Last week we examined the healthy relationship model and looked at several healthy relationship behaviors. This week we continue in exploring more healthy behaviors.
Valuing your partner and expressing this – often (brownie points game)
Showing your partner you value their efforts and them as a person is really important. It reinforces to them what behavior you appreciate the most, makes them feel validated and confirms that they are cherished by you – all essential ingredients to any thriving relationship.
I created something called the brownie points game to better vocalize how much my partner and I value one another. I’ve mentioned it before in my life audit series but as it’s so relevant have included an excerpt below just in case you wanted to try the game out for yourself.
The brownie points dating game… (for those who are actively dating)
I’ve recently invented something called the brownie points game. It’s a really good way of injecting fun and romance into any relationship. The rules are simple. Whenever your partner does something sweet, thoughtful, kind or romantic you score them, giving them brownie points and vice versa.
For every one hundred brownie points I earn, my dating partner gives me a romantic surprise, which could be a meal or even theater tickets. Alternatively my partner may create what I call ‘top tier’ rewards, whereby the reward is revealed in advance (these are usually big ticket items, like buying a bike and teaching me how to ride one, taking me to a super nice restaurant or even Secret Cinema tickets) so as to incentivize me to work towards the prize!
The amazing thing about this game is it eradicates the typical dating games of playing hard to get and instead replaces it with romantic gestures and traditional courtship. Even more than this it encourages appreciation for your partners efforts whilst showing them what type of affection you value most.
Being affectionate – often
This is often forgotten in the later stages of a relationship but I think it is so essential to remain affectionate towards one another. Just a hug, taking their hand in yours or a little peck on the cheek communicates your love in a way that only physical affection can.
Forgiving openly and freely
Forgiving openly and freely is a prerequisite of any healthy romantic relationship.
Unfortunately there are many misconceptions about forgiveness, some of these are:
- Forgiving means totally forgetting – you needn’t forget completely as it might be wise to remember what situations your partner may be inclined to behave poorly and avoid them but equally you shouldn’t harbor resentment or bring it up once you have forgiven.
- Forgiving means reconciling – it is totally possible to both forgive and walk away from the relationship.
Unless your partner is a repeat offender and continuously cheats on you or does something equally horrid, I do believe that it is important to rebuild trust to the level it was prior to the incident.
For more on forgiveness please read my article titled ‘How to liberate yourself by overcoming the three blocks to forgiveness’.
There are several ways you can rebuild trust, these being:
- Encourage your partner to be honest but do not seek an in-depth account of what happened as this can deepen hurt
- Seek to understand the reasons for the incident without blame and identify, what, if any, part you had to play
- Examine together how you can change the existing conditions which lead to the incident happening in the first place
- Discuss and make it understood what would happen on both sides should the incident occur again, being careful to not place blame but rather create a healthy, mutually understood boundary
- Make a promise to be diplomatically honest with one another from now on (honest but equally sensitive to the others feelings in your wording and delivery) and keep to this promise
- Once the situation is dealt with and the underlying reasons for the hurt addressed, make a promise to one another not to bring it up casually or in conflict again
Accepting the flaws of your partner and never trying to change them
No one is perfect, everyone but everyone has flaws. Habits and irritating personality traits, we all have them. One of the reasons romantic relationships can be so fulfilling is the intimacy they offer us. In order to gain intimacy we must share all of who we are to our partner, even our flaws. As I’m sure you are aware this takes great courage as we all fear rejection on some level.
When you accept the flaws of your partner and never try to change them, you are accepting them wholeheartedly. This doesn’t equate to accepting a serial cheater or a chronic alcoholic for a partner – I am strictly talking harmless habits and personality traits.
By accepting your partner in this way you will greatly deepen the love, trust, intimacy and respect you share and your relationship will thrive as a result.
Laughing and finding the comedy in tough times
To be able to laugh and find the comedy in tough times is not only cathartic but essential for any healthy intimate relationship. Seek to laugh at the absurdity and desperateness of situations and you will have found a way to avoid conflict, regain perspective, release tension and bond with your partner.
In an ideal world we would avoid all of the negative behaviors and exhibit all of the positive behaviors all of the time, but alas, not everyone is perfect, as we have already discussed in this series.
This doesn’t give us free reign to do what we like and simply shrug ‘I’m only human’ but it does give us permission to accept when we falter, admitting our hurtful behavior to our partner, explaining why we messed up without placing blame and earnestly communicating to them how we will rectify the situation, making the relationship the healthiest it can be.
In today’s modern world where the media presents us with fairytales on a daily basis, I would encourage you to ponder what true love looks like for you. I don’t subscribe to the notion of the charming prince saving me anymore, I have long since learnt that I needed to do that for myself in advance of getting involved with anyone.
To me true love develops when a partnership is formed based on honesty, trust, vulnerability, respect, acceptance, thoughtfulness and consideration. Whilst life can make us cynical that true love is the thing of fairytales I would disagree – I believe that true love is much more magical than the movies!
Are you affectionate? Do you forgive easily? What does true love mean for you? Please share your thoughts in the comments below to gain encouragement, support and insight from our community, we’d love to hear from you.
‘The relationship skills workbook: A do-it-yourself guide to a thriving relationship’ by Julia B Colwell, Ph. D. An ideal book for you or – even better – both of you!
‘Safe People: How to find relationships that are good for you and avoid those that aren’t’ by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend