10 Relationship Lessons on My 10 Year Anniversary
Reaching 10 years in my marriage is a milestone that I have been looking forward to for quite some time. The only unfortunate part is that I was looking forward to celebrating this milestone on a cruise, but Corona kind of got in the way. So instead of celebrating by the poolside with a margarita, I figured I would pass along the 10 lessons that I have learned, not only through my training as a marriage counselor but through personal experience.
And yes … marriage counselors have a lot to learn when it comes to relationships. We aren’t all in perfect marriages, we are human. We have flaws and we have to learn from them. It is from the flaws and the good times that we (meaning everyone) can prosper and create the relationships that reach 10+ year milestones.
So diving into it… what are my 10 lessons? Well, sit back and enjoy some reading because condensing everything into a list of just 10 was very hard!
1. Talk about expectation – The unfortunate part of being in a long-term relationship is that we EXPECT our partners to know what we think, what we want, and what we need. That is NOT the case, which is why it is important to talk about expectations in a relationship. Especially because things change as our relationship evolves.
So having conversations, on a regular basis, about our expectations will help keep both of you on the same page of where your relationship is and where you are heading.
2. Understanding “I”, “You” and “We” statements – Now this is a bit of a tricky tip. It takes finesse and conscious awareness of what we say. Which sounds impossible and bound for mishaps. However, as we continue to practice and work, it becomes natural.
So what are “I”, “you” and “we” statements, and why are they so important? Well, depending on how you deliver content it will help determine how that specific content is received, and in some cases, the response you get back.
a. “I” statements – For me, I statements are an opportunity to come from a place of vulnerability about how you feel and what you need. It is hard to refute how a person feels. Example: “I get scared when I don’t know what is happening and it makes me really anxious.”
b. “You” statements – These types of statements have a time and a place and within the conflict, “you” statements don’t normally end well. “You” statements often create the feeling of criticism and defensiveness. Example: “When you don’t call or let me know what is going on, it is like you don’t care.”
c. “We” statements – “We” statements help foster feelings of connection and unity. They also allow you both to feel ownership towards finding a solution to whatever conflict arises, versus making one partner feel more responsible to change. Example: “Can we come up with a plan to check in with each other more often?”
3. Conflict is normal – Often times we tend to romanticize the perfect relationship as one that never has conflict, but conflict is normal. Conflict is healthy. Conflict allows a couple to come together, work together, learn how to communicate, and bond at a deeper level.
Issues arise with conflict when couples aren’t fighting fairly and when there is no repair. That is when conflict becomes unhealthy. You want to ensure that when conflict does come up in a relationship that you maintain respect for your partner and remember that the ultimate goal is to find a resolution for the betterment of the relationship.
Now, the repair is the most crucial part of conflict and one that goes ignored. Repair is how couples come together after a conflict, come to a place of understanding while dropping the need to protect one’s ego.
4. Learn your partner’s love language – The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman is a really easy read. If you don’t have the time, you can easily take the quiz to learn about the 5 love languages. To give you a quick summary, the 5 love languages address how we each like to RECEIVE love.
You can learn more about your love languages by CLICKING HERE.
So learning how your partner wants to receive love can help foster a feeling of appreciation. It helps your partner feel like you know them and that you care about what they need to feel loved.
5. Individual time is important – We don’t need to be with our partner 24/7, in fact, having individual time is healthy for relationships. It allows you to miss your partner, gives you something to talk to your partner about, and gives you space to de-stress. Plus, I am sure your partner would want to be able to spend time doing the things that they enjoy.
For example, my husband is into archery. That is not really my thing, but I am more than happy to let him shoot arrows by himself so he can destress while I happily enjoy screaming at Mario for not avoiding Goombas. (That is a Nintendo reference… I enjoy playing video games).
6. Create an appreciation list – So this tip is something that my husband actually started. We created a list of 5 things that we would love to have on a crappy day or a random day that would make us feel good.
For example, my husband loves fries from Wingstop, while I enjoy a nice beverage from Starbucks. So, on a random day or on a day where we may have had a crappy day, we pull from the list to make each other feel better. It is a simple tool that can help bring you and your partner together.
