Whether you’re fully submerged in the dating world and swiping left and right on Tinder, or you’re in a committed LTR with a few hiccups and unnecessary fights here and there, we can all use a little room for improvement when it comes to our dating lives. In fact, your love life should not leave you exhausted, strained, or questioning like a particularly dramatic episode of Sex and the City. It should leave you happy, energized, and inspired. If it’s not, you have some work to do.
If you are single with no desire to settle down (though I utterly despise that saying), more power to you. You’ve achieved the life most of us wish we could, and this article is not for you. But if you’re currently in a relationship, or are looking for a relationship, here’s how to make it the happiest relationship of your life:
1. Change your mindset.
I, too, am guilty of never internally taking the blame for setbacks in my dating life. It’s so much easier to complain with friends (“why are all boys so stupid!?”) or point out flaws in my partner that are “limiting us from achieving utter happiness!” But let’s get real — the only person in the world you can control is yourself. Once you realize that, and I don’t mean read it off of this article on The Everygirl, but I mean really realize that, you see the power in changing the way you think, instead of hoping the people around you change.
If you’re looking for a relationship, first know what you deserve, and don’t make any exceptions (more on that below). Also reflect on the patterns that might be limiting you from finding the right person — are you insecure and not really open to dating, or are you only considering the same type of person you know is wrong for you? If you are in a relationship, focus on what you can be doing to make the relationship stronger. Often times, when we see the good in people, it brings out even more good. The same goes with your relationships — see the good, and the other person will be motivated to become better as well.
2. Brutal honesty is the best policy.
One of the best lessons I’ve learned from my current relationship is that the best relationships in the world have to have brutal honesty. If you don’t feel you can be totally transparent with the person you’re with — whether it’s out of worry that their feelings will be hurt/they’ll get mad, or that they will judge your true self — you might not be with the right person. You will feel pitfalls and doubts in even good relationships, and being able to talk through and work through the most hurtful doubts with your partner (with support and understanding) is what separates a long-lasting, happy relationship from a breakup.
If you’re dating, brutal honesty is key to finding the right relationship. Share your deepest fears and dreams early on. If you don’t like Thai food or think football is boring, don’t pretend to like it to get someone else to like you. One day you’ll find someone who hates Pad Thai as much as you do, and would rather watch the Cooking Channel than NFL — and you’ll be so happy you never settled for less.
3. Know your deal breakers.
In order to get the relationship you want, you need to know the relationship you want. Think of the factors that are so deeply and utterly important to you that you wouldn’t be willing to compromise under any circumstances. This is not your list of “dream” traits. This is a list of non-negotiables. Think: doesn’t wants children, isn’t nice to servers, misogynistic, or doesn’t have a good sense of humor. Don’t consider someone who has any of your deal breakers, and if you’re in a relationship, trust that everyone has flaws — as long as all of your deal breakers are met, work on loving your person through their flaws and getting better together.
4. Love being alone.
It may sound counterintuitive since the point of this article is, indeed, how to successfully partner up. But more attractive to potential or current partners than the way you look is the confidence you exude. Plus, enjoying your alone time will ensure you’re in a relationship for the right reasons, and that you won’t settle for less than you want and deserve in order to stop being alone.
Be so in love with your own life that you’d rather be in a happy relationship with yourself than a toxic relationship with anyone else. Take yourself out to dinner, read a great book, or make yourself a nice bath at home. Also work on fulfilling your own needs — if you’re insecure, don’t expect your partner to make you feel better and get angry at them when they don’t know how to. In fact, don’t need anything from your partner at all. Enjoy them and let them make you a better person, but don’t expect them to fill any holes.
5. Fight the right way.
The honest truth, even in the dream relationship you’ve always wanted, is that you will fight. It’s about the way you fight that makes all the difference in the health and happiness of your relationship. Make requests instead of complaints, take turns talking, and know when to take a pause when the argument gets too heated. As a couple, work on improving the way you disagree as much as you work on the other aspects of your relationship, even when it isn’t necessarily romantic or fun.
