Relationship advice can be fickle. When it’s unsolicited, it can be more bothersome than helpful (thank you, friend that vaguely hints at relationship ups and downs). However, when you actually seek it out, it can be surprisingly difficult to find out what you want to know. Sure, you can find your standard advice in abundance—such as don’t go to bed angry—but much of it is questionable and needs a major update. Seeking out more practical counsel, we spoke with a licensed marriage coach about her go-to pieces of relationship advice that resonate with most couples. Read on for the expert-approved tips.
While this piece of advice isn’t exactly rare, it’s definitely worth the mention. Good communication within a romantic relationship is based on the willingness of both you and your partner to be honest, transparent, and open with one another. You allow each other to express how you’re feeling, don’t get defensive when it isn’t warranted, and don’t allow the conversation to devolve into an argument. You give your partner the opportunity to express how he or she is feeling, you listen, and you make an effort to really understand—and he or she does the same for you.
As you can imagine, this is crucial for a relationship that wants to last. “Knowing what to say, how to say it, and, most importantly, when to say it will make or break your relationship,” says Lesli Doares, marriage coach and author of “Blueprints for a Lasting Marriage”. While this might sound dramatic, a relationship likely won’t go the distance if those involved aren’t able to have productive conversations.
You’re nice to your partner. You compliment him or her often, and you seem to get along most of the time. You feel like you already have a strong relationship with your romantic partner. However, in order to have a real, positive impact on your relationship, you should be intentionally kind and respectful—even (or perhaps especially) when it feels difficult to do. “Treating your partner well, even if you’re upset with [him or her], protects your relationship,” Doares tells us. “Words can never be unheard, so it’s better to not say harsh ones in the first place.” This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be frank and forward when you need to be. At the same time, though, it’s important that you lead with the love that you have for this person in order to keep the peace.
For example, Doares recommends that when your partner does something that bothers you, you request that he or she change their behavior, rather than complain about it. “Asking for what you would like is more positive than complaining. It also allows your partner to clearly know what actions [he or she] can take to make things better. Complaining leaves [him or her] feeling helpless and defensive,” she explains. When you make the choice to be actively kind and respectful towards your partner, he or she feels heard, considered, and appreciated. This creates room for affection and understanding, and leaves none for resentment.
Equally so, you need to be prepared to both forgive your partner for his or her actions and hold yourself accountable for your own.To be direct, no one is perfect, and a lasting relationship without even some conflict doesn’t exist. Therefore, learning to navigate those conflicts and come out the other side a better, more understanding couple is an incredibly helpful tool to have under your belt. “Disagreements and hurt are a given in any relationship, but being able to repair those situations is critical,” Doares states.
On one hand, this sometimes means forgiving your partner for his or her wrongdoings. “Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting,” Doares points out, but rather, “It means that you’re willing to accept your partner's repair attempt and move on.” You don’t need to turn a blind eye to his or her mistake—in fact, that can be harmful to your relationship. However, you should allow your partner the chance to learn and improve, if you feel that he or she deserves it, and if you can move past it.
On the other hand, you need to be able to recognize when you’re the one who’s done something wrong and, thus, hold yourself accountable. “Owning your part is hard, but necessary,” Doares says. The relationship expert also adds that, in either case, it’s possible that neither of you are necessarily wrong. Even so, if someone is hurt, there needs to be a conversation. Put aside your pride and be open to hearing your partner out or admitting that you’re at fault. When you both do this for each other, you grow as both individuals and a couple, adding to a strong foundation for your relationship.
You’ve heard it before: Honesty is the best policy. While repetitive and a tad cliche, it holds true for relationships in any stage. “Good relationships are built on trust, and trust is built on honesty. Be honest about your feelings, your desires, what you’re doing, who you’re with, everything,” explains Doares, touching on both important personal matters and your more literal whereabouts. She notes that it’s also paramount that you be gentle, but radically honest when confronting or having conversations with your significant other.
Remember how we talked about being kind and respectful, even when it’s difficult? This is similar to that. Doares encourages you to be completely honest within your relationship, while being gentle in your approach, when possible. Honesty isn’t an excuse to be harsh or cruel. Rather, be open and transparent.
It can be easy to get stuck in the rut of thinking primarily of yourself in your relationship. It’s the only perspective you have, after all. This is exactly why it’s so pivotal that you make the choice to actively listen to your partner. For example, Doares warns against telling your partner what he or she is thinking or feeling (or what you believe they should be thinking or feeling). You may think you have a good idea, but making such assumptions and speaking for your partner will create frustration and resentment. “It’s disrespectful and puts [him or her] in a no-win situation. [He or she will] feel judged and dismissed, which will damage your relationship,” says Doares.
Instead, give your partner the chance to speak for him- or herself and explain their perspective. It might also be helpful to practice mirroring—the act of repeating back what you heard him or her say before you comment on it. For example, saying something such as, “So, what you’re saying is, you’d like more quality time together where neither of us are distracted by other things.” This not only is drastically more productive, but also reinforces a sense of being heard and understood. Be it during discussions, conflicts, or day-to-day conversation, intently listen to your partner and hear what he or she would like to say.
Whether you’ve just entered into a new relationship or are preparing to get married, every relationship can benefit from some professional advice. Consider whether or not you actively include these actions in your relationship.