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How to invest your time

September 5, 2020, Author: Toni

If you’ve been fortunate enough to gather with friend(s) during this pandemic, very likely the conversation drifted to venting about your partner/spouse. Couples and families have been living at home with little time away from one another compared to pre-Covid 19 life. It takes adjustment, ingenuity, and a review of space to figure out how to carve out alone time to decompress. We cannot avoid the flip side of the coin of being human by going to places that have been shuttered to keep us Covid free. But, did you know that the foundation to living a happy and healthy life is being satisfied with your romantic relationship? Harvard University carried out the longest running research project ever. It followed a group of 724 men from their first year in college until some reached their 90s. A plethora of data was collected on each of the men every year and the data was analyzed to unearth the factors correlated with happiness and health. The Research Director’s Ted Talk is here

The team found that it wasn’t the percentage of plants you ate vs meat, the highest salary you obtained, the club you gained access to, whether you rent or own your home, etc. They discovered that those who were happy and healthy were those with social connections; family, friends, and community. The best predictor of longevity, happiness, and good health for an octogenarian was whether, at 50 years old, you were satisfied with your partnership/marriage and whether you experienced support on a daily basis. The relationships weren’t perfect or social media presentable all the time. The couples they interviewed often bickered back and forth.  They couples bickered but knew without a doubt that their partner was there for them.

The image for this blog includes my parents’ wedding photo. My mother recently celebrated her 87th birthday and my father will be 91 in February. They bicker like champions. If bickering was a sport for which you earned a trophy; they’d have a trophy room. On September 26th, they will celebrate their 67th wedding anniversary. What I know for sure is; they’re a team. There is not one thing that they wouldn’t struggle to do for the other. If you think your relationship should be full of more peace and less bicker; just pay attention to the actions and laugh about the words. Dr. Robert Waldinger, Psychiatrist and Director of the Harvard Study, challenges us to invest in our relationship because it’s the most important thing you can do to lead a healthier and happier life. Below are tips to improve your relationship from Paula Hall, author of Improving Relationships For Dummies (2010):

  1. Realize that life and we are imperfect and that it’s likely you’ll feel perfectly intimate in all areas of your relationship.  All romantic relationships have 3 core strengths: 1- compatibility, 2- intimacy, and 3- day to day stability and there are three kinds of intimacy:
    1- Emotional or how openly you each share your emotions.
    2-Intellectual or how well you both understand each others’ thought processes.
    3-Physical or how well you both connect with touch and/or sex.
  2. Boost your own self-esteem. Feeling anxieties, paranoia, or jealousy in relation to your partnership are signals that you need to invest in your personal growth. The best thing you can do is to work on your own self-esteem and seek support.
  3. Embrace the differences between yourself and your partner. It’s  likely that you and your partner will differ along expressing emotion, preferred food, and choice of entertainment. Stay curious.
    Embrace an opportunity to expand your horizons and be open to your partner’s preferences and likes.
    It wasn’t my choice to tour the National Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas but I went with it. It turned out to be a fascinating visit and I was delighted to revisit the candy of my youth, atomic cinnamon candy. I was really happy because my husband was so pleased.
  4. Schedule quality time together and schedule it in advance. During your time together, practice active listening and put down all electronic devices and distractions. Suspend solving problems or sharing your personal story right away. Listen, clarify, and summarize what your partner said. Summarizing what you heard conveys to your partner that you understood them.
  5. Make the most of opportunities to touch. Hold hands. Give massages to the back, feet, forehead, face and hands. Add these activities to your “wind down menu” for the end of the day. Each time you touch, it releases oxytocin, the feel good hormone.
  6. Influence your own biochemistry and up your own dopamine by;
    eating chocolate, avocados, bananas, & almonds
    watching a romantic film.
    engage in any activity that raises your heart rate.
    get as much sunlight as you can.
  7. Have regular sex. Sex reduces depression and anxiety, boosts the immune system, tightens the skin, makes you look and feel healthy, and establishes a bond with your partner. If you need to add some novelty to your sex life check out Pure Romance  The page is run by one of my favorite registered nurses who also sells Pure Romance. You can ask Nurse Jackie anything about sexual health and about Pure Romance products. She has honest answers because of the quality of relationships she develops with her clients and she listens to their feedback. Anything inhibiting you from enjoying your sexual life? Contact Dr. Brandye, medical doctor and self-described pleasure coach. You can browse her services here
  8. Accept disagreements as a natural part of life. Intend to make the disagreements as healthy and productive as possible and view the disagreement as a vehicle for knowing more about your partner. Consider the timing of the disagreement and decide to post pone talking at a more hospitable time. It’s likely you’ll need a few discussions before you problem solve. If you find you’re highly reactive to the other’s perspective then talk it over with a close confidant first. Prepare to listen to your partner’s ideas and thoughts. Make sure you understand the thought process. Be conscious that you are developing intellectual  intimacy. It’s not easy but strive to put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Ask yourself whether you’re ready to change your own behavior if necessary.

The next time you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through social media, ask yourself whether there’s a way to invest in your relationship. Intend to invest daily into your relationship for 21 days and see what happens! Who knew it was an act of self-love and self-care.