Although it’s hard to picture what the perfect relationship looks like, a few celebrities often make cohabitating, and even marriage, look easy. Can you imagine Chrissy Teigen and John Legend having a big disagreement? How about Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds? Even though social media might make you think otherwise, their relationships—like all relationships—require a lot of love and maintenance.
In order to have a successful relationship, you’ll need to put the work in. As situations shift, you’ll need to learn how to adapt to change and understand your partner on a deeper level. Even if things are going fairly well in your relationship, it’s still good to fine tune your partnership to make sure it’s strong enough to power through more pressing challenges in the future.
Here are some ways to improve your relationship that any couple can learn from:
Make sure you’re always listening.
There’s a difference between listening and just pausing while you wait your turn to speak. Treat your significant other the way you would a headliner at a concert—you’re there because you want to hear them. Nobody’s perfect, and you shouldn’t expect to remember everything you’re told, but try to shut off all other distractions when he or she is telling you about their day. Ask follow-up questions and be invested in how they spent their hours.
Give them some space when they need it.
With couples, life should improve when the other person around. But you shouldn’t be the other person’s whole life, or vice versa. It’s important for each partner to have some time to do whatever they want to do, whether it’s three straight hours of video games or diving into a new novel without any interruptions. Even better, each person should have the time to go out with friends on occasion without having to worry about constant check-ins throughout the night. Actions like this build up both trust and understanding.
Try seeing things from their perspective.
It seems simple, but in all honesty, we often don’t appreciate the work our partners do. Pretend you didn’t get a good night of sleep before heading into work. Based on your energy level, you snap at your partner soon after coming home. In your eyes, it was just a snarky comment about dinner not being all that great. To them, it could mean a lot more—especially when you realize they got chewed out by their boss earlier over an assignment and had to stay late, thus leaving less time to cook dinner for the two of you. Before you say something that could be potentially hurtful, take a step back and think about them. Words hold a lot of weight.
See yourself as a unit.
You can’t pick and choose events you want to attend, especially since that likely means you’ll skip out on a lot of big family occasions. If you’re serious about someone and thinking about marriage, their family is now your family. Even if you’re not thrilled about attending the Bar Mitzvah of their second cousin’s firstborn, the important thing is that you’re there to support your partner and his or her family.
Be careful about what you share.
Whether it’s on social media or to your group of friends on an alcohol-filled wild weekend, make sure to stay private about details that are personal. If you think this relationship might be the big one, don’t brag to your friend about your sex life (or lack thereof, if you’re going through a dry spell) or tell your buddies the things that really bother you about your partner. These things often get around, and it’s important for the two of you to have your own secrets. It helps build trust when you know that your partner isn’t going to shoot his or her mouth off.
Understand that things are going to get tough sometimes.
The honeymoon phase is amazing—in those first three months or so, every date is fresh and everything your partner does is incredible. Small annoyances might get swept under the rug as the pros still outweigh the cons. But then, the first disagreement starts, and your positivity bubble begins to shrink. Things are going to get a lot worse if you’re in this for the long run. One of you might lose your job, or perhaps you’ll have difficulty conceiving if a child is in your life plan. A family member may pass, or you might get really sick and have that cause a strain on your romantic relationship. Recognizing that it won’t always be sunshine and rainbows is healthy, especially when you realize these unfortunate events will be easier when they’re handled together.
Always be honest.
The second you’re not honest with your partner, things start to deteriorate. Having a healthy sense of trust is crucial in every relationship. If you have any skeletons in your closet, you’ll want to reveal them. If your partner finds out themselves (and since the internet exists, they likely will) they’ll wonder what else you’re hiding from them. Also remember that sometimes, common everyday situations can be misread. If you happen to get a text from a coworker asking you to grab lunch to discuss a project, let your significant other know about it before they accidentally see a text from a stranger that states, “C an’t wait for lunch!”
The best relationships stem from having respect for each other. That’s likely why romantic relationships that spring up from a friendship are often successful— you’ve had time to know them as more than just your boyfriend or girlfriend.
Speaking of, in order to keep your relationship healthy, you need to keep things fresh. Even if you’re married with three kids, having a date night once a month is crucial in keeping the romance alive. Your relationship with your partner is like a car always in need of gas. It’s up to you to make sure you supply it with enough love and support to keep it running smoothly.