6. Ask “how’s your day?” every day.
One of the simplest and most important things you could do to improve your relationship is to ask your partner “how was your day?” and actually care about the answer. Perfect the art of conversation — know how to make your partner feel heard, ask follow-up questions instead of just listening to what they have to say, and share your opinions or thoughts once they’re done sharing with you. When your partner feels like you care about more than you have to, and actually want to be a part of everything they do, it subconsciously creates a new level of teamwork, love, and intimacy.
7. Be more affectionate.
Speaking of intimacy, physical affection may not be the determining factor between a happy, life-long relationship and a short, toxic one (we all knew that on-again-off-again couple in high school that would make out by the lockers far too often), but it is what separates a close friendship from a lasting romance. You won’t always feel the “passion” you once did in the beginning of your relationship (and if you do, please DM me for your secrets), but a little bit goes a long way when keeping the spark alive. Hold hands, kiss outside of your routine (meaning more often than just to say “goodbye” or “goodnight”), and hug often.
8. Care more about the way your partner responds to conflict than the conflict itself.
Back to that “flaws” thing — everyone has them, and your relationship will always have them (yes, even if you follow this article’s advice). Everyone makes mistakes and everyone can be impacted by negative emotions or fears. If your partner responds to your hurt feelings or anger with genuine support, understanding, and remorse, and cares more about your feelings than about being right, forgive them. Don’t bring up past fights or mistakes, and think about each disagreement like it’s you two against the problem (instead of you against them).
9. Learn each other’s stress patterns.
Even if you’re the two most compatible people on the planet, it’s likely that you deal with stress in different ways. And guess what — stress is not going away when you achieve that perfect relationship or find the perfect person. You’ll still come home from work angry about what your boss said at the meeting, and they’ll still get road rage when they’re running late in traffic. Knowing how the other person wants their stress to be handled makes all the difference. Communicate if you’d rather them listen when you vent, or if you want help fixing a problem. Also share how you’d feel most acknowledged in your moments of stress — even something simple will make you feel like you can lean on your partner, and vice versa.
10. Show love through your partner’s love language
So the ability to be loving is obviously crucial in a happy relationship, right? But what about the ability to be loving in not just your language, but in your partner’s? Yes, the good ol’ reliable love languages — my favorite relationship quiz of all time. If you haven’t heard of the life-changing love life phenomenon, learn about it here, and think of ways to show love to your partner that corresponds with their love language. If it’s Words of Affirmation, plan to randomly text them compliments throughout the week; if it’s Acts of Service, do their laundry before they get home. Showing love in the way that your partner feels it is one of the greatest secrets to relationship success.
11. Work on goals together.
Don’t just focus on making each other happy in the relationship — think of how to feel more fulfilled in all areas of life, and then pursue your goals together. Whether that’s brainstorming together for your new project at work or hitting the gym and eating better when your partner wants to be healthier, accomplish what you want out of life with their support, and be there however you can with what they’re trying to achieve. Help each other become the best version of yourselves for a fulfilling life.
12. Say “thank you” every day.
Any relationship expert will tell you that gratitude is the secret to a happy relationship. In order to keep seeing the glass half full in your relationship (even when the kids are screaming, the bills are piling up, and the glass is so not full), make it a habit to wake up every day and think of three things you’re grateful for in your partner, and tell them those things. Say thank you often, whether it’s for out of the ordinary occurrences (like planning a date night) or part of the everyday routine you expect of them (like unloading the dishwasher or walking the dog so you get to sleep in an extra 10 minutes).
13. Create an intention by asking yourself what kind of person you want to be.
OK, so this sounds like a quote straight out of a self-help book, but hear me out — research has shown that this simple question could be a gateway to achieving the kind of love you want — more specifically, ask yourself what kind of partner you want to be. Asking the question is not just about seeking out the right kind of partner, it actually gives you intention in navigating your relationships. It’s basically a vessel to self-connection, helping you criticize less and love more.