Let the Good Times Roll

Hilary Smith

Hilary Smith is a writer with Relationships Aotearoa and an experienced counsellor. www.relationshipsaotearoa.org.nz

Handling difference constructively is a great skill for partners to develop. Respecting and enjoying each other when you're not at odds can be even more important.

Wonderful West Wittering - June 2011 - Happy Couple 1

After all, what are you having the relationship for?  You may need to struggle through some hard, hurtful and boring bits. You might learn and grow through doing this, but generally it's the feel-good things that make relationships attractive.

It's things like feeling connected, like knowing that you count, that someone finds you special, that you can feel and inspire passion. What ever it is you want in a relationship, it's about adding something positive to your life.

So is that where you put your energy in your relationship? Do you spend your time actually having the relationship you want, or do you dwell on the points of disagreement?

You don't have to get on all the time. There will be strains and tensions in every relationship. There are any number of self-help books and communication courses that can help you to differ without damaging each other.

However skilled you are at disagreeing in a constructive way, it's the cumulative effect of small moments of warmth, of fun, of kindness and affection that really makes your relationship. If you never get round to having good times, how much point is there in sticking it out when the going gets tough?

It's really easy to wait until there's a problem to fix before paying some attention to your relationship. It's also easy to let generous attention to each other become something you only do on holidays. As if you don't have time to do your relationship because you're thinking it has to be a big production.

On the contrary, small and doable is good. Right now is even better. There are dozens of opportunities daily to do warm, companionable, loving things.

Conversations about the most ordinary things can still express your friendliness and your interest in each other.

Know and care what is happening in each other's lives. Know who your partner's friends are, what bugs them at work, and what they'd love to be if they could.

Ask about these things. You don't have to have a marathon discussion. Chat while you eat breakfast, or do the dishes. Email or phone your partner to check in.

When you make connections with each other, even little ones, you both feel noticed and cared for. Your moments of warmth, your shared jokes, your encouragement of each other, all these connections reflect the reasons you got into the relationship in the first place.

Remind each other of the good times in your past as well. The more you are aware of the good times, the less fights matter. Not because the issues are unimportant, but because your differences don't outweigh your connections.

Your relationship is not a dress rehearsal. It's happening now. So enjoy the show. No need to worry too much about mistakes, when you're together you can help each other out when you forget your lines.

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  • Wice says
    “Our relationship is not a rehearsal” - How many times have I thought this and (somewhat unwisely) said this to Hubbie as he sat there sulking after a meaningless tiff.

    This article really expresses how I feel about marriage. It’s the little things that add up -– whether positive or negative. I have notes hubbie left for me that are years old. I still cherish them; like the cups of tea he brings me in the morning, or the extremely rare foot massages he used to give me.

    But there are two sides to this – one a grossly unfair aspect . The more negatives there are (within reason) the more appreciative one becomes of any positive. Counter this with, the nicer you are all the time, the worse a negative behaviour is regarded.

    Just like children who behave all the time, when a good child does one bad thing it’s a shock and they are punished. Then there are those children who constantly misbehave. They do something that is normal for the good kids – everyone makes a fuss and rewards them! I think this pattern is repeated in some adult relationships. One partner is often the ‘giving’ one and the other the “taking’. The giving partner feels guilty over tiny misdemeanours while the ‘taker’ does what they want most of the time , but is loved for the odd good thing they do – no matter how fleeting.

    Positive behaviours have to come from both sides to make a happy relationship. One side may make a lot of effort with little or no result and is left feeling they are to blame that everything isn’t working out. If you are in this situation, don’t blame yourself. You can’t be accountable for some one else’s behaviour. Be honest with yourself and be happy that you are doing your best. If your find you are really beating a dead dog, then look at this realistically and decide what your next step will be.

    Regardless, I believe that everyone is different and what works for one couple, doesn’t necessarily work for another. However, by constantly showing you care in little ways, it’s like feeding the flame regardless how warm the response may be.
  • Anna says
    i always remember those little sweet moments.... like i have a friend whos bf is all obsessive... says nice things every second.. tell her he loves and misses her if she away fo 2 secs... butthose words didnt really mean anything any more... but my partner he says that he hates the typical say love you before going to sleep coz its like in the movies... and every time he says it is has a nice romanticness too it... just like everything else special he says... i remeber each and everyone because they are said with meaning....
  • flowery3 says
    A good point here, everyone is indeed different. And sometimes we expect our partners to show their love in the SAME way as we show it to them. Sometimes its good to stop and notice the ways they DO show it, rather than noticing the ways they dont. I need to remind myself of that sometimes! And also remind myself to show them I love them in ways they appreciate, rather than just in the ways i want to!
    • Anna says
      but you can also learn to love the way they appreciate it... coz when it makes them happy it makes you happy in return!!
      • flowery3 says
        Too true there Anna! Love and hapiness are geat things, the more you give away to others, the more you get yourself!
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