After twenty years of marriage, I’ve come to the conclusion that having a successful relationship relies upon using the best tools at your disposal. Love gets you so far, but without the right skills, miscommunication and misunderstandings can lead to undue stress between partners. I rely on five key elements for a successful connection with my partner.
1. Honesty. This is my first and foremost. Nothing else matters if two partners aren’t being authentic with one another. Before my spouse came out as genderqueer, my mind had come up with all kinds of problems we must be having, because something was “off.” My marriage sixth sense told me they were lying, and ultimately that led to a break in my trust.
2. Communication. Humans, as far as I know, are not mind-readers. But we like to think we are. Instead of expecting your spouse to know how you’re feeling about something, it’s important that you voice your concerns or wishes. Often I’ve found that what my spouse thought I was trying to say by being subtle was completely different from what I was actually trying to convey.
3. Time. It took me a far too long to realize that if you don’t make time to be with one another, it ends up falling to the bottom of the list of priorities—and it can’t. It’s important to schedule in time for each other the same way you schedule time for a health checkup or a dental visit. The health of your partnership is as important as the health of your body.
4. Intention. Romance doesn’t remain alive unless you keep it alive. My spouse makes me tea every morning, a small gesture that warms me figuratively and literally. When we leave one another, we still kiss each other three times—once for good luck, once for the road, and once because I love you. Small but important courtesies let your partner know you are important, and your relationship is, too.
5. Respect. It may seem straightforward, but being in a relationship doesn’t always mean you respect one another. Partners aren’t stagnant—they grow and change. Allowing one another the space to stretch without leaving your partner behind is a juggling act that can make or break your connection to one another. Nurture that by respecting your partner’s growth and helping them reach their personal goals. In turn, expect the same from them.
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