The world loves to tell us how badly we need to be in a relationship but not so much how to actually keep a long-term one alive and healthy. The way I see it — dating is like grocery shopping. It’s the easiest part of the gig. Getting engaged is like paying the bill (and desperately wishing there were coupons to pay for the insanely high wedding expenses). And finally, marriage is about dragging the groceries up the stairs, unpacking them in your kitchen and cooking the best meal of your life.
No matter how challenging the recipes may be, or how unprepared you feel — you stay in the heat, chop through the sweat and work your ass off until it’s done. It’ll be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done in your life, which is why couples who make quality ingredients a part of their grocery list during dating — respect, trust, gratitude, honesty — tend to nurture some of the most long-lasting relationships on the planet.
And to gain those ingredients, you’ve gotta do a little work.
Inserting the phrases below as often as you can will help build the shopping cart for a long-lasting, warm-hearted, and successful relationship.
Gush With Gratitude
People are busy. With only so many hours in a day, and hundreds of Netflix shows to catch up on, it’s hard for partners to always clue in on what makes you happy. Instead of telepathy or sending subtle memes to clue them in, just let your partner know when you really love something.
Whether it’s doing the dishes for you or using their Dunkin app to get you coffee, if you like something — make a big deal out of it. Thank them. Kiss them. Make it a genuine moment of appreciation. When the time comes for them to rack their brains for ways to make you happy, these are the moments they’re likely to remember and repeat.
Give Real Compliments
That shirt looks great on you… will usually put a pep in your partner’s step.
I love thinking about you singing. It brings a smile to my face every time… will make your partner pause, smile and release a little dopamine, too.
Which is exactly the reason we give compliments — they are acute, thoughtful gestures, that make your partner feel special. People may forget the words you say, but they never forget the way you make them feel. Strengthen your relationship by creating new, intentional feelings with words that come from a warm heart.
Keep Saying Thank you
Love is patient. Love is kind. And love will leave a chick who disrespects both of these things. Your partner’s dedication to your happiness is not on-demand. No matter how long you’ve been together, it will always be your job (and their job) to acknowledge each other’s generosity and say thank you.
Thank you for opening the door. Thank you for taking out the trash. Thank you for letting me watch my Netflix show first — whatever it is.
Research shows that gratitude can improve relationships drastically; where people who express gratitude for their partner not only felt better about their partners but also more likely to work out their problems.
Say Yes to Their Interest
When my fiancé asked if we could see a rugby game on our vacation last month, I told him not a chance in hell. Running around a stadium in Paris, negotiating with a shady ticket scalper and risking arrested was not my idea of fun. And yet, we did it anyway — minus the getting arrested part (but it almost happened).
So why the change of heart? Compromise. Realizing the difference between what you need and want can be a powerful tool in relationships. Saying yes to low stakes events or ideas creates a ride ‘or die sensation for your partner, and builds their trust in your relationship. You also create space for your partner to show you new things and build interest that you never imagined you have. If it won’t hurt too much, try sucking it up and saying yes.
And Say Yaaaaas to Their Wins
Winning a beer pong competition against friends. Becoming the mayor of Chipotle on Foursquare. Or crushing it again last night on Fortnite. Whatever the wins are, big or small, be sure to click into the moment and celebrate the wins that your partner shares with you.
Research shows that by celebrating even the smallest win can create a strong emotional motivation to achieve another goal again. If you really want to build your partner’s confidence and help them get that big raise before vacation, try celebrating more of what they’ve achieved.
Acknowledge Their Day… When You’re Ready to Listen
Make sure you’re in the headspace to listen when you ask How was your day? Nothing feels worse than pouring your frustrations and dreams out to someone who isn’t really listening— it can translate into you not caring.
Instead, if you don’t truly have the bandwidth when you walk in the door, don’t ask the question. Go take a shower or pop open a bottle of wine until you’ve cleared the brain space for your partner to vent.
Not just ones that make you pee your pants. Share the memes that make your partner feel understood. The ones that speak to their weirdest interests and tastes, while communicating that you love and accept all parts of them.
Research suggests that being understood can be even more powerful than feeling loved. It can build confidence in your partner and make them feel connected to humanity; which are two of the healthiest traits a partner could have for your future.
You Got This
Let them cook the pasta — so what if they can’t make it al dente. Trust is built over the dumbest of things sometimes. After being single for a while, it can be hard to pass over the reigns and let a partner chip in with simple tasks. Mostly because we like things a certain way (how stubborn we can be!) But if you broke things off over soggy ass pasta, it’s highly likely you’d regret it a year or so later. Know what’s a big deal, and where you can build strong trust. Let them know you believe they can handle stuff, too.
It’s probably the most valuable item you could ever put in your grocery cart; the thing that lets your partner know you are in it for the long haul. That you value them more than a box of frozen Ellios on sale (don’t judge me).
When you’re wrong, apologize. When they apologize, forgive them. There’s no stronger ingredient you could add to your relationship than respecting and supporting each other’s humanity. Mistakes happen to all of us. It’s what we do afterward that makes our relationships stronger.