7. Communication is essential – This seems obvious, right? However, many couples don’t really take the time to work on communication and communication has many different levels.
a. On a small scale, talking with your partner for 5 minutes a day on how your day helped foster emotional intimacy and makes each other feel included.
b. At a productive level, having a “meeting of the minds” weekly conversation with your partner on the to-dos that need to be done during the week. Here you guys can talk about bills that are due, appointments that need to be scheduled, or ideally when to go out on a date night.
c. At a large scale, having conversations about things that are not working and what is needed to get the both of you on the same page. What I have noticed in my work with couples is that most couples tend to avoid big conversations in order to not create conflict. Finances are oftentimes one of those conversations that couples tend to avoid. By avoiding talking about big topics, the problem builds to a boiling point. Therefore, it is important to talk about heavy topics instead of ignoring them.
If this is a problem in your relationship and you don’t know how to start this type of conversation try scheduling it out in advance (maybe during your “meeting of the minds” conversation) so that you both can be prepared mentally to talk things through.
8. Make time as a couple – Time is often a luxury and the responsibilities of life tend to chip away at any free time that we have. When in a relationship it is important to make it a priority, therefore, we need to put in the effort to make time as a couple.
Now, it doesn’t always have to be an extravagant night out on the town. It can be simple things that you do together as a way to connect. It can be something as simple as doing a puzzle together, watching a documentary and talking about it together, drinking out on the patio together, etc. As long as it is time for the two of you (no kids involved) to spend time together.
If creativity isn’t your thing or if there isn’t much to do, you can opt to have subscription date night boxes sent your way or even download apps on your phone. For example, an app that I recommend for couples as a way to connect is Gottman Love Cards. It is free plus a good way to help foster communication as well.
9. Go to bed angry (if needed) - I know the old saying is “never go to bed angry,” but science has shown that going to bed angry is actually beneficial. Having space and time between argument allows us to process the events of what just happened, maybe think differently and less hastily and often times gives a chance to reflect on what we could have done differently.
Let’s say that you are in an argument with your partner during the daytime … in that situation, I would recommend taking a break if things become too heated to allow both of you to have that space to cool off and think more rationally. That usually takes about an hour, biologically speaking, so take that time to do something else to allow you and your partner to decompress.
HOWEVER, two crucial things are important to take into account. The first being that the time apart can NOT be longer than 24 hours. I believe that anything beyond 24 hours means that we are now in grudge/resentment territory and that is not where we want to be. So make sure to come back to it within a reasonable timeframe. The second part is to make sure that there are a repair and ownership of your responsibility in the problem. Everyone owns some level of responsibility so it is important to acknowledge that in order for the repair to be successful.
10. Be a safe space for your partner – At a core level in a romantic relationship, we need to create a space where we feel safe. That helps create a feeling of connection, intimacy, and vulnerability. In order to help facilitate that in a relationship, we need to break down the barriers that we have created throughout our lifetime, and allow our partners to be there for us.
Granted, this is a space that is earned in a relationship, but it is important that you give your partner some feeling of connection and vulnerability as you slowly chip away at your walls to allow them in.
One important thing to understand that being a safe space for your partner doesn’t mean that you are their problem solver. It means that you are there to hear them out and vent, with your ears … not anything else (unless they ask for it).
Wow… that was A LOT of lessons that I have learned over the past ten years as a partner and as a marriage counselor. I know that there are many more that I can share with you but I think this is a good foundation for you to start to create the relationship that will hopefully get you to that 10+ year mark as well.
So now, I will drink a margarita on my couch with my husband as we dream about the cruise that would have been … LOL … and reflect back on the good times we had together. Can’t wait!
If you're wanting some help with your relationship, give me a call at 954.391.5305 for your complimentary consultation. I am offering in-person sessions at our Coral Springs, Florida office or online via a secure telehealth platform. I look forward to speaking with you!
*For more information about Jessica Jefferson, LMFT click here.