Written by Writer’s Corps member Laura Amatruto
Being in a relationship has its perks: you always have a designated cuddle buddy and someone to talk to about the Game of Thrones. But knowing that a relationship is only as stable and healthy as the people in it, you’ve made it your goal to #lovebetter this time around (good for you 🌻).
The thing is, even if you consider yourself a healthy partner there’s always room for improvement! Since 100% of us aren’t perfect and will either be in an unhealthy relationship or do unhealthy things we wanted to share a few life hacks that will help you #lovebetter. We often focus on learning to love once we’ve entered a relationship, but we have a gut feeling that the foundation of a healthy relationship starts with you, and we have a sneaky suspicion that you intuitively know this too.
That said, mastering these simple life skills will absolutely help you #lovebetter, so let’s get started!
1. Love Your Alone Time
Too often, especially in the beginning of a relationship, couples start to do everything together. Hanging out with your S.O. is great but maintaining your independence while you’re in a relationship will be super important to your happiness in the long run. That said, enjoying your alone time is key — whether you’re single or happily coupled. Do all of the things you love, whether it is walking the dog, getting work done in a cafe, or watching that movie that you secretly love, it’s important to be totally comfortable by yourself. While I would love to be with my partner every second of every day, I still cherish my time spent alone. It gives me time to clear my head, get work done, and practice self-care.
Pro tip: Remember those things you did before your partner? Keep doing them. I have a cafe I visit religiously to get my work done. Once in a while, my partner joins me for lunch or a coffee, but it’s still my ritual that I prefer to do alone. Whether it’s driving, trails you like to run, or re-watching that episode of Lost that makes you cry every single time, keep building a relationship with yourself.
2. Keep Jealousy From Ruining Your Relationships
After being in an unhealthy relationship where cheating was involved, it can be challenging to not jump to conclusions the next time around. Jealousy, of course, isn’t confined to love, it could be in regards to a coworker that got a promotion over you, it could be to the sibling that gets all the praise, or even directed toward the friend that looks flawless one hundred percent of the time. In more extreme cases, jealousy can lead to possessiveness in a relationship, and that’s unhealthy behavior! There’s no need to compare yourself to other people — keep on doing you and hold your head high.
Pro tip: Practice self-love and positive affirmations! You are awesome and deserve all the good things that come into your life! If your partner’s behavior makes you feel insecure then it may be time to start a conversation about the things that make you uncomfortable.
3. Manage Your Finances
Not being impulsive with money is always a great skill to have, but as we all know, the first stages of a relationship can be filled with impulsivity. Of course, you want to impress your new bae, and impulsive dates are the best kind of dates, but if you do that stuff too often it quickly becomes equivalent to another bill each month. Having an idea of what your spending limits are is extremely helpful when planning dates. Some of the best dates cost no money at all, and a thoughtful gift doesn’t have to be an expensive one.
Pro tip: There are a variety of apps that can help squash unhealthy spending habits. If you’re like me and know that you won’t actually keep up with an app, plan dates that focus on just being with each other. Going for a hike, watching a movie or making a homemade dinner at home are all lowkey date ideas that won’t hurt your wallet.
4. Manage Stress
Finding healthy ways to cope with stress is important in all aspects of life, not just relationship building. Stress management may include a yoga class, a simple walk around the park, or even a quick journal entry at the end of each day — do whatever helps you unwind. Too often we take out our stresses on the people close to us, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Finding healthy ways to cope with stress outside of your relationship only make the unwinding at the end of the day with your S.O. that much better. Bringing stress into the relationship only creates more stress — its a cycle. Having solid stress management skills will help prevent you from snapping at your S.O.
5. Master Time Management
This one is my greatest weakness, and only becomes worse when I’m dating. It’s so easy for me to procrastinate and push responsibilities to the side when I’m in a relationship because I become so focused on spending quality time with that person. Putting things off to a later date because I’ve made plans with my significant other has bitten me in the back so many times, I’ve lost count! Having good time management skills before entering a relationship is key. Getting swept away in the moment is nice, but making sure you reach deadlines and don’t lose track of reality is better. That being said, it’s completely possible to be swept away while keeping your feet on the ground! Be sure to communicate to your S.O. what things you need to get done–a supporting partner will absolutely help you maintain your balance.
Pro tip: Planners or lists help (even for unorganized folks such as myself)! Visually seeing what you need to do over the course of a week or day can help you make sure your Netflix and snuggle sessions don’t interfere with that important deadline you need to reach.
6. Pursue Your Passions — and Make Them a Priority
It’s incredibly helpful to already be on the path of pursuing your passions when you enter a relationship. I count myself among the lucky few who have a clear career path and life goals in mind and am in the process of obtaining them. But we all know that life doesn’t necessarily work that way. Whether you are in the midst of working towards your goals, are just discovering what they are, or just pursue them on the side for personal gratification, whatever makes you tick should not be pushed aside when you enter a relationship, or at any point during the course of it. When the “we” mentality starts to take over it’s easy to put your passions, desires, and dreams, on hold. Don’t! That being said, you don’t want to become self-absorbed and put all of your priorities above your S.O.’s needs. It’s completely doable to find a healthy balance. Whatever you were passionate about before you entered your relationship is still there, having a partner just adds an amazing person to your corner to cheer you on. And, if they don’t support your dreams and passions, they are not worth your time.
7. Become Self Aware
How do your actions affect others? What are some things that you need to work on? Try to do this without being too critical. Outside of a relationship, what kind of person are you? What kind of partner are you when you’re in a relationship? These questions are important to ask before you enter something serious. Knowing yourself inside and out will only help build a better foundation with your partner. It’s not just about getting to know another person — it’s about getting to know yourself too.
8. Be Unapologetically Yourself
You love binging those awful conspiracy theory documentaries? Own it. You’ve avoided the craft beer trend and are happy with a $2 beer instead? Order it. The idea of going out to a party stress you out? Don’t go! Stay in and binge-watch those awful documentaries instead. Life is far too short to pretend to be someone you’re not, and you’ll only regret the time wasted trying to pretend you were someone else. Being yourself from the get-go in a relationship will help you avoid wasting your time with the wrong partner. If they aren’t totally into who you are at your core, there’s no point in continuing what you started.
9. Check Your Baggage
What are you holding onto? How does it affect your ability to love and be loved? The common saying, “check your baggage at the door” is often easier said than done. Your past traumas, experiences, and relationships absolutely affect your current one. Healing isn’t linear, and even if you know how these experiences affect you, sometimes it’s still difficult to leave them out of your current equation. Maybe you’re still in your healing process, but just being aware of the baggage you carry with you can help a ton in fostering a healthy relationship instead of being oblivious to it.
10. Improve Your Communication Skills
Another skill that benefits all aspects of your life. Sometimes relationships are awkward and you have conversations that leave you wanting to teleport anywhere else than that moment. Being able to communicate your wants, needs, and what can be improved are the building blocks of a healthy, lasting relationship. Lack of communication creates rifts of misunderstanding and sometimes puts your wants and needs on the back burner. Being able to articulate clearly what exactly you mean is an admirable trait, and will create a strong foundation to any relationship, not just romantic.
Pro Tip: Before having a difficult or uncomfortable conversation, write down the points you want to make and what you want to say. This helps organize your thoughts and makes sure that you are able to communicate all that you need to.