I have had countless conversations about relationships in the past few years of coaching.
Misunderstandings, support challenges, visions that weren’t aligned.
It can be difficult enough to manage your own expectations and feelings let alone consistently work towards communicating those to your partner and ending up with you both on the same page.
My marriage has not been perfect for the past nearly 14 years. We have had plenty of ups and downs and times where it felt like we were playing on opposite teams for a few days.
But above everything else, our relationship has always been authentic and extremely open.
So open that last year when I brought Joe along to a few of my therapy sessions my therapist said we had a “remarkable level of communication.”
She was in awe of how real and direct we were with each other, which puzzled us because we felt like all successful couples did it this way?
Last year we dissected things further as other couples came to us for advice.
Guys wanted to jump on a call with Joe to figure out how he handled our non-traditional roles.
Women wanted me to help them get their spouse on board with their vision.
It really solidified for us that there were a few key things we have done for years that we can attribute our healthy relationship to so here we are sharing them with you in hopes that it will make a difference!
If these tips take your relationship even from an 8.5 to a solid 9/10 that will be worth it!
(I’m choosing a different word than the one that Joe used when describing this tip but it rhymes with Wick 🤣)
We believe that the longer you have been with someone, the more stubborn you can become. For us, we both already entered our relationship 18 years ago as SUPER stubborn people.
We have to consciously be humble and remember the phrase ‘sometimes it’s better to be kind than right.’
In the past, not adhering to this has been a consistent source of distress.
I believe that when you are losing in other areas of life, it’s super easy to default to needing to win in your relationship.
Choosing winning looks like when you warned your spouse about something and they still didn’t listen, wanting to rant about it.
It looks like when your spouse forgets something simple, getting super frustrated.
It looks like you becoming the master of “I told you so” and complaining to your friends about how annoyed you are (I’m so guilty of this sometimes).
Winning can be refusing to let things go. Choosing not to talk about it but walking around with a giant stick up your….
When asked what the problem is, winning can be saying you are fine and in your head rattling off all the things you are annoyed with.
After reading all of the above, let’s be honest, it looks like you being a jerk 😉.
So our number ONE strategy is to choose kindness. Swallow your pride in the moment and ask yourself if you would treat anyone else in your life the way you are treating your spouse right now.
Would you throw a mistake in someone else’s face?
Would you bottle up all your emotions in any other situation without direct communication and action?
Those tendencies are two of the quickest ways to create distress so identify which end of the spectrum you live on and choose honest open communication with kindness!
On our wedding video, one of our favorite parts is Joe’s aunt telling me that if I want to have a successful marriage to a Wick I need to make sure I “keep my sense of humor intact.”
In my mind, this advice applies to everyone regardless of who you married 😉.
You MUST be willing to laugh at yourself to grow together in a relationship. Notice how tightly aligned this is with number one?
When you make a mistake, you have to be willing to LAUGH instead of subconsciously feel that it is admitting weakness.
Worrying about weakness has zero place in marriage. It keeps you defensive, it builds the walls up so high that there is absolutely no possibility for the deepest kind of reciprocal love.
In our experience, this all boils down to confidence. If you have not conquered the ability to be vulnerable in life, it is likely reflected deeply in your relationship.
This one I get especially passionate about because I have had to personally conquer this. I was the know-it-all in our relationship afraid to admit I was wrong and I have spent a lot of time eradicating that tendency in all areas of my life.
Joe and I aren’t just vulnerable with each other- we are the same way with everyone in our lives. We are an open book and we believe admitting weakness makes us human.
It makes us relatable.
It allows us to connect with people on a level most are unwilling to explore.
It’s one of the main things that aligns all of our decisions because even if the other person makes a decision that leaves us feeling vulnerable or wrong, we have learned to be massively grateful for that opportunity to grow.
So be honest, be real, and don’t take everything so damn seriously.
Any long term relationship is going to go through change.
How many times have you heard someone talk about ‘growing apart?’
You need to actively choose to grow together and that revolves around reciprocal flexibility.
