MORE relationship hacks?
April 17, 2011 8:35 AM   Subscribe

My relationship is good, but I want it to be the best relationship EVER (hyperbole). What are some good ways to improve a long term relationship, after both people are really comfortable with each other?

Also, I recently read in Cosmo (yeah yeah) that pet names de-sexualize your partner. If a good part of a relationship is sexual tension, should I start trying to eliminate these? I like all the pet names I give my partner, but I like sex better.

Also, I know there are other threads like this that exist (feel free to link me) but I want some new opinions. And long term goals are good, but right now I think things like "compliment your partner everyday" might be more useful. I know what I need to do long-term, I think.

So, what took your relationship from good to omgbestever? I've been in a relationship for two and a half years. It was omgbestever but we've been through a lot, and like I said, are really comfortable with each other (and have all the baggage that comes from all the issues we've been through during the relationship). I want to knock his socks off.
posted by tweedle to Human Relations (28 answers total) 82 users marked this as a favorite
I've been with my SO for 25 years next month and while your relationship 'fingerprint' is going to be different than anyone else's, and people will say 'a good relationship shouldn't be work', it is, and it should be and you should put at least as much effort into it as you would any other endeavor because it becomes the foundation for everything else you do. So put down the Cosmo and start thinking about respect. Respect for your partner's feelings and well-being, above all else.

And the little things mean a lot-buy their favorite treat for lunch, leave little notes around the house, tell them you appreciate it when they smile/come home early/shut the g-ddamned door when it's cold. Listen to their opinions and don't interrupt while they talk.

Never ever belittle them to friends/family/strangers. And aside from telling them you love them, show them. Regular affection, sex, companionship. Alone time too, without resentment so they can decompress. Gosh, there's so much but one of the biggest things I have seen throughout our years that stood out when friends and family have gone through divorces is that the mutual respect always seemed to be missing.

Kudos to you for working hard at something a lot of people seem to take for granted!
posted by pink candy floss at 8:43 AM on April 17, 2011 [27 favorites]

PS, there isn't really enough room or hours in the day to parse here how a quarter-century with someone is still OMGBESTEVER. We have been through loss, misery, doubt, isolation, poverty, wealth, you name it, and all of that goes into the pot that we stir and are nourished from. We call it character building. It's sort of become our very own inside joke. Whatever hasn't killed us, seems to be making us stronger.

PS there are days, oh let me tell you, where we both want to stab each other with pitchforks until the sun shines right through. Those days? MORE CHARACTER.
posted by pink candy floss at 8:46 AM on April 17, 2011 [10 favorites]

One way to screw it up real good is to compare it to other people's relationships or try to compete to be The Best. Great relationships are made from lots of little quiet moments, not great visible victories.
posted by anildash at 8:53 AM on April 17, 2011 [18 favorites]

Also, I recently read in Cosmo (yeah yeah) that pet names de-sexualize your partner. If a good part of a relationship is sexual tension, should I start trying to eliminate these? I like all the pet names I give my partner, but I like sex better.

Honestly, you should stop taking advice from magazines (especially Cosmo) about your parter likes or doesn't like and ask your SO what they like or don't like. Communication is key in any relationship.

I want to knock his socks off.

Ask him what knocks his socks off. COMMUNICATE.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:56 AM on April 17, 2011 [18 favorites]

Here's the 2009 relationship hacks thread.
posted by mediareport at 9:09 AM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I haven't really read the book The Five Love Languages, but I've taken its concepts to heart. My husband shows love by doing things for me (acts of service). I show love by being physically affectionate. There was a fair bit of misunderstanding until we figured out this major difference between us. He was thinking things like "if she loved me she'd wash my shirts," while for me it had nothing to do with how much I loved him. He does a LOT of stuff around the house, and instead of just thinking "well, of course the garbage needs to be taken out" I can see it as an act of love.
posted by desjardins at 9:40 AM on April 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

Um, I didn't notice how heteronormative that website is until now.. sorry if that does not apply to you.
posted by desjardins at 9:42 AM on April 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I hold this to be the highest task for a bond between two people: that each protects the solitude of the other.

Rainer Maria Rilke
posted by sockpup at 10:23 AM on April 17, 2011 [15 favorites]

I have found that the way to make my relationship really excellent is to be in consistent and regular communication with my partner about what we both love about the relationship and how it's working or what to do about something that doesn't seem to be working.

