Sometimes they make you want to pull your hair out in frustration or scream at the top of your lungs. Yes, I’m talking about relationships. When times are good, it’s rainbows and sunshine. When things are bad, it’s like a neverending storm.
For tips on spicing up a relationship, staying faithful and more, we tapped journalist and author Alisa Bowman.
She answered some key questions in our exclusive interview:
S&F: What are some things couples can do daily to stay close?
Alisa: I recommend everyone do at least three things every day:
Give. Marriage is like a dance. By being more giving, you can lead your partner to do the same. Giving is also a form of positive reinforcement, one that can encourage your spouse to behave in better ways. Most important: Giving not only makes your spouse happy, it also makes you happy. Give compliments, thanks, a listening ear, understanding, affection, hugs, time and small favors.
Accept. There is not a single human on the planet capable of living up to all of our high standards. Everyone excels in some areas and is weak in others. Case in point: If you are honest with yourself, I think you will be forced to admit that every now and then, you even let yourself down right? At least once a day, try to notice a quality in your spouse that you admire. Store up that evidence in a mental admiration file. Whenever you find yourself moping about all of the things your spouse is not, pull out that mental file and remind yourself of all the wonderful things your spouse is instead.
Ask. When it comes to asking, many of us are rusty. This is why giving and accepting are so hard for us. We don’t know how to ask for what we want, we assume our spouses should just know and do what we want all the time because that’s what good, responsible people do. Except that’s what good, responsible people do in that place called nirvana. It’s not necessarily what they do on Earth. No, on Earth people generally do what they want unless asked to do otherwise. Chances are, you are no exception.
S&F: Tips on combating jealousy?
This requires some wisdom. Why do you feel threatened? Is there a good reason? In other words, is your partner possibly having an affair? Or are you feeling sensitive and weak – something you’ve felt most of your life? If the former, this requires assertiveness and courage. Get to the bottom of it and make a decision about what you can live with and what you can’t. If the latter, you’ll want to do some self growth and learn how to be a complete person – one who isn’t so easily threatened. Part of that work lies in overcoming the need for your spouse to make you happy. You want to find happiness and peace on the inside, on your own. True love is about wanting others to be happy, not about needing others to make us happy. Once you know how to find inner happiness the envy will subside.
S&F: Advice on keeping the sexual spark alive?
Novelty! You have to keep changing it up. How you insert novelty is your business. It can be as simple as doing it with your head facing the foot of the bed. It can be as naughty as doing it in a public place.
S&F: Tips on being faithful?
Pretend a private detective is following you around at all times: snapping photos, reading your emails and texts, and listening and recording your voice. If you don’t want something you do or say to get back to your spouse, then don’t do it. Never take your marriage for granted. I can’t tell you how many cheaters write to me, telling me that they made the biggest mistake of their lives and now their marriage is over. Once your spouse has left, it’s too late to win them back.
S&F: Any common mistakes you’ve seen many couples make?
The biggest mistake is taking a marriage for granted. A good marriage requires effort. It doesn’t unfold naturally. This doesn’t mean you need to do marital therapy for your entire lives, but it does mean that you keep your marriage a priority and address problems right away. Boredom is a problem. Temptation is a problem. Simmering resentment is a problem. Don’t wait for these things to magically change. Read up. Ask friends for help. And seek professional help when needed.