In my professional career, I’ve had the distinguished pleasure of covering love, marriage, dating and relationships for over 15 years, and in doing so, I’ve interviewed, literally, nearly a thousand couples about how they fell in love and how they make their love work. What I love most about the work that I do here at ESSENCE is that as much as there’s always something new to learn about how we love, there are certain facts and advice that always remain. When people ask me what makes love and marriage work, I always say the same thing: “It’s a work in progress for every couple, but there are certain pieces of advice that all of the happiest couples I’ve interviewed seem to agree on.” Here’s a list of those things, with the hope that it can help you and your partner strengthen your bond during the national quarantine and beyond.
Find Your “Couple Thing”
When I’m interviewing them, couples will often say something like, “We always [insert weird fun thing] together…it’s just our thing!” Some couples take walks or watch the news over morning coffees. Others go to the gym together or cuddle with the dog. My husband and I like to sing in the shower and have scrabble wars. Whatever it is, you have to uncover what those little things are that you truly enjoy doing most together, and then do them—like, all the time. These small acts will bring you big joy together, promise!
Communication Is Your Greatest Tool
A cliché as it may sound, couples who can and do actually talk about the good and the bad things happening in their lives are better equipped to work through the tough times. Talking about what you’re feeling is step one in making sure that your partner best understands your needs and desires. It’s equally important to share the things that make you feel good with your partner. Put simply: talking to your partner means sharing why you had a bad day and what pleases you best between the sheets. Nothing should be off limits!
Even Great Partners Needs Some Alone Time
Even the healthiest relationships need a little breathing room at times. That’s natural and healthy. The best way to do that is to be sure that neither you nor your partner are sacrificing your “me time” in favor of maintaining the relationship. The better you treat yourself, the better you can treat your partner and nurture your relationship. This means that splitting off to do solo activities, even when you’re together at home, can be the smartest move sometimes. You must be able to fulfill yourself individually to give your best to your bond. Can’t agree on a movie to watch together? Don’t. Curl up with a tablet and watch what will make you feel good. You can always come back together later for some fun. Not doing everything together is normal, and better yet, healthy.
We Need Our Friends Too!
I love it when I speak with a couple and they go off about how important it is to maintain their friendships too. They’re not lying! Our individual friendships outside of our partnerships do matter too, and it’s important to make sure those ladies’ and fellas’ nights don’t fall off of the schedule. This is part of that necessary individuality that we spoke of earlier. Our friends can help to bring out the best in us and those best versions of ourselves are what we want to bring to the table in our relationships. Whether it’s a late-night call or a full-on girls trip, don’t stop making tine for and spending time with your friends. You need each other.
Laughing Really Is The Cure
Great partnerships began with great friendships, and when your lover is also your best friend (bonus!), that means that nobody understands you better and can lift your spirits more. Hold on to and nurture that foundational friendship. Laughter is the key. Never stop making each other laugh and agreeing not to take yourselves too seriously when you don’t need to. Be silly and free with your partner and find ways to just “let it go” and “let it flow” when you’re together. A good hearty, from the depths of the belly, laugh shared between two people who love each other is like a drug. It can instantly lift the mood, your spirits and your connection. Keep those jokes coming, guys!
Date Nights Matter
It’s easy to get caught up in the daily hustle and bustle of our daily lives and feel like just having a conversation or a meal with our partners in the evening counts as quality time. Yes, that time is valuable, but carving out time to actually enjoy each other’s company is still a must. The happiest couples I’ve ever talked to all have weekly or bi-weekly date nights that they make a point of sticking to, no matter how busy their schedules get. Even if you’re not leaving the house, you can slot in time to focus solely on having fun together and connecting. Are you a Thursday night at-home Netflix night kind of couple? Is a game night more your jam? What about just slow dancing together in your living room? The options are truly endless. Just date, ya’ll! Period.