My husband and I are often complimented on our marriage and on how well we relate to and love one another. It’s always interesting to me that even people who don’t know us very well notice and make remarks about the closeness that exists between my husband and me. What most don’t know is that there was a time in which we fought about everything, barely spent any time together, and even wondered whether divorce was an option we should consider! Thankfully, we stuck it out and decided to put in the work necessary to improve our relationship. I am so glad we did! We have been married seven years and I can honestly say that my husband is – hands down – my absolute best friend.
My husband and I each came up with separate lists of the top five things we think we are doing right in our relationship. Since February is the month of love, I’m going to share our lists in the hopes that they can encourage other couples to build strong, healthy bonds with one another. And if you’re not in a relationship, don’t worry! The items on this list aren’t only for romantic relationships! Apply these practices to any type of relationship in your life, and you will strengthen the bonds of trust and camaraderie.
Good Communication. Yeah it’s kind of cliché. We always hear people saying that communication is the key to a strong relationship, and if you’re me, you get tired of hearing it. But, it’s true. No one is a mind-reader! If you don’t learn to effectively articulate what is going on in your head, then all of your relationships will spiral into a world misunderstanding and unnecessary strife.
Affection. We have created a pretty affectionate household. It’s not uncommon to catch us wrestling, slapping one another on the bottom, holding hands, or curling up together on the couch. It goes without saying that the type of affection you show will be based on the type of relationship you are in (romantic vs platonic). However, touch/affection can be an affirmation of unspoken support in any type of relationship.
Being Helpful. When my husband sees me cooking dinner, he begins cleaning off the table (or the ottoman, when we eat in front of the TV) so that I can put the food there. When we are coming out of the grocery store, I open the car doors for my husband who usually carries most of the bags. If I fall asleep before my clothes finish washing, my husband transfers them to the dryer for me. A person who knows how to be helpful without being asked to do so is much more pleasant to be around.
Teamwork. I’ve heard it said that in marriage, if one person loses – both people lose. We aren’t competing against one another in life, because we are on the same team. There have been times when I had to sacrifice something that I wanted or needed for the sake of something that he wanted or needed. And he has done the same for me. It’s not always easy to “take one for the team,” but in the end, we’re both winning.
Encouragement. Never kick someone when they’re down. And for that matter, never kick someone when they’re up. When the other person in your relationship is doing well, spur them on toward continued greatness. And when they aren’t doing so well, be the one who sees the best in them when everyone else sees failure.
Acceptance. Many people get into a relationship thinking that they are going to be able to change the other person. It doesn’t work that way. Our job is to accept others for who they are! When we are constantly trying to change someone, it sends a message to that person that he or she is not good enough or somehow unworthy. You’re never going to like everything about anyone. And that’s okay, because there isn’t anyone who likes everything about you, either.
Getting Over It. When your friend/significant other/spouse inevitably does something to hurt or embarrass you – you’ve got to make a decision to get over it. More than likely, he or she didn’t mean to cause you any pain. Sometimes, the offense is so big that it causes a dissolution of the relationship. In that case, you still have to get over it for your own sake, and for the health of any future relationships you wish to have. In either case, it does no good to continually bring up the other person’s past mistakes. Move on.
Defending One Another. I’ll never forget the time my husband’s friend playfully called me a bitch. The guy has always had a foul mouth and just couldn’t think of anything less offensive to say. Although we all knew that he was just goofing off, my husband looked at him sternly and said, “Hey, that’s my wife you are talking to.” It’s nice to know that I can trust my husband to stick up for me – even to his childhood friends. And I would do the same for him. On a platonic level, sticking up for others makes you the type of person that people can trust – and that always goes a long way toward building bonds.
Honesty. Everyone says that they want someone who can be honest with them, but it’s hard to be honest with someone if they are always punishing you for it! It’s important to be the type of person to whom others can express themselves, without fear of being judged or having to suffer unfair consequences for their honesty. I think my husband and I do an especially good job of allowing one another to have our own opinions and feelings without getting offended or upset when our thoughts differ.
Creating Memories/Inside Jokes. My husband and I always find a way to make a joke or do something that creates a fun memory for one or both of us. We have so many inside jokes that we could probably have an entire conversation made up of jokes that no one else gets but us. These are good because they create a fun and light-hearted environment when we are together.
For my husband and me, these are things that have helped us to have such a great seven years of marriage. Hopefully, the items on this list can help you to build strong friendships and relationships as well!