Behaviour & Emotions Health & Well-being

Five ways to choose your partner every day and nurture your relationship

Five ways to choose your partner every day and nurture your relationship

I’ve got friends who have their kids’ school photos lined up in a perfect chronological series on the fridge door. Every time I visit, I spend ages looking at the photos, noticing the subtle changes in their kids faces that are captured over time.

As parents we take monumental delight in seeing our kids grow and develop and reach their milestones and their full potential. We’re fascinated by the process of growth and development and love pointing out the family features and mannerisms that remind us we belong together.

What stories would you tell about your relationship?

What would it be like to see a series of images that capture your relationship with your partner, and how it has grown over this season of parenting? What changes would you notice? What stories would you tell?

For most of us, our relationship takes a hammering during the years of raising our kids. Why? Because when we become parents, most of our time, love, care and attention gets funnelled into our kids and not to each other any more. Impulsive adventuring is replaced with mundane routine and working your tail off to pay for the nappies and the swimming lessons. It’s tough to find the time and energy for ourselves anymore, let alone our partner. So how can we nurture the growth of our relationships like we nurture the growth of our kids?

What are you choosing?

Every single day we make the choice to either build our relationship or tear it apart. Deciding to take care of your relationship essentially boils down to a posture of either turning toward or away from your partner. Choosing to turn toward your partner involves incy wincy moments of connection over incy wincy moments of disconnection. Here are five everyday ways to choose your partner and build your relationship.

1. Celebrate the wins

It’s ridiculously easy to take each other for granted and make it all about the kids. When was the last time that you appreciated your partner for literally turning up and just being themselves? Choosing to put the kids on hold just long enough for you to celebrate the little things together is like breathing fresh air into your relationship. It sustains the two of you.

Whether you are celebrating the weekend, an anniversary, a birthday or, a new job or a new day, you can always find something to celebrate. The bonus is that when we celebrate together we are also teaching our kids the art of gratitude and how to be happy for others.

2. Hold on through the lows

When the storms of life come, things can get pretty gnarly on the home front. Patience gets frayed, tempers are tested and the pressure just mounts up. Choosing to turn toward each other in the tough times takes the full measure of courage when often all we feel like doing is either running away or crying into our pillow. Holding on tight to the basics of respect and kindness goes a long way during testing times and sometimes it’s about the only thing you can do until the storm passes.

Simple sentences like, “This is rubbish but at least we have each other,” and, “I don’t know what I would do without you,” draw our partner closer and together we feel stronger. The bonus of holding on and respecting each other during testing times is that it teaches our kids resilience for when the storms of life sweep in.

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3. Remember your manners

We say it to our kids all the time, “Remember your manners,” but we needn’t bother because our kids will pretty much always just take their lead from us. Our kids are masterful imitators. For better or worse, our kids are clever little sponges who are soaking up the atmosphere of our relationship and then radiating that out to the world around them. So if there is hostility at home they are likely to be hostile with others. If there is kindness at home, they are likely to be kind to others.

Manners can be as simple as saying ‘hi’ and ‘bye’, ‘please’ and ‘thanks’ – tiny words that make a big difference to the temperature between you. The bonus is that when we remember our manners with our partner, we’re teaching our kids to treat others with respect.

4. Share the wins

So easy to say, so hard to do. Surprise, surprise, we find ourselves in relationship with someone that does not agree with us all of the time. This can be very annoying when one likes to be right quite a lot. It can also be annoying if one does not like conflict very much at all.

So. One very simple way to keep the relationship sweet is to learn how to let your partner win. That’s right – to lose every now and again. We all like to win, losing not so much. So you might need to practise saying a few things in front of the mirror to ease the pain. “You are right, I’m going to give you that one,” or, “You have convinced me so let’s try it that way,” or, “It seems I might have been wrong on that one.”

You will probably see your partner perform a short victory dance which might sting a bit, but consider the long game here. Your aim is for your partner to feel validated and uplifted. So you might be losing the battle but winning the war. The bonus of sharing the wins in your relationship is that it teaches your kids all about tolerance, teamwork and humility.

5. R.E.S.P.E.C.T

In the wise words of the late Aretha Franklin, we all want a little respect. Oh yas, we do. Without it, most relationships fail to thrive. You might need to hunt for what to respect in your partner, but I guarantee you it will be buried beneath the rubble there somewhere. Instead of being fixated on what we don’t respect, try leaning into to something you do. It really will help you see your partner in a new light.

Instead of being fixated on what we don’t respect, try leaning into to something you do. It really will help you see your partner in a new light.

For example if your partner is always at work, try appreciating their commitment to support your family. Or if your partner is always goofing around with the kids, try appreciating their availability for the kids. Or if your partner never cleans up after themselves, umm, ask them nicely to sort it out. The bonus of respecting your partner is that it teaches your kids how to communicate well and appreciate others.

Kids do well when they marinate in an atmosphere of love. And so do we. When you treat your partner to your time, love, care and attention it’s like filling the emotional tank of the entire your family. When the love tank of the big people is full it just naturally spills out to all around.

Jo Batts

Jo Batts

For Jo, relationships are at the heart of whānau. She’s a counsellor, a strengths coach, a parent and a partner. Jo's down-to-earth approach helps people to develop the practical tools to build healthy relationships for everyday life.

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