7 Surprising But Necessary Things Every Couple Can Do To Get Closer
When you're in a relationship, especially one that's long-term, you are going to go through some pretty uncomfortable situations together. Unfortunately, it's kind of inevitable. But don't stress. According to experts, there are some ways to get closer to your partner that may seem awkward at the time, but can help your relationship in the long-run.
"The first thing that comes to mind with this topic is expressing one's feelings," Jenna Ponaman, relationship coach and expert, tells Bustle. "For some, expressing how you feel about the other person or issues happening in the relationship is difficult. But these are crucial in allowing the relationship to thrive."
There's a reason why relationship experts tend to stress that "communication is key." It may not always be easy and may not always be comfortable, but it's very necessary.
"With open and honest communication comes fear for both parties," she says. That could be fear of rejection, fear of not being good enough, fear that your sexual fantasies are will be judged, or that your partner might see you in a different way. "But when you can get past the discomfort of speaking your mind, that’s when you really get to the place of being in a fulfilled relationship as your one true self," Ponaman says. Isn't that what we’re usually all striving for in the first place?
So here are some surprising yet essential things every couple might want to consider doing in order to get closer, according to experts.
1. Seeing A Different Side To Your Partner For The First Time
You may know your partner has flaws, but seeing your partner in a new light, either when they're under stress or frustrated, can be surprising. This can come up in a variety of different situations, like when you travel together. "Traveling is undeniably going to bring out things that we all like to keep hidden until the third or fourth month of being together," Lindsey Metselaar, relationship expert and host of the We Met At Acme podcast, tells Bustle. "When you travel with a partner, you accelerate the relationship because you are able to see them in multiple scenarios." For instance, if their bag can't fit on the plane and they don't handle it well, you may learn something new about them. That can have a way of putting you on edge for the rest of the trip or even after. But it doesn't have to be a bad thing. "If you come out of a situation where you see a different side to your partner for the first time feeling the same or better than when you came in, it's a great sign that things can work out," Metselaar says.
2. Sharing A Bathroom
Both you and your partner use the bathroom, and eventually any hangups surrounding that fact will go away, especially as you become more comfortable with each other. As Metselaar says, moving past any embarrassment may seem uncomfortable at first, but is necessary, and ultimately inevitable. "That doesn't help you get close to each other," she says. "But if you are able to discuss it in a way (and no, I don't mean share pictures of it) that's like, 'Hey, my stomach hurts, I'm going to the bathroom,' then you're good." According to her, what really brings you closer is knowing the other is not letting something "unappealing" get in the way of how you perceive each other. Same goes for doing any other "gross" things in front of each other for the first time. If anything, you can always laugh about it and laughter always brings people closer together.
3. Talking About Exes
"This one is a bit taboo and some might argue off limits, but I believe talking about exes is one of the biggest ways to get to know your partner," Metselaar says. If you don't really care to know what happened, you don't have to know. But it can be helpful to understand why things didn't work out with exes. "This will show you things to watch out for, but it will also tell you what their ex gave them that maybe you can now provide," she says. As a tip, if you get a hint that your partner might be missing their ex, don't make it a bigger deal that it has to be. Instead, Metselaar suggests to calmly ask what it is they miss about them. Use that information constructively.
4. Talking About Money
"Financial stress is one of the greatest tests of any relationship," Dottie Herman, financial expert and CEO Douglas Elliman, tells Bustle. "But being well prepared and having an open dialogue on how you handle money will make a huge difference in navigating through tough times."
Money is another one of those topics people typically like to keep to themselves. For the most part, telling people what you make, what you owe, and what you spend money on is uncomfortable. That's your business. But when you're in a relationship, especially one that's more serious, discussing your financial goals is important. Do you want a wedding? Do you want kids in the future? Are you looking to buy a house together? Getting an answer to these questions involves knowing what each other makes and how you spend it. "Every couple should establish a financial plan, this way they know where they stand in regard to their financial planning and future," Herman says. "By doing so, they can determine how they spend their money on responsible every day expenses verse splurges."
5. Talking About Birth Control And Protection
Talking about sex in general is important if you want to have a satisfying sex life. Although opening up about your true likes and dislikes can be uncomfortable for some, there is one sex conversation that tends to be a little more awkward. "It’s easy to assume we know what our partners want (especially if you’ve been together for a while), but as a relationship progresses, viewpoints on what type of contraceptive is necessary may begin to shift," Ann Mullen, director of health education at Cycle Technologies, tells Bustle. Oftentimes, individuals tend to make assumptions about which forms of contraception work for both partners if it never gets discussed until a pregnancy happens or someone gets an STI. "Rather than assuming what each other thinks and wants, talk it out instead," she says. "If you aren’t looking to get pregnant or contract an STI anytime soon, don’t waver. Your partner should want what is best for the both of you."
6. Dealing With Your Partner When They're Sick
Taking care of each other when one of you is feeling under the weather is sweet, but it can also mean moving out of your comfort zone as a couple. "[...] there is no denying that you get to see [your partner] in a different light when they are not healthy," Caleb Backe, Health and Wellness Expert for Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. That's why Backe says taking care of your partner when they're sick is "one of the most amazing, yet awkward, things a couple can do for each other."
In general, opening yourself up to the possibility of awkwardness is good for you, because it can help you bond over a shared vulnerable experience. "It is one of the healthiest things you can do, individually and as a couple, but getting there takes work," Backe says. "Sometimes it takes a lot of work. Sometimes, it can be scary and is a veritable leap of faith. But if you never try you’ll never know."
Fighting with your partner can make being around them more than uncomfortable. But as Ponaman says, arguments happen. "The reality of relationships is that the honeymoon phase does not last forever, but this next phase is when true love really evolves," she says. "We build relational awareness of how we want to be around our partner, how they want to be in front of us, and how we establish healthy boundaries in that relationship. And that comes with arguing." So knowing how to argue in a healthy way that doesn't hurt your partner, is essential. You'll never know how to do that unless you disagree from time to time.
Relationships do require you to get out of your comfort zone every now and then. But don't worry. Whatever you think is awkward and uncomfortable, your partner probably thinks so too. If you can work things out together, your relationship will be much stronger because of it.