simply because it was not your own. Sometimes a different perspective can make all the difference in a situation. Show your spouse that you are listening to them, you respect their advice, and you value their opinion. Your relationship will grow immensely if both people feel the freedom to share their ideas and opinions openly without fear of rejection or ridicule. Plus, it’s just fun to share ideas and dream of the future together.
Talk about your internal issues (don't shut out the other person)
Don’t keep everything bottled up inside of you. If you are working through something internally, let your partner in. They long to be there for you and help you, but they can’t if they don’t know what is really going on inside of you. Plus, they might be more understanding in other areas of life if they are aware of your internal struggles. You married a partner for life, and they married your problems. Let them help you tackle them. This same thought holds true if you are not married but in a serious relationship. No one ever reaches the point where they have their lives together and are “ready” for marriage. That is the beauty of the commitment – learning to love each other through both separate and shared problems, and learning how to help each other grow in those situations.
Live life together (adventures great and small)
Whether it’s a grand adventure to an unknown town or a trip to the grocery store, enjoy it together. Life is about the great and small, and it is meant to be shared with those closest to our hearts. Make the most of every activity, even if it’s not your idea of fun. If you hate grocery shopping, make a price game out of it and see who gets the best bargains. If you hate doing laundry, set a reward to enjoy together for when you finish. If you hate cleaning, turn up your favorite music and do karaoke together while you divide and conquer the tasks. Everything can be an adventure if you make it.
Be silly together (funny gifts, Snapchats)
Never take life too seriously, and don’t forget how to laugh together. Some of the sweetest moments together can be laughing over a mishap. If your spouse breaks something, or forgets to do something you asked them to do, try to see the humor in the situation. Don’t let your first response be annoyance, or your spouse will start to fear your reaction to situations. If your spouse has a silly sense of humor, surprise them with a goofy gift that will make them laugh. They will love your even more for doing it – especially if it is out of character for you (but you can change that!). Send each other silly pictures throughout the day when you are apart to build the anticipation for reuniting in the evening.
Never stop flirting (dress up and go out to dinner)
No matter if you have been married six months or sixty years, never stop flirting. You have never been together too long to enjoy getting dressed up and going out to a nice dinner. Remember the little things you used to do when you first met, like wearing cologne or buying flowers or trying new things together or talking constantly or sneaking kisses in hidden places while out in public, and bring those back into your relationship! Your spouse will fall in love with you all over again!
Take the divorce card off the table (never let it be an option)
The best piece of advice is to never, ever let divorce be an option. Take that card off the table, and never threaten to use it. You promised, “Until death do us part” to each other; keep that in mind when you are in the middle of a heated argument. The minute you let the idea of divorce creep into your mind, it will eat away at you and magnify the little annoyances until you think it is the only solution. Constantly picking up someone else’s dirty socks, having to grocery shop alone, having to pay all the bills, and making sacrifices of time are not deal breakers. Learning to love the other person in spite of those little things is what builds marriages up. Those are the things that create a legacy that future generations will witness and learn to strive towards.
These nine habits are not the be-all, end-all to having a healthy relationship. Each relationship is unique, and each individual has their own needs they bring to their relationship. While one couple might enjoy sending silly pictures to each other to keep the spark alive, another couple might feel that is an immature way to express love. This list is not definitive and all-encompassing, but it is a good start. Practice a few of these in your relationship and see how it grows into a deeper connection with your partner. Practicing these nine habits will help couples to over look little annoyances and build a relationship that will stand the test of time.