It might sometimes feel like your partner will never change. Maybe you’re frustrated because it seems being happy in your relationship is so far out of reach since the same issues keep coming up with you and your partner.
While no two relationships are alike, luckily, the keys to how to have a healthy relationship remain the same.
The beauty of a relationship is when one person changes, the whole dynamic can change.
Think of you and your significant other as dancing partners. If one of you changes the dance, the whole dance changes.
The same is true with your interactions.
But this shouldn’t worry you! There are ways you can grow closer to your partner no matter where you are on your romantic journey.
Whether you’ve been together for decades or months, I promise you that one of these areas could use some attention. I’m a pretty conscious lover yet know there are areas within all of these ways where I can shine some attention to get even closer to my mate.
Remember, it’s all about progress. Not perfection.
Here are 10 things you can change to have a healthy relationship, learn to love your partner better, and grow closer and more connected than ever.
1. Love each other unconditionally
Yep, you’re probably thinking, “OK, that’s easy. Of course I love them unconditionally“
I’d like you to pause and question that. Your love is likely very conditional for your partners — it’s common for most people.
People do what I call, “I love them if…” Meaning: “I love them if they parent the way I want them to,” or “I love them if they show me love the way I want them to,” etc.
Think about it: You’re putting conditions on your love.
Unconditional love is choosing to love your spouse no matter what, then actually loving them no matter what. You love him whether they bring the garbage out or not. You love them whether they help you with the kids the way you want or not.
Your spouse is in your life to love. He or she is there as a companion on your journey together. This makes your relationship so much easier.
2. Brainstorm love
This is exactly what it sounds like: Take time to brainstorm all the ways you love your spouse.
What do you adore about them? Now, you may think that’s easy for other people, but not you. But that’s because you need to direct your brain to look for the amazingness in your spouse.
You can do this!
You could look for the things that bug you about them, but what’s the point?
Ask yourself: What case are you making for your spouse? Do you spend more time looking for the amazingness in your spouse or the annoyances? How does that leave you feeling most days?
3. Stop trying to change each other
Consider this a PSA: Trying to change your partner does not work.
I tried to change my first husband. For years. Then I tried to change my parents and even my siblings.
Here’s what I’ve learned: I’m not good at changing other people. Further, you want to know what else I noticed? People really don’t like it when you try.
Have you noticed that when you try changing someone, they’re not like, “Yay, this will be fun. I can’t wait for you to try and change me.”
Do you know what people do want you to do? Love them! They want to be accepted for who they are.
Ask yourself why you want to change the people in your life.
You’re probably trying to change them because you think if they were different, you would be happier. You might even be telling yourself if they changed and did it “your way,” they’d be happier, too.
They’ll be happier when you love them for who they are.
I used to think things like, “If they only did this, they’d be happier,” or “This would be so much easier if they…” But you know what? It doesn’t work that way. People have to learn for themselves.
Back off and stop pretending you’re the universe. The other people in your life are on a path, and just because it’s not the one you want them to be on, it doesn’t mean it’s not the path they’re supposed to be on.
You miss out on the loveliness and amazingness of who you’re in a relationship with when you’re trying to change them.
4. Don’t expect your spouse to be responsible for meeting your needs
This is often a hard one. You are responsible to meet your own needs. You are not your spouse’s responsibility. Hello, Adulting 101.
This is a hard truth to grasp because you’re taught that external things create your happiness. Get the new car to be happy; eat the cupcake; buy this pair of jeans; get your spouse to buy you roses.
You are responsible for how you feel.
Your spouse can’t control your thoughts. You’re the only one that can. You’re responsible for your needs getting met.
If you believe your spouse must meet your needs for you, this is codependency and you give away your emotional freedom when you do that.
Take responsibility for your emotional state and let your spouse take care of his.
5. Learn to recognize poor communication
Picture your conversation with your spouse as a drain in a sink. Does what you’re about to say to your spouse clear the drain, or clog it?
My husband and I often stop mid-discussion and say, “Clog.”
What we’re telling each other is, “Yes, the conversation might have stopped abruptly, but what I was about to say would’ve clogged the drain of our relationship.”
It’s a great safety measure for egos to stand down and focus on connection. Learn to recognize how you’re communicating with each other for clear, purposeful conversation.
6. Drop expectations
This may be the most important rule. This requires you to get quite clear about your beliefs about what a relationship should be like and what a mate should or should not do.
In my past relationships, I had a lot of expectations. Things like:
“He should be more thoughtful.”
“He should want to hold my hand.”
“He should be more romantic.”
Then I’d tell myself that if he acted in those ways then I’d feel a certain way, but it doesn’t work that way. Other people’s actions are never responsible for your emotions. When you tell yourself they are, you tend to get a bit manipulative and try to control the other person.
Set your partner up to always win. When you drop all expectations of how your partner should show up in the relationship and choose to love him or her as is, peace and freedom result.
7. Stop placing blame
Did you ever notice when you point your finger at someone else, several fingers point back toward you?
Instead of directing your brain to look at what someone else did wrong, ask yourself, “What role did I just play? What could I have done differently?”
Notice where you’re trying to justify your actions or your feelings. Where are you justifying a mean thing you said or a complaint you have?
No problem was ever solved by blaming the other person. Blame has no place in compassionate, connected relationships.
8. Stop complaining
Complaining gets you nowhere. It’s passive and adds negativity.
The next time you’re about to complain about your spouse to someone other than a coach, stop.
Usually, when you complain to someone else, you’re trying to get them to agree with you, which doesn’t change the situation. Rather, you’re just letting off steam.
If you’re complaining, you’re in a passive place. If you’re blaming your spouse for how you’re feeling, you’ve given up your power.
9. Accept that death happens
When I was in my late thirties, I watched a dear friend die. I stood by her side as she finished her life and listened to her regrets. Her death led me to reexamine every aspect of my life.
I no longer take my time for granted. I’m not in relationships that aren’t soul-filling.
Do the work so you can live a life you love every single day. Not tomorrow, not next year, not when your kids leave for college or when you retire; now.
How are you living? How are you loving? If your mate died tomorrow, would you act differently? What would you wish you had said? What would you miss? Don’t let those moments slip away.
10. Believe in the greatest possible version of marriage
What would the most amazing relationship feel like?
What would the couple do on weekends? On weeknights? How would they protect their intimacy? What would she say about her husband to her friends? How would she talk to her husband?
Put your energies into believing you’re building the relationship of your dreams and watch what happens.
Susie Pettit is a mindfulness-based cognitive coach and podcast host of the weekly Love Your Life Show. Sign up for her weekly newsletter to help you live a life you love!
This article was originally published at SMB Well. Reprinted with permission from the author.