5 tips for keeping your relationship afloat
Go ahead, dive into the deep end of love—but make sure there’s enough water in the pool.
By BEV BETKOWSKI
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If you’re going to splash around in the pool of love, it’s important to keep topping it up, according to a University of Alberta relationships expert.
Though it’s easy to be positive at the beginning of a romance, loving couples need to keep pouring on the effort to avoid “relation dehydration,” said Adam Galovan, a professor of family science in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences.
Galovan teamed with colleagues in the United States to develop a “relationship pool theory” that helps identify what helps keep afloat—or drains—an intimate relationship.
Here are five suggestions based on their research.
1. Have realistic and fair expectations
“Sometimes we expect too much out of our relationships,” Galovan said. “Your partner can’t meet every need you have, so don’t expect happiness to come just from them.”
Make room for some ‘me time’ doing things you enjoy, like sports or reading or spending time with friends.
The other important thing to keep in mind is that every relationship ebbs and flows, he noted.
“It’s easy to think about bailing and getting out, but be willing to consider things that you can do to improve as a partner.”
2. Pull the plug on ‘technoference’
There’s nothing wrong with texting little love notes to your sweetie throughout the day, but when you get home, it’s time to put the phone down and connect in person.
“Turn towards your partner and pay attention when they talk to you. If they remark on a nice sunset, take the time to appreciate their comment. Don’t check out from opportunities to connect because you’re browsing on a phone.”
Also be wary of online contacts with old flames that could spiral into perceived social media infidelity, Galovan said.
“Would you feel comfortable if your partner read your chats, comments or posts, or would they be upset? If you have even a benign encounter on social media, it’s a good idea to be open about it with your partner.”
Doing so provides a good opportunity to reinforce to your loved one just how glad you are to be with them, he added.
3. Wade into positive emotions
Staying connected with your loved one involves sharing feel-good emotions like affection, gratitude and kindness. Making small but meaningful gestures of affection can go a long way.
“Research suggests that couples who are happy and stay together have at least five positive interactions for every negative interaction, so when there is a negative comment made, it’s uncommon compared to all of the positives that they have,” Galovan said.
Rituals like kissing hello and goodbye, asking how their day went or helping one another with everyday chores are “the little things that help keep you in love.”
4. Be humble
“Humility is important in opening our hearts to our partner’s reality,” Galovan said. “This allows us to connect with them. Be willing to be open and humble with your partner, admit when you are wrong, and give them credit for their skills and strengths.”
That humility can make it easy to forgive one another when something hurtful is said or done, he suggested.
“It helps you be more positive and focus on the good things in the relationship.”
5. HALT and drown the criticism
When you and your partner do argue, pick the right time for it.
“Exercise the HALT rule,” Galovan said. “If you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired, take a time out and tend to those needs first. Go to bed and sleep on it. Don’t always think that you have to solve the problem right away.”
Avoid using snide remarks, sarcasm and criticism that starts with toxic statements like “you always, you never, why are you so, you’re the type of person who…”
“These are ways to hurt our spouse and really splash buckets out of the relationship pool because they send the message that we don’t like who our partner is. We’ve moved it to the person rather than a specific action or behaviour.”