Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Five Tips on How To Strengthen Your Relationship

This Saturday PolyHubby and I will be celebrating 7 years of marriage together. During this time we have come to realize that marriage is just a word, a document, a legal status. We no longer put as much emphasis on our marriage as we do our relationship (we celebrated 8 years on May 21st this year). After all, you cannot have a marriage without a relationship. Preparing to be bombarded with love and congratulations this weekend I was inspired to share some secrets that PolyHubby and I practice to hopefully help someone out there better their self, their relationship(s), and their life!

When our friends think of the ideal relationship, they think of PolyHubby and me. No, I'm not bragging, just relaying the information I have been told over and over again. More than once PolyHubby's BFF and the best man from our wedding has told us, "You guys are the best example of a relationship I have seen." When he says this he is referencing how we handle stressful situations, our communication style, and the fact that we almost never fight. While these tips may not work for everyone, I do hope that you can adopt one or two of them for the betterment of your life! 

1. We don't fight the traditional way. Some people swear by fighting, some people say if you don't fight then you don't have a healthy relationship. Personally, I can't stand the hurt feelings, the yelling, and the childish games that often come with fighting. When PolyHubby and I disagree, we both take an hour or so of "me time" to figure out our own emotions and why we responded to the information the way we did. I take this time to write down my feelings and sort through my thoughts. PolyHubby says that he takes this time to "calm down and organize my mind. When we argue my boxes get dumped and go everywhere. I have to pick them back up before a rational conversation."

When we finally pull ourselves together and calm down, we sit down in the living room or bedroom or porch and talk. We talk for hours until one or both of us admits fault and apologizes. Then we continue to talk and figure out a solution. In most cases, we both apologize because we are both at fault for the hurt feelings, misunderstanding, and anything said that should not have been. We do not yell at one another and have not yelled at one another since our first year together, way back in 2009. I feel like it is important to point out that we don't hold grudges either! Acknowledge the problem, accept the consequences, plan to do better, and move on.

2. We make self-improvement a team effort. Working to better yourself makes you a better partner, lover, friend, and person. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to do alone. PolyHubby and I sit down every month or every other month and work on our issues. We talk about our relationship, strengths, and weaknesses we have noticed in one another, and ideas on how to improve ourselves. This is an excellent and powerful tool for self-development.

It can be difficult to hear from someone that you love that they don't think you're perfect, but it provides some honest insight that you will not find anywhere else in the world. Some examples of my weaknesses are housekeeping, selfishness, and forgetfulness. When my husband pointed out these three areas of weakness, we worked on a plan to help better myself. I now keep a cleaning schedule and write down everything to help with my forgetfulness, and he points out selfish behaviors so that I will recognize when I am doing them.

3. We recognize that anything can be a date. Before we became parents, we would get ice cream in the middle of the night, take an impromptu trip across the state, go out every other night, and have regular dates. After the first munchkin was born our date nights, random midnight shopping trips, and unplanned road trips came to a screeching and unsettling halt. This change was sudden and jolting. It put a strain on our relationship and caused more tension than we could have ever imagined.

Since our little guys have grown up a bit and I have gotten more comfortable leaving them with a sitter, PolyHubby and I have learned to turn anything into a date. A couple of weeks ago we went grocery shopping while my brother kept the kids. We had so much fun running around the store getting everything on our list. It was stupid and silly, but so much fun. We joked and talked, held hands, and picked on one another like we used to. It was refreshing to just let go and not have to worry about if the kids were climbing on the cart or if they were too loud. We were able to relax and enjoy one another's company.

4. We make an effort to understand one another. PolyHubby loves gaming, it's his favorite hobby. I don't get as much pleasure from it, but I make an effort to pay attention when he talks about his games, I set aside time when he asks to play with him. I make a conscious decision to notice and pay attention to things he enjoys, to understand why he enjoys those things. If I don't know what he is talking about when he rambles on and on about CPU or overclocking, I make sure to ask.

He isn't into the drama I watch on Facebook or the hobbies I pick up (ATCs, planners, sex blogging), but when I light up about the latest toy that I will be reviewing he pays attention, he asks questions. He may not understand the reason I enjoy making art to hide around town or even enjoy making art himself, but he helps me make it and tells me it's good. This doesn't just end with hobbies, either. When PolyHubby tells me that he had a bad day at work, I stop what I'm doing to listen to why it was a bad day. Or when he tells me a funny story about something he and his friends did, I listen. Understanding one another starts with listening with the intent to hear, not listening with the purpose of replying.

5. I ask "are we okay" when I feel that things are off. Every now and again I feel like PolyHubby and I are not where we used to be or where we want to be. It's a sinking, horrible, gut wrenching feeling that is usually a side effect of my depression. When I start feeling like this or when we have an off day, I ask PolyHubby if we are okay. There have only been a handful of times that he has answered no. But those occasions led to deep conversations about "why not," "how did we get here," and "how do we fix this?"

While asking "are we okay" has the potential to end up with hurt feelings and deep, painful conversations, it is the best tool I have in my relationships. Ninety percent of the time I get a soulful yes and that leads to realizations that I'm depressed. The ten percent that I have gotten a no has lead to conversations that are part of the foundation of the trust and love PolyHubby and I have now.

That's it! Those are my five secrets on how PolyHubby and I have maintained our relationship over the course of eight years. I feel like mine and PolyHubby's relationship success is based on what we witnessed during our childhoods. My parents used to throw punches in front of my brothers and me, and PolyHubby and I both grew up in verbally abusive households where grudges were held, and weaknesses were used against one another. It was such a relief to realize that he and I had similar relationship values, even if they were both found under terrible circumstances. 

It took us a long time to figure out some of these tips, but once we found out what worked for us, we held onto it and work on perfecting them. Our relationship is far from perfect, but it works for us, and I cannot imagine my life without my husband. I treasure our weird and unique dates, I look forward to our deep conversations on self-improvement, and I love that I am comfortable enough with PolyHubby to straight up ask if we are okay. Happy 7 year anniversary, PolyHubby!

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