To celebrate our 15 years of being a couple, I decided to write down why I think we, as a couple, work so well. It’s a bit of a detour from the normal travel posts, but I also feel like this is at the core of why we are able to do what we do, why I can have this blog, why we live abroad, and the foundation of our lives as we know them. Enjoy this look behind the curtain that includes the best advice I can give on relationships.
Our story started in a very small town in Virginia, USA. We were in college — he was a senior, and I was a freshman and we had an instant connection and became fast friends. Almost a full year later, we decided to start dating.
15 years together. I met him when I was 18 years old, so I’ve known him for almost half of my life, but, if I’m honest, it’s hard to remember life without him. Besides, college is when life gets interesting anyway, am I right?!
Our secrets to a successful, happy, and healthy relationship: 15 relationship tips
We’ve gotten some of the most amazing compliments over the years. They mainly revolve around #relationshipgoals and we have a hard time understanding why. Don’t most people try to have a good relationship? Why don’t they work?
This is a very naive way of thinking. I know that. We’ve seen people marry within months of meeting and getting divorced a year later. We’ve seen couples that don’t seem to fit at all or are always bickering. We know people who have had multiple divorces. So, what’s the difference? What do we do differently?
Honestly, I think the base of it all is that we complement each other. For most of the big topics, we are in agreement. We mostly don’t like the same music or movies. We don’t always agree on what we want to do when traveling. That’s all okay. It usually means we end up doing a variety of things that make it more interesting. It’s the mix that makes it all good!
This is the number one tip because I think it has a lot to do with luck. There is so much luck that goes into finding someone decent, that we complement, and we are attracted to.
Trust each other
I came into our relationships with trust issues, so in my case, the trust had to be built up. It wasn’t all there when we started dating. Being head over heels helped get to a very trusting place, though.
Trust is a base because, without it, everything else is super shaky and can crumble at any time. Without trust, you’ll feel like you are constantly looking over your shoulder and that’s just exhausting, not to mention, unhealthy in a relationship.
Practice good communication
If you can’t talk about it, you shouldn’t be together. For every scenerio, I can think of, I truly believe that. You have to be loved for everything you are. If you are scared about something, talk about it. If you have concerns, talk about it. But learn how to have a productive conversation without being overly emotional (this can be the hardest part!). We’ve had our share of tough conversations, but they are just that, conversations. No yelling. No name-calling. No throwing things.
Understand their personality type and their love languages
This is huge. Gigantic. And more! Mis-understandings are so easily made. Hurt feelings happen without the other even knowing what they did (or didn’t do). My best advice is to read The Five Love Languages (or look up the idea behind it) to understand how you show love and how your partner shows it. Then, take a personality test. Are you an introvert? Do you need time alone? Is your partner an extrovert and needs to be around their friends more often? How do you recharge? Learning about yourself and explaining it to your partner is super helpful!
Learn their tells. Learn when they say they are fine and they aren’t. Figure out what they need when you disagree when they feel bad. Know what makes them comfortable, what makes them uncomfortable so you can spot it in social situations. The first thing you probably learn is their “look” and you know you are in trouble. Figure out their other non-verbal signals, it will definitely make you closer.
You can’t grow in a relationship without respect. I respect Sean’s opinion on everything except where we should eat ;).
I would make this longer, but I feel like this is something you should really already know.
Another one that should go without saying. Be honest with yourself about who you are, what you want, and what you need in a relationship. Let your partner know these things as well. Your feelings are valid and should be respected, and you should respect theirs as well.
Yep. There will always be the need for compromise. There’s really no way around it..nor should there be. Nobody will always want the same thing. When traveling, do something each of you wants to do, go explore on your own, have a date night. Did you read the word compromise in that sentence? No, because hopefully, it doesn’t feel like it to do one thing you like and one thing the other likes. Hopefully, there will be many things you both want to do! If you are traveling as a couple, we have 6 travel tips for couples you might want to read.
Keep the other person in mind
Treat them how they want to be treated. This goes back to love languages and personalities. If it’s a long term relationship, keep the future in mind. If a job comes up and you would have to relocate, keep them in mind. Talk to them. If you are going to be out late (and you live together), the nice thing to do is let them know…especially if they are a worrier like me! Stay kind.
Personally, I find this to be an integral part of love. Support their choices. Support their passion. If they play soccer, go watch! If they love cosplay, help them with their costume. You get the idea.
Look in the mirror
Try to figure out how you contribute to the relationship. It’s two people, so they both need to make it work. Are you being kind? Are you listening to their needs?
Know your own habits that might be hard to live with. For example, I talk really fast sometimes, so I might have to say something 3 times to be heard. That’s annoying for both of us! Recognizing the little things that you can adjust to make life easier for both of you, saves time, frustration, and makes for better communication.
Make your relationship a priority
This can come in many forms. Once you live together, there are times when it might feel like you are just roommates. If you feel this way, it’s okay! Relationships go through phases and can sometimes feel like a rollercoaster. But if you’re in it to win it, come together and have a chat (honesty!).
Make a monthly/weekly date night — there are a million ideas for date nights and they don’t have to cost a lot. Say “I love you” every day. Ask how their day at work went. Have a no-phone-at-the-table romantic dinner at home. Work-out together. Take a day-trip/road-trip. Let them know you are there for them. Ask them if there is anything they want to talk about, and giving them the safe space to do so. (Safe space means no judgment and typically no outward anger if they are being honest and it has to do with you)
Have experiences together
Know what each other likes and find something fun, new, interesting, entertaining, etc, to do together. It gives memories, it makes you feel good, and it can help continue to create that bond through shared experiences. Besides, we all need to get out of the house sometimes!
You’ll make mistakes
By no means are we perfect. I’m not sure what that looks like. But it does feel pretty perfect for us. There are moments when I catch myself thinking how lucky I am…how lucky we are to have found our match. Know and understand that you both will make mistakes. Learn to forgive and move on.
Say what you need
Nobody is a mind-reader. Don’t expect your partner to be one. Have you ever thought, “why don’t they know why I’m upset? It’s so obvious!”? Yeah…I think we all have. The thing is, we all think differently! It’s a beautiful and, sometimes, frustrating thing. Funny enough, Sean and I were just talking about this last night. I might think something is inferred with a short statement because of past events, but he needs more context to make a decision, or even understand what I need.
Never go to bed angry and always kiss goodnight
You won’t have a good night’s sleep and you don’t want to wake up with your first thought being about how you were wronged…or wronged someone else. At the very least, if it’s an on-going conversation/argument, kiss goodnight to reinforce your love for each other. This little reminder that there will be bumps in the road, but you are in it together, is so important.
I hope this both gives you some insight into how we have managed to have a healthy relationship for 15 years, and how you might be able to do the same. Just to be clear, I don’t think you should stay in a relationship “just because”. Some are toxic and not worth being in, if that’s where you are right now, please reach out to family, friends, or a shelter for help. You deserve to be safe and happy!
Thanks for taking this little peek into our lives with us. It’s been a fun post to put together and really hope that you find it beneficial. I’m also going to leave a few links to books below. In college, I took a course on romantic communication and found it incredibly valuable. These are some books we read.