‘A relationship requires a lot of work and commitment.’
– Greta Scacchi
“Will you marry me?”
On one knee, I held up the little red box with the ring nestled in it – topped off with a little shiny precious rock 🙂
That’s the single most beautiful word that can be uttered by a man’s girlfriend.
Once the euphoria died down, I started thinking and reflecting over this relationship. Our past joys and laughter shared, our past arguments and spats. The entire journey of how we progressed since we got together in 2010.
And no, this post ain’t gonna be how intricate my planning was behind the entire proposal, nor about the executional details of the actual event itself.
I think the actual proposal itself is one thing. BUT; grooming and nurturing a relationship between two persons to the point where there is the intention of marriage? THAT’S the important thing.
I ain’t a guru in romance or a certified expert in relationships. But I can only try. My fiancée and I created our own rules over time in our relationship, either from our own mistakes or others, which I think saved our asses ultimately.
1) Consistently Communicate (Face to Face)
I think the best way to communicate is still via face-to-face, especially when trying to settle any relationship problems.
In a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) course that I attended a year ago, it emphasized that words are just one component of communication. Body language and Tonality are also other important aspects of the communication process.
Remember the last time you received an email from a colleague and thought he sounded unnecessarily harsh and aggressive? Check.
Then when you walked over to his desk and spoke to him face-to-face, and it seemed like he was possessed earlier and is now totally different, nice person? Check.
Try not to SMS, whatsapp, email, skype or phone your partner to settle any major issues if you can help it. It can make things worse because the medium of communication might misrepresent what you really intend to tell your partner.
We both learnt that through the hard way.
2) Listen, and Listen More
A primary school teacher told me that God gave us two ears and only one mouth, so we can listen more and talk less.
Yes. I believe it still applies. I love to talk. Seriously. Under the right circumstances. But listening is an equally important thing to note.
In the past when my fiancée used to share her problems with me, be it work or personal, I immediately offered her different alternative solutions for her to consider. She would get upset and say: “You are not listening to me.”
On those occasions, my fiancée just wanted a listening ear. Not a smart-ass who is trying to solve her problems ALL the time. She was more than capable of solving them on her own. She merely needed a person to shut up, listen and empathize with her at that time.
3) Consistently Put in Effort
I once read a chapter of ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’. It talked about the point system. Read it a long time ago and hope I don’t misrepresent it.
- When a man does something small and sweet for his woman, like getting flowers or some shit, he scores a fictitious point with the woman.
- When a man does something REAL sweet for his woman, like getting her a cellphone or sponsoring a holiday, he thinks he has scored like 5 fictitious points with the woman. And that he naively thinks he can ‘chill out’ for the next few months, cos he has done something REAL BIG for his woman this time.
But alas, they all count as 1 point to the woman. And the woman will be expecting new stuff to be done by the guy soon again. In short, consistent efforts are required.
I took that advice in the book with a pinch of salt, and did not heed it.
And Yes… another lesson learnt.
4) Show Appreciation for Each Other
- When my fiancée tells me that she loves me, I smile.
- When my fiancée buys me my favourite snack to eat, I smile more widely.
- When my fiancée tells me she loves me AND buys me another snack to eat, I am overjoyed.
Show your appreciation for one another. Talk alone can be cheap.
5) Embrace the Fights
Some of us tend to avoid confrontations, especially problems that are seriously a pain in the ass and difficult to resolve.
But all couples probably argue. Differences are bound to exist.
Even if the emotions die down after a fight, and if both decide to avoid a dreaded talk of resolving the problem, the root of the issue might still linger around and resurface one day to smack us all in our faces.
Embrace the fights and work out the differences till every last bit of the issue has been weeded out. The fights will eventually make the bond stronger IF the couple works through it together.
I always initiated talking about our relationship problems with my fiancée – who sometimes disliked talking about them in the past. Over time, she realized the merits of arguing things out and laying everything on the table for us both to resolve.
6) Respect the Differences
When I went for holidays with my fiancée, I would often shower first in the hotel room while she decides to fiddle with her cell phone and purchased items. By the time she is showering, I would be watching some movie on the TV.
Then she would exit the shower and start turning on the LOUD hair dryer and blast off. I can hear no sound from the TV no more. I can no longer hear Tom Cruise communicating to his crack team in Mission Impossible 4 for a good ten minutes.
Wished hotel rooms also gave headphones for the TV like airlines do.
Even if she showers first before me, she will need to put on some facial products before drying her hair by which time, I would be watching TV as well.
My point is, there’s gonna be some differences in the lifestyle / living habits. I may not understand why she may take forever to get dressed to leave the room every morning to start our day. Neither would she be able to understand why I have to wake her up at 9am to have breakfast instead of letting her sleep till 1030am.
Well, I guess that we don’t have to understand every single difference. We just have to respect them.
7) Never Sleep over your Problems
Don’t leave your problems to another day to resolve. A friend once told me he would never go to bed and leave an existing relationship issue with his girlfriend lingering. And for good reasons.
Once a couple gets conditioned to leaving the problems overnight, it leads to a slippery slope downhill. Unresolved conflicts are buried and prolonged. One night becomes Two. Two nights become a week. So on and so forth. One day, its gonna explode.
Taking that advice, after a huge fight on the phone late one night, I took a cab to her house to talk things through with her and rectify the problem. Tiring no doubt, but I thought it was necessary. It cleared up our issues and we both slept soundly.
Lucky I live in a small city-state. Easy to move around.
8) Never Make Major Decisions when Upset
At some point in time, we have thought of ending the relationship and almost went through with it.
When we made that decision, my fiancée and I were both emotional, angry, upset etc. In those circumstances when emotions were high, our ability to think rationally was adversely affected.
Don’t make major decisions when upset. Certain things when said cannot be unsaid. Certain actions can never be undone too.
Calm the freaking hell down… and then make a decision on anything. Major lesson that both of us learnt.
9) Don’t Forget the Big Picture
Reframing. This is another Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) concept.
When you get pissed off with your partner, think about all the pretty awesome times you have spent together with her. Think about how you guys love each other.
I used to have the habit of focussing on the bad stuff. But once I shifted my thoughts to more positive things, my reaction towards the bad situation also changed for the better.
10) Don’t Aim to Win an Argument
No party really wins in an argument. Both the guy and the girl will get upset.
I once heard a saying ‘When you have won a woman’s heart, you don’t have to win every single argument’. Not sure what you all make of it?
What I really hope to convey is a step beyond that. When I argued with my fiancée in the past, we both over zealously want to prove a point that we are right. True it does aim to show why we did certain things, but the focus should be about sharing our differences in opinions, and then moving swiftly to resolve the cracks rationally.
Yes admittedly, it’s easier said than done. Both my fiancée and I are highly competitive individuals and desire to win – be it in the workplace, back in Business School etc. But we can only keep trying and trying. Hey, no one’s perfect.
All in all, I do think a successful relationship is one where both will work to overcome obstacles and brave the storm, hand-in-hand.
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Stay Happy & Keep Working on it!