This is especially true in the early phases. It used to be said that the first year of marriage was the toughest for any new couple. In an age where we move-in before marriage this rule still applies, only it’s the first year of cohabitation that’s the real test. You might be able to guess why…
All of your habits and expectations within a home environment are suddenly exposed and expected to mesh with those of your partner. Your house is no longer a single-person sanctuary, but a place where things are shared, broken and sometimes lost by your partner. Communication is crucial, so is the understanding that nothing comes easy at first. You’ll need to find a way to make things work early on, lest bad habits form, communication falls to the wayside and resentment rears its ugly head.
1) Make other plans
This may sound counter-intuitive for a new couple, but it’s an extremely important habit to form. By maintaining the relationships you have outside of your romantic one, you’ll encourage your partner to do the same. This gives you the opportunity to miss one another and to reflect on the relationship.
It means that spending time together will be more special, too. You’ll have more to talk about with your partner, since you’re having separate experiences. You’ll also be given the opportunity to get an outside perspective on your relationship if you’re hitting a bump in the road.
Maintain the spark in your relationship by meeting up at the end of the night. Ask your partner to meet you at a bar for a night cap, chat about your evening and head home together.
2) Find alone time
Just as it’s important to spend time with people outside of your relationship, it’s important to spend time alone. Let’s face it, there are certain things we’d rather do alone. Nothing is sexier than clipping my toenails or cleaning my yoga mat, right? Wrong. These are things that you can very easily – and probably, more comfortably – do alone.
If you’re used to spending 24/7 together, it’s hard to get those alone chores taken care of. Suddenly, your personal upkeep has fallen to the wayside and you feel overwhelmed. Well, a little alone time will fix that.
Alone time also allows you to unwind and reboot your brain. When you spend time alone, you’re allowing for the kind of reflection and relaxation that will improve your relationship in the long run. When you feel balanced and well-kept, your relationship will follow suit.
3) Air your grievances
Maybe not in a Frank Costanza on Festivus sort-of-way. Instead, try a calm and constructive manner. If something is bothering you or if you think it might in the future, nip it in the bud. Ignoring the situation will only cause the annoyance to build up, leading to an emotional explosion or – worse – unspoken resentment.
Of course, this kind of gentle discourse may take some practice. Maybe your partner will be less than thrilled the first time you tell him not to lie naked on the leather couch, but if it comes from a place of calm, you’ll get good results over time. A mature conversation about your expectations will provide a good road map for your partner, and allow for two-way communication.
When you live with someone else, heads will inevitably clash. Sometimes, you have to agree to disagree and walk away. Sometimes you agree to disagree over important or essential things, like furniture or which relatives to visit for Christmas. Sometimes you agree to disagree over trivial things like which TV show to watch or what type of bread to buy. Either way, to resolve the issue, you have to find a way to compromise.
Compromise shouldn’t mean that the more dominant personality always gets to make the final decision. Acknowledge that your partner’s opinions are just as valid, as making them seem less important will only cause conflict over time. Even if you’re adamant that your choice is the superior one, you sometimes have to let it go. For important decisions, try a rotation. For example, if you picked the couches in the living room, let her choose the bedroom set. Spend this Christmas as your parents and next year at his. Maybe you hate football, but he probably doesn’t appreciate watching Jersey Shore very much, either. The last important factor in compromise? Once the decision has been made, don’t sulk about it.
If compromise becomes a habit early on, you’ll have less arguments when decision time rolls around and you’ll be able to problem solve as a couple without getting heated.
5) Go the extra mile
Living with your partner is not glamorous. Sorry ladies, but TV and chick-flicks lied. It’s everyday life. You brush your teeth together, eat together and relax in your sweats together. This is all fabulous if you’re in a happy relationship, but it’s still a routine.
Shake it up to maintain the excitement in your relationship. One night, bring home flowers and bottle of wine. Buy tickets to a movie, game or concert at the last minute. Take her out to a fancy restaurant. Small and unexpected gestures go a long way to maintain an exciting relationship. Having out-of-the-house experiences together allows you to appreciate each others’ interests. It will also keep your relationship from going stale.