6 things I've learnt about...relationships

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Unless you have been living in a cave for the past 47 days, you will all know by now that I got engaged last month.

Now is probably as good an opportunity as ever to apologise for the gratuitous posts on Facebook, the shots of champagne glasses conveniently held by the left hand for optimum ring exposure on Instagram, the tweets about where we've got to with our 'wedmin', and the endless pinning of a variety of blush coloured bridesmaid dresses THAT ALL LOOK THE BLOODY SAME on Pinterest. And don't even get me started on the blog posts. I know all of this wedding chatter is excessive, but I can't seem to help myself. I may be a little bit excited about it.

But when I say 'it', believe me when I say I'm not actually talking about the wedding day itself. Don't get me wrong, walking back down that aisle with Rich after making a very special vow to each other, then getting drunk with all my favourite people is an awesome prospect. But not half as awesome a prospect as what comes after it - a lifelong partnership with my best friend in the whole world.

Now I promise that that is enough slush (for this post at least). Down to business.

I got into a deep conversation with a friend of mine the other day and she asked me, 'What do you think it is that makes relationships last, while others break down so quickly?' - and after thinking about it for about 5 minutes, I realised that for me, the answer is easy.

1. You should treat your other half as your best friend

Can you tell him your most embarrassing secret which still makes you blush a little even though it happened 16 years ago? You get a promotion at work - is he the first person you call to spread the good news? Do you tell him when the jumper he wants to buy from Reiss is a hideous shade of brown, and he should go for that nice blue one which matches his eyes? He catches the flu - do you cancel your yoga class to go out and buy him Lemsip and rub his feet and listen sympathetically while he tells you how he doesn't think he's going to make it through? OK, this last one is a bit much, but if you can't afford your other half all of the endorsements you bestow upon your best friend (things like trust, loyalty, honesty and selflessness) then you might as well not bother at all.

2. You should recognise and celebrate the small things

He produced a new show; I finished a long report; he survived root canal; I survived a year in Doha.... All of these are great reasons to celebrate. And I don't mean go out for a fancy meal at a five star hotel (although this is definitely an option). I mean, do something special that you wouldn't normally do. Turn off your phones, light some candles, bake cookies together - anything! Recognising each others' small achievements is a way of demonstrating to your partner that you are proud of them and everything they do. It gives them confidence, boosts your bond and is a great way to keep things fresh and new. Importantly, don't forget, this also extends to your achievements as a couple too!

3. You should never go to sleep on an argument

This is the oldest rule in the marriage rulebook, right? But it's amazing how many people forget this. Like most couples, Rich and I have been through a fair few wars in our time (which usually start off with "WHAT time do you need to work until?! I haven't seen you for properly for SIX DAYS!"), but we are very good at battling through them, and getting all of our feelings out in the open before promptly forgiving, making up and moving on. Listening to the other person's point of view is important; trying to understand their point of view and take it on board is vital. You don't have to agree with everything the other person says - where is the fun in that?! You just have to be able to tell them at the end of the day as you get into bed, "I love you with all my heart, but you drive me up the bloody wall sometimes".

4. You should be spontaneous

Back in July, we decided to go on a trip to America. Within 10 days, we'd booked a cross-country trip from Miami to San Francisco and back again, including a few stop-offs along the way. It was a last minute decision, but one of the best of our lives. We made great memories, visited loved ones we had not seen in far too long, and fell in love with some brand new places. Importantly, we experienced all of this stuff together. There is no better bond than the one which is forged from shared experience - and this is amplified when this experience isn't planned months in advance. So book you both in for that dance class that you have wanted to try for ages, surprise him by cooking him his favourite meal when he gets home from work when you'd usually opt for takeaway, and don't hold off on taking that trip to the country for the weekend when your plans in London fall through at the last minute.

5. You should make each other laugh

It's pretty cringey when you and your man start to form your own 'in-jokes' that are inevitably related to something incredibly slushy that nobody else gets - but just so long as you don't shove these jokes down everybody else's throats in public, it's not a bad thing (there's nothing more horrifying than hearing a friend tell her boyfriend to get his 'prickly bottom over here' while they fall about in fits of laughter and everybody else looks on with disgusted looks on their faces...or even worse, tweeting each other silly pictures of their teddies...who does that?!). Even better, if you can make each other find a bit of humour when everything around you seems pretty dire, then I think you've got it made. Rich sometimes just has to pull a silly face, or send me a ridiculous picture text taking the mickey out of my favourite film, and I've forgotten what I was worrying about in the first place.

6. You should love the hell out of each other

Categorically, enthusiastically, insuppressibly, unconditionally, uncontrollably, unreservedly...

If you do all of these things, then you might, just might, have the perfect recipe for a lasting relationship.

Are there any I've missed?