We can all agree that we want and deserve to be in a happy, thriving relationship. If you don’t agree, then you should! As a black and queer counselor, I speak with many individuals that could benefit from good advice about how to love yourself and your partner better.
What are your needs and wants in a relationship? Do you have a good relationship with your family and friends? To have a happy and thriving relationship you must have a good relationship with yourself. Take some time to write down some of your wants and needs in a relationship. Are your wants and needs reasonable for another person to meet? I sat down with my wife to get her thoughts about healthy relationships too. Together, we are going to give you some advice on how we stay happy together.
Q: What does a healthy relationship mean to you?
Dominique’s Response: “A healthy relationship is a partnership where everyone involved is giving 100%. There is space for each of you to grow into your own individuality and together without fear of judgement, ridicule, or shame. It doesn’t hold you back from being as great as you can be and there’s no comparison or jealousy between the individuals in the relationship”
Q: What is an unhealthy relationship?
Dominique’s Response: “People not allowing their spouse to be themselves. An unhealthy relationship does not allow you to be your FULL self in all aspects. In relationships, there will be things you don’t understand about your partner. But having a willingness to listen, learn and try to understand your partner, that makes the difference between a healthy versus unhealthy relationship.” *spoken word snaps*
Ariel’s Response: “An unhealthy relationship is any situation that makes you not feel your whole self. It makes you feel scared, unhealthy (physically or mentally) or lonely. Negative emotions are attached to unhealthy relationships. You should NEVER feel unhappy with yourself because of your relationship.”
Here is our advice for a healthy relationship:
1 Love yourself first – What does self-love mean to you? As a black and queer counselor, I often hear the honest truth about the importance of self-love before choosing a partner. Self-Love is happiness and security within yourself. Self-Love is acceptance. Self-Love is looking in the mirror and telling yourself that I am enough. In a relationship, this translates to an honest and healthy emotional connection.
2 Open communication – How do you best communicate? Communication is the difference between you getting what you want versus what your partner thinks you want. Your partner is not a mind reader. Communication is key to building a strong foundation. If you struggle with communicating effectively with your words, try journaling or poetry. Dominique and I use a term called “love tank.” We make known to one another that our love tank is high when we are feeling secure, happy, and loved. We say that our love tank is low when we are not feeling those things. By using this term, we are communicating within our relationship.
“Dates should happen often to remind your lover that you still admire them”
3 Date your partner, often – What kinds of dates make you feel loved? This is a favorite of mine. My wife loves to cuddle and watch movies, whereas I love to try new restaurants in the city. Dates can be an easy way to let your partner know that they are appreciated. Dates can range from extravagant to very inexpensive. But they should happen often to remind your lover that you still admire them.
4 Talk when you are not angry – Therapy techniques coming in 3…2…1… When you are angry, utilize a coping skill BEFORE talking to your partner about why you are angry. Coping skills are designed to help you calm down and think clearly through your emotions. These coping skills are not specific to anger, in fact, they work to decrease stress and anxiety. Try writing an angry letter. After it’s written then throw it away. Go for a brisk walk or jog. After you have exercised, then talk to your partner about why you were upset.
The last coping skill is a favorite of mine because it can be done anywhere and at anytime. Deep breathing involves inhaling for 5 seconds, holding your breath for 5 seconds and then exhaling for 5 seconds. Repeat the process for several minutes before talking to your partner. DO NOT talk to your partner while you are angry. Oftentimes you say negative things that you may regret later, when you speak emotionally. Speak after you have taken time to calm down. You’ll feel so much better about yourself.
“Having an open mind is key to a successful relationship”
5Change is good – How do you feel about change in your daily life? How do you feel about change in your relationship? As human beings, we learn new things constantly. The things we learn and internalize shape our perspectives about life. That growth will impact your life and your relationship in some way. In a healthy relationship, you have to be open to change within yourself and with your partner. Having an open mind is key to a successful relationship. Accept the thought that change is good.
6Tell your partner when you are happy – Think of an environment where no one ever thanked you for your contribution. Think of an environment where no one has ever noticed your accomplishments. That doesn’t sound very fun or welcoming, does it? Personally, I love knowing when I’ve done a great job. And I love when others have noticed my good work, too. It makes me feel great! I want that for my partner and my relationship too. Tell your partner when you enjoy how they’ve been treating you. Celebrate your partner’s accomplishments. Celebrate the small moments as well as the major events. It makes your partner happy.
Normalize counseling as a proactive measure, rather than a reactive measureTweet
7 Therapy/Counseling – I am an advocate for counseling in a relationship, obviously. A neutral third party can help to make sense of differences in your relationship. Therapy can help mend past relationships and situations that negatively affect current relationships. I encourage couples to seek counseling as a proactive measure, rather than a reactive measure.
Relationships take constant work and attention
From this blog, I hope you gathered some bits of our life and how we keep it sexy between us. Additionally, I hope you take from this post that you deserve to be loved and respected in all of your relationships. But they take work from all involved in them. You can compare a relationship to the maintenance of a car. It takes constant work and attention to keep it up and running.