Partnership Pointers:

New ideas for keeping your relationships fresh, fun, and functional.


Relationship Rituals

What’s your relationship ritual? It can be as simple as kissing hello when you come home after work, or as complex as organizing a weekly date night, with babysitters and a new venue each time. The point is that when we commit to a regular activity we are showing our partner that s/he is worth that regularly-scheduled attention. It’s no secret that kids love routines (try feeding a toddler a different-shaped pretzel than the one he’s used to and you may get my point). Routines make kids feel safe, loved, and are an ongoing reminder that they are being cared for. Adults really are no different. Having one or two small rituals that you never compromise demonstrates – both consciously and subconsciously – your interest and love for another person.


Make New Friends

but keep the old. Great advice, and it can be applied to our work (find new contacts, maintain old resources), spirituality (be educated about other ways to nourish your soul, keep up with old traditions), and relationships.

As far as the last category goes, we obviously must nurture our connection with our spouse or partner. But making new friends can be one way of supporting that relationship, too. What I mean is that when we keep up with our friends and make new, non-couple friends for ourselves individually, we actually are helping that primary relationship by maintaining our own sense of self. No one wants to be the person so tightly bound in her marriage or enmeshed with her boyfriend, that she forgets who she is and no one really wants to be in a relationship with that person, either.

Book club, a running group, meeting a different friend for coffee each week these are small commitments to making yourself happier and more balanced. Keeping up outside interests challenges us, and helps us grow and change, and makes us more interesting when we do come back home.


Get Some Rest

We all know that good rest can make the difference between merely surviving the day and actually contributing something to the world around you. Those who are parents also know that a good night's sleep for your child can be the biggest predictor of how the rest of his week will go for him in school.

This attention to good sleep habits also ought to be paid to our spouses and partners. Sure, if I get a good night's sleep I am better able to handle my job and household responsibilities. But if the person who sleeps on the other side of the bed is restless or struggling with insomnia? Then that becomes problem for both of us.

Your partner's struggles with sleep can have a cascading effect on how your household runs. This is why sleep hygiene ought to be a concern for both people in a partnership. Maggie Mason, of my favorite bloggers, recently wrote a sponsored post on her "Mighty Girl" site including her 10 best tips for getting good rest. Unlike some of the more sterile (READ: didactic, infantilizing) resources out there, her suggestions are both interesting and dead-on. Take a look here.


Give Yourself a Time Out

As the mother of two small kids, I’m steeped in “time outs” right now.

So far, my 3-year-old remains motivated by the suggestion of a time out when she’s misbehaving. Sometimes I have to do the countdown – “ONE – TWO – two-and-a-half” – to get her attention, but time out seems to be enough of a disincentive that it usually guarantees moderate compliance with whatever rule I’m trying to enforce at the moment.

But the truth is, the time out concept is more effective for me, as a parent, and between me and my husband, as we co-parent. With the stress of keeping a semi-chaotic household running, quiet time is an afterthought for us these days. But reminding him, or him reminding me, that we can and should take a break from time to time, has been a tremendous help.

First, it’s practical that separating from a stressful environment reduces anxiety and helps give us perspective (no, the toddler isn’t trying to sabotage dinner, she’s just not so good with a lidless cup of milk). Second, having him offer me a break, or vice versa, is a wonderful reminder that we see each other, that we hear each other, and that we appreciate each other, despite the tension of the moment. It reinforces the teamwork we’ve come to rely on, and helps us both see our family with new, calm eyes. Take a run around the neighborhood, call your best friend from the front seat of the car, grab a book and hide out in a dry bathtub with earplugs (am I the only one?) – time out can be transformative.


A Round of Applause

My 14-month-old daughter claps for just about everything these days – a song on the radio, the sight of our dog, strawberries at lunch, etc. Of course I think this is charming, but lately I am finding her generous reception to be quite wise. When we receive applause or appreciation of any kind, it reinforces the value of our actions and increases the chances we will do whatever we did again. Gratitude from others inspires us to try harder the next time, and it builds on itself – we try harder, they try harder, and suddenly we’re all trying harder to make things better for those around us. Applause – even for the smallest of feats – can be the slight push that creates appreciative momentum in a relationship. And that momentum may be just the thing we needed to start moving toward something truly wonderful.