The beginning of any relationship is more often than not completely exhilarating.
It’s a time when your partner can do no wrong and all of the things that once bothered you seem to float away because YOU ARE IN LOVE! And that’s all that matters.
But as we know, eventually life gets back to normal. You become more comfortable with each other (AKA you’re not afraid to ask them to pick up the wet towel off the floor) and the everyday pressures of money, stress and work can get in the way of your once bright and rosy relationship.
But according to psychologist Jacqui Manning, there are a number of things we can learn from the couples who manage to get through these tougher times.
“Life can throw us all curveballs. People lose jobs, struggle with fertility and face sickness, but if you can remember why you are a team this is what holds you close through the tough times,” Manning told The Huffington Post Australia.
"Particularly when you have children, remembering that you’re on each other’s side is incredibly important," Manning said.
Basically, happy couples understand that they aren’t working against each other or trying to win all the time.
And a crucial element of a good team is talking every day.
“It might sound crazy but some people aren’t making the time to talk for just five minutes each day -- they’re getting caught up in the whirlwind of life and there might be other pressures on them outside the relationship,” Manning said.
This can lead to the other person waiting for big gestures from their partner, which only starts a vicious cycle.
“Instead, it’s about trying to make those small moments count rather than waiting for that holiday or a big romantic night out for a chance to be nice to each other,” Manning said.
In short, when your relationship is solid you don't need to rely on the big grand gestures.
This is because each partner treats the relationship like a devoted friendship.
“Happy couples don’t speak to each other in a sarcastic or patronising tone. If you wouldn’t speak to your friend in this manner, why are you speaking to your partner like that?” Manning said.
Sure, they might be annoying you, but you can let them know that in a loving and kind way.
Another key element to a strong relationship is focusing on what you admire about your partner, rather than what they are doing wrong.
“Nobody’s perfect, everyone is going to have some kind of flaws but criticising your partner can be seriously damaging in the long run. These kind of subtle stabs that are often excused as a joke can cause people to really retreat back into their shell and not want to venture out and do something nice for their partner,” Manning said.
Those in a solid relationship accept there will be disagreements and are mature about finding a resolution -- which doesn’t always mean agreeing on something.
“Emotions are fiery and hot and everyone gets feelings of anger sometimes. The trick in doing conflict well is to try and allow some of that to pass through and then talk rather than just yell each other -- or harbour that anger and expect the other person to know what’s wrong,” Manning said.
“It’s about naming the behaviour, rather than the person, when things go wrong,” Manning said.
And when things are going right, it should be about acknowledging and encouraging the other person.
“We all like acknowledgment. A simple 'thank you' goes a long way, as does telling your partner you appreciate them, whether they’ve done the washing up after dinner or made a reservation for Saturday night,” Manning said.
Rather than just thinking it, say it. This way, you are giving your partner validation and some clues about what makes the other person happy.
This idea of reminding each other of why you are together goes a long way, too.
“Happy couples regularly talk about what attracted them to each other. They also tell each other what they like about the other person and what makes them smile and laugh,” Manning said.
“By drawing on that sense of shared history you’re also refuelling some of those feelings of attraction and admiration,” Manning said.
Manning explains she often likens relationships to a bank account in that you should be making small and regular deposits into that account by hanging out together, saying nice things to each other and having a meaningful conversation.
“It’s these smaller things that are going to hold you through the harder times when there are more ‘withdrawals’ from the account due to pressures and demands outside the relationship,” Manning said.