Hey guys! Claire here! Well, who else would it be, right? Well, I’m kicking off this blog post but Stephen is going to be ending it with his thoughts 🙂
We’ve been wanting to share more with you guys about our relationship, and well, relationship advice in general. We just celebrated our 6 month anniversary of being married and while we clearly have a long way to go (lol), we thought it might be fun if we shared our thoughts so far on what we believe makes for a good marriage, or relationship for that matter.
So, I’m going to start! While there are many things that make for a successful relationship I’ve listed 5 things that I believe are super important.
- Open communication. I think that this is hands down one of the most important. I’ve always been someone where if something is bothering me, I’d rather just talk it out with my partner. I don’t like letting things fester–I’d rather just talk it out and squash it. Luckily, Stephen is the same way so I think that has provided us with a really solid foundation. In a book Stephen and I are reading (What Makes Love Last), when you don’t talk about things that bother you then you start assuming what the other person is feeling, the intent behind their actions, etc. As you make these inferences on what you think is going on, you can start to form a false narrative on what is going on in your relationship. As you can imagine if this continues to happen overtime it doesn’t lay a great ground work for the relationship. So basically, just talk things out.
Now granted you don’t want to be bringing up every little thing that bothers you. I mean, of course there may be something that bothers me in the moment but it may not be worth bringing up–don’t want to be the nagging wife over here! Ha. But in general, Stephen and I have what we call a 3-day rule. If something is on our mind and is still bothering us after 3 days, then we bring it up to the other person and talk it out. Sometimes you really do just need time to process something and it’s not worth a discussion and other times it’s something that is worth mentioning. So, yes, that’s our 3 day rule!
- Stay out of the nasty box. Lol–this is another piece of advice from the book What Makes Love Last. So I’ll explain! Basically there are three “boxes” : nice, neutral, and nasty. Often when couples argue they can go into the nasty box which is where a lot of relationship damage can happen. This is what lies in the nasty box: spitefulness, contempt, defensiveness, hostility, etc. Really great couples have the ability to move into the nice box during moments of an argument–for example, one person may crack a joke to decrease the tension. I will admit that Stephen never really ventures into the nasty box where as yours truly ventures into it from time to time–oops. Luckily, Stephen usually cracks a joke like, “Someone’s in the nasty box!” and that breaks the tension and also makes me realize that I need to take a breath. I think the thing to remember during an argument is at the end of the day you’re both on the same team. You can have disagreements without having damaging blowouts.
- The little things matter. I really do believe that it’s not the grand gestures that make a huge difference but the little things each and every day. There’s been times that I’ve been stressed and leave the apartment saying how I wish the kitchen was clean…and then I come home and Stephen has cleaned it. Or, if I know Stephen is working late I’ll have dinner ready for when he gets home. I just think it’s the little gestures that make a big difference in the long run–it lets the other person know that you’re willing to help them out and that you care!
- Make time for each other. We are all so busy, and it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day and then before you know it a week or two have gone by and you haven’t really spent any quality time together. In the beginning of each week Stephen and I look at our schedules and plan at least one night that we can have a date night. Sometimes we go out and other times we just spend it at home but we know that at least one night of the week we have designated time for each other. This allows us time to really reconnect and catch up during the busiest weeks.
- Be patient. This is something that I am still working on but Stephen is so patient with me and it’s so wonderful when someone is patient with you–it just really changes the dynamic of your relationship for the better. I have to say, seeing how Stephen stays level headed and remains patient with me even when I’m really frustrating (ahem, annoying) him (LOL), makes me want to approach things in a kinder and more loving way. Whenever we have a disagreement and I find myself getting really amped up (or whatever you want to call it lol), I often see how calm and patient Stephen is being and I’m like, okay Claire you need to tone it down–take a breath. It’s still definitely something I’m working on, but I think that trait of his allows us to stay out of the nasty box (we always say the nasty box is bad but the naughty box is okay 😉 TMI?? LOL okay anyways!) But seriously, I think the virtue of patience really goes a long way.
Okay! Here’s Stephen 🙂
Why hello dear readers. This is Stephen ready to dish up some golden nuggets of 6 month wisdom. For those of you wondering what business a 6 month marriage has giving advice I’LL TELL YOU!
The first 6 months are basically foreshadowing for the rest of the marriage. The exciting wedding weekend is gone and now you’re one unit on the battlefield of life. It’s a lot like starting a new job. The orientation phase (the engagement) is all fun and nice with people talking up how great the job will be. Your co worker (whoever you’re marrying) is extra nice as you’re new and the job itself seems manageable. Fast forward to your first official day and holy shit everything has to be done right and right now. My point is, Claire and I are at the first 6 months of the job. We’ve adjusted our expectations from orientation (engagement) to what the job (marriage) is really like.
I agree with everything Claire said above. The big ones we hear about like communication has become cliché but it became that way for a reason. Any couple that makes an effort to listen and speak genuinely won’t end in heartbreak. And when I say listen, I don’t mean hear. I mean listening. With that being said, I’m sometimes guilty where if I have something important to share and the other person is droning on about something I deem pointless, I basically block them out and concentrate on what I’m going to say until I can say it. That’s probably a lot of us (help me out here), but that’s a bad habit that needs to be broken. Plus if you listen to what they’re saying you can use their own words against them later!
don’t do that.
That’s how you get in the nasty box.
One sentence that Claire and I have used when we’re in stressful situations has been “we’re on the same team”. Intuitively you know you’re on the same team but as life things come up and stress levels rise, you have to remind yourself. For instance, Claire still works full time at Duke as a nurse and does blogging/IG/soon to be another project full time x2. That causes some long days and stress. Knowing this, I don’t get (too) upset if she’ll forget something I said I thought was important or I feel like I’m doing more housework than her. The relationship seasons change and I understand it could be her feeling this way when I get busy or stressed. We remind each other we’re working hard for our family and that we simply need help. Plus let’s be real, doing dishes and cleaning up the apartment is shit you should be doing anyway, so if the other person thanks you for helping them with that, take the compliment and shut it.
One last piece of advice I want to give – and this is IMPORTANT – is to remember above all else that you CHECK YOUR EMOTIONAL STATUS BEFORE SPEAKING OR ACTING WITH IMPORTANT THINGS. Think of the last time someone was going 5 under the speed limit on a single land road then slowly, painfully, making a turn without using their turn signal. You wished that person would get stranded on the side of the road and get abducted by mountain people. Or on the other side of the spectrum, you decide to hang with friends at the bar instead of studying because it felt better. My point is, feelings change every day. *Things* alter your feelings. a bad day, a good day, bad news, good news. That’s life, it will happen but when you’re feeling one emotion strongly, be OBJECTIVE. The easy example is when you’re in an argument and speak out of anger, but a stealthy example that Claire and I have run into is us both being really happy about an idea without thinking it through, because we were so happy and optimistic and it just felt right. That last example was about me being involved more with the business side of her IG/blog/other project. At the time we were so jazzed up but then we started to work on it and realized it wasn’t going to happen. We were both disappointed and looking back if we had been more objective we could have saved ourselves.
Side note: since then we changed some things and some events happened where I am actually helping out more.
I hope this made sense. Claire is an awesome writer where I’m more like a mad Beethoven with writing – but without the brilliance.
Give us some feedback on if you agree/don’t agree. Relationships come in a million flavors so it’s cool to hear your stories.