In our relationship it’s a constant give and take when it comes to what the other person needs that week or that month as a human being.
Some months, I need way more ‘me’ time than I feel like I should and Joe has learned to encourage that because it always leads to more happiness, clarity, and fulfillment in all areas of our lives.
Other times, Joe needs way more guy time than usual. He wants to have more poker nights, more fishing trips, and more sports outings.
In the early years of our relationship I was so insecure that I took that as a sign that he was choosing other people over me.
Now, I’m just flexible and encouraging (and I secretly enjoy the quiet).
Be flexible with your partner’s needs. Trust their instincts and know if they are craving something with regard to their time, supporting that growth process is one of the many ways you can grow together. Each of you dedicated to being happy and aligned as a person will always lead to a higher quality relationship.
Having zero flexibility and feeling the need to be attached at the hip is a sure fire sign of a low level of confidence on one or both sides of the relationship.
Ohhh I’m going to have to keep this one short and sweet. Remember when I said we were stubborn? We used to have CRAZY blowups when we couldn’t agree on every. little. thing.
Monopoly rules. Types of groceries. Car maintenance schedules. Parenting choices.
You name it, we were SURE that our way was right.
We had to learn about compromise in our relationship. I had to learn to chill the heck out and Joe needed to learn how to be more responsible.
If this is your relationship, I want you to actively practice this phrase:
‘I respect your perspective, let me take some time to think about that.’
This is the kindest and clearest way that we have learned to examine our own beliefs. If we still can’t come to the same page?
We talk about agreeing to disagree and how we can compromise on that particular thing.
Practice it. Mean it. Examine why you were so stuck on your way in the first place.
For the better part of the past 18 years I would say 80% of our fights in our relationship boiled down to not respecting the other person’s communication style. We just recently nailed this down about 8-9 months ago and aside from me ridding myself of majorly stressful things in my life, this has been the other key to the smoothest months of our relationship to date.
I’m an insta-communicator. Everything was an emergency in the past.
Problem? Let’s deal with that sucker N O W.
Something needs to be done? That’s an easy answer- N O W.
Feelings need to be communicated? Later is not an option.
Joe on the other hand, is a processor. He is strategic and likes to contemplate things.
His brain goes something like ‘why discuss this now when I’m going to have an emotional response instead of a rational one.’
I’m sure you can imagine how those opposing communication styles have served us (or NOT served us) in the past. I have also heard some brilliant Chiropractors explain that this is common for men and women as women tend to want to work through things and nurture something and men’s natural instinct is flight (or fight if you try to force them into a discussion they aren’t ready to have).
But guys, it took us 17.5 years of being together to GET this!
So this one is #5 because we want to leave you with a plea to really spend some time analyzing your own communication style and discussing with your partner.
If you are a processor- learn to say ‘I acknowledge there is something we need to talk about but I need some time to get my thoughts together. I promise I’ll talk to you about this shortly.’
If you are an insta-communicator- learn to say ‘I’m here when the time is right to talk this out.’
From my end, letting go of the immediate need and not letting the BS fester in my head has been massively difficult but I have learned that not everything is an emergency.
This doesn’t apply to just my relationship either.
If you are an insta-communicator, start taking some time to process the BEST way to approach something and watch the results in all areas of your life improve.
So there you have it, some ideas from a perfectly imperfect couple on what has helped us last and find a pretty cool level of happiness.
We would never claim to have all the answers, but we are more than happy to share our raw journey in hopes that it helps you realize you aren’t alone.
If you are finding yourself in a season where you would love to see some improvement in your relationship ask yourself if you are talking about the real stuff?
We know people who choose to bottle it all up because they are afraid of discussing even the tiniest difference.
We also know people who choose to sweat allllll the small things.
Don’t be a jerk. Laugh. Be flexible. Agree to disagree. Be kind instead of right all the time. Find your communication style and be willing to meet in the middle.
Love yourself so you can love your partner.
Live and Love Illuminated,