Give and take. Three short words, which we all know are meant to be the cornerstone of healthy and loving relationship. But it isn’t always easy to put them into practice. We can often get overwhelmed with day-to-day responsibilities of one sort or another: work, childcare, household chores, trying to maintain a social life, whatever it might be. It’s easy to take the most important people in our lives for granted, and to forget what you need from each other to keep your relationship healthy and loving. How can you stop that from happening?
We think we have found a way to maintain a loving relationship. Drawing from our own experience, as a long-term couple who have been together through all sorts of ups and downs over 17 years, we’ll show you how you can reintroduce a healthy dose of give-and-take into your relationship. Our approach is simple, fun, and effective. It will help you to put what is important for your relationship into proper perspective, and to make each other happier.
Ask yourself what you really want
Start by noting down two or three things each that you think would make you happier in your relationship. These ‘wishes’ are likely to be very different from couple to couple, and are often different between partners within a couple.
So for example, one of you might immediately think of romantic things that help to keep the spark alive: candlelit dinners, love-you notes, or physical intimacy; but your partner might think more of practical things, such as household chores or helping more with the kids. It’s no problem if you have these sorts of differences between your wishes and your partner’s wishes, so long as you respect each other’s wishes, whatever they might be.
When you have thought about your wishes, it’s time to talk them through with your partner. Some couples might find this difficult to do in the context of a face-to-face chat, especially if the wishes concern more delicate issues that might risk causing hurt or offence if phrased insensitively. If you’re worried about this, we suggest a good approach might be to write the wishes down for each other rather than having a face-to-face discussion. Writing your wishes down also has the benefit that it’s easier to keep track of them.
Tips on defining your wishes
- Phrase your wishes in a positive, loving way.
- Don’t ask your partner for something you know they don’t like.
- Don’t overwhelm your partner with too many wishes at once, particularly when trying out this technique for the first time. Try to focus on the two or three most essential things that really will make a difference to your life.
- Try to have roughly the same number of wishes ‘active’ at one time, so there isn’t a big imbalance between the two of you. In our experience, it usually isn’t a great idea for one partner to have 8 active wishes, while the other partner has only 1 or 2.
- If money is tight, don’t wish for something that costs a lot.
Create good give-and-take habits
When you have exchanged wishes, each partner should try to prioritise the other’s wishes. This is an ongoing process. So if your partner wants you to switch off your phone every evening and just make time to be together, then try to do this as often as you can, not just once or twice. They say it takes three weeks to form a new habit, so try to stick with the new wish for at least that period, and longer if possible.
It’s also very important to acknowledge your partner’s efforts. If you can see they are trying to make your wishes come true, then let them know that you appreciate it!
Regularly review your wishes
It may be that your priorities change over time. Sometimes, a wish may stay on your partner’s list for many months; sometimes it may only be a short-term thing. If a particular wish just isn’t working out for you as a couple for one reason or another, sometimes the best approach is just to replace it with something else.
It is important to be flexible in your approach, so we suggest catching up with each other every month or so to review. In our own experience, a monthly review also helps to reconnect as a couple and maintain a bond with your partner. We make time to go for a walk and just talk about how things have been going. If we have found any aspects of each other’s wishes challenging, you can talk about it and make adjustments if necessary. This monthly catch-up meeting is also a great time to praise each other’s efforts if things have been going well.