Today is Ron and I’s 15th wedding anniversary. Our lives are filled with hikes and neighborhood walks together (with Charlie of course), us rooting our son Aaron on at football or wrestling events, excursions to new and familiar places, support and encouragement, amazing friends who come over for dinner and cornhole, and kisses on the lips that say more than words ever could. Proudly, we are deeply in love, more connected and have never been happier.
We’ve experienced a lot together: family deaths, traveling, the joys and struggles of parenting, relationship challenges, and moving over 1,000 miles away from a state we called home for years. Although we are bouncing on cloud 9 together, that hasn’t always been true. There were times when we slept in different beds, lied to each other, spewed nasty comments and practically lived different lives. There were times when we were so close to divorce, we arranged separate living situations.
We’re together now and stronger because we made the choice, day-in and day-out, to be better people for ourselves and for our marriage. How did we do that? We put in the hard work. Over the years, I’ve learned to tame my outbursts (I have my Dad’s Irish temper), calm my desire to work 24/7, and release my unfair expectations of Ron to share my exact energy, passions, wants and viewpoints. In return, Ron has had to open up and communicate his feelings more, find things he’s passionate about, and put more effort into bringing spontaneity and romance into our relationship.
Carving out time for us, talking vulnerably and trying new things – all while getting rid of the habits that no longer served us – has led to us celebrating 15 years of marriage and the strong belief there’s so many more to come.
While I don’t claim love guru status, I’ve learned a lot over the years. In honor of my anniversary and Valentine’s Day (Ohhh, how I love LOVE), here’s my 8 tips to bring more openness to your relationship, or to prepare for a special relationship coming your way (it’s coming, I promise, just stay open):
- Love yourself. It’s that simple. You’ll never be able to truly love someone else until you love yourself. (How do you start loving yourself, you ask? Read on!)
- Learn from the past, let it go and move on. This means forgiving yourself, forgiving your partner and focusing on who you are today and who you want to be tomorrow as a couple.
- Make time for love. Our lives are busy. Just like we schedule time for a doctor’s appointment or to hit the gym, we need to do the same for love: a dinner date, TV and snuggle time or whatever else floats your boat. If it’s not scheduled, it may not happen.
- Have a life outside of your relationship. Being close doesn’t have to mean spending all of your time with your partner. A strong relationship should focus on quality over quantity.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. Your friends on Instagram have heart-eyes; the lead in your fave TV show has the love life you’ve been dreaming of… it’s hard not to compare. But your relationship is uniquely yours. Only you and your partner decide what it should look like.
- Embrace day-to-day conflict. Healthy conflict can be good; it’s a release, a way to get to know each other and find deeper understanding. If you try to avoid conflict, the little things fester and eventually become big things… and that’s when the explosion happens. Try changing your perspective to appreciate the quick spats and disagreements.
- Check in with each other frequently beyond ‘How are you?’ Every few months, have conversations about how the relationship is going, what’s working well and what could be better. Be honest about the progress you’ve made and what your relationship goals are for the upcoming months.
- Know when to say goodbye. Not all relationships are meant to last. Sometimes the best thing we can do for a relationship (and for ourselves) is to leave, taking with us the memories and lessons so we are more open for love moving forward.
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PS – Here’s an affirmation to let more love into your life: “I am worthy of love. I am worthy of knock-my-socks off love. I’m open to receiving it; I’m open to creating it.”
PPS – Let’s get you thinking about how you perceive love. Here’s a writing prompt: What makes you feel loved? Is it words of affirmation? Maybe receiving thoughtful gifts? Think about times in your life when you’ve felt loved, then take some time to describe those special times. Reflect on these moments and consider: are the things that make you feel loved similar to the way you express your love to others? Why or why not? How could you better understand what makes others feel loved?