I ignore any/all "advice" from magazines, from blogs, from television shows and movies, and basically from any other person who is not in my actual relationship with me, and appreciate that my partner does the same. He trusts me to let him know my feelings about things, and I trust him in the same way.

If I wanted to knock his socks off, I would do something specifically that I know would knock *his* own personal, individual socks off, and I would know what that something was because we'd have talked about it.
posted by so_gracefully at 10:48 AM on April 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

John Gottman has done a lot of research on what makes marriages work, and what makes them fail. I would also recommend plenty of cuddling, touching, kissing and sex; they don't call it "making love" for nothing.
posted by theora55 at 11:14 AM on April 17, 2011

Reading everyone else's answers I have little to add except this....

Especially when your relationship is super fabulous, keep the details of your relationship PRIVATE.

Why? Because at the end of the day, it's just the two of you in the relationship. You don't need or want anyone else's energy or opinions getting in between you and your beloved. It is the most precious and intimate relationship you have, so treat it that way. This means co-workers, family, friends, neighbors - they don't get to know about the best (or worst) parts of your union - those details are only for you and your mate to know about, talk about, process together or judge.

I'm not sure if this works for everybody, but since my husband and I were both secure and confident people before we got together, it really really works for us.

Next to our bond and the flow between us, everything else is just kinda noise. As it should be:)
posted by jbenben at 11:22 AM on April 17, 2011 [13 favorites]

The perfect is the enemy of the good. There is no such thing as OMGbestever and those perfect couples you see at parties don't talk on the way home in their car. Relationships inevitably mellow after the initial infatuation and rip your clothes off stages and it sounds like you have things pretty good. If your man is happy with things as they are, and there's no hint that he's unhappy, then trying to artificially ramp it up for your own sake might strike a false note.

If you want things to be great then forget worrying about pet names and instead initiate sex regularly, suggest a few kinky new things to do and buy him a steak or, this being metafilter, organic cruelty free Tibetan mung beans or whatever he actually likes to eat. Men are simple creatures with simple needs. They don't need compliments so much as sex, food and being left alone sometimes when they're watching the game on TV.
posted by joannemullen at 3:45 PM on April 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

I think one fantastic thing that my husband and I have going for us is that we have certain 'code words', like pink candy floss does (awesome anecdote about building character), and they mean something special to us. It doesn't matter exactly what the code is, but we have a certain phrase and whenever one of us uses it, the other one drops everything and we talk about whatever the subject that needs to be talked about is for as long as it needs to be talked about, and we don't pay attention to anything but each other.

A second example of this is that we have one little phrase which is a joke from a TV show we both like, and we use it whenever one of us knows that the other one is becoming irritated at the other one's eccentricities. The essence of it is, "humor me". And our little inside joke reminds us to humor each other even when we are starting to feel annoyed.

Relationships are built on mutual understandings like these. The language of love isn't all about sonnets and flowery sentiments.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:37 PM on April 17, 2011 [8 favorites]

My two cents? Fight fair.

You *will* have fights. So be civil. You'd think this would be a logical extension of "respect one another", but things can quickly overheat in the midst of battle. Family history/dynamics can unconsciously feed into this, lack of self-reflection can really muddy the waters. You both have to agree to guidelines now, and stick to them.

Fighting fair means no name-calling. No yelling. Try to never raise your voice by *too* much. No storming out. No amateur (melo)dramatics. No manipulations or plays for sympathy. No denying what the other feels, even if you think he/she is unjustified in their feelings - they are always entitled to them. Example: something you said/did pushed the other's buttons. Say "I'm sorry you feel x. That wasn't my intention". Mean it. Once you resolve an issue, it's resolved; no holding grudges, no saving up ammo for future conflicts. Listen. Listen. Listen. Then reply.

Plus what everybody else said. :)

(another happy 25-year-veteran here)
posted by likeso at 5:58 PM on April 17, 2011 [10 favorites]

what took your relationship from good to omgbestever

A massive disaster. Life happens and how you are there for one another changes and hopefully deepens the relationship. We could've spiraled off into a blame game and that would've worsened our relationship. Trust is earned, and in the stressful times most of all.
posted by salvia at 6:35 PM on April 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Do new things together. Traditions and routines are great, but having new experiences together is what, to me at least, tends to keep things fresh. Travel new places, eat at new restaurants, drive someplace you've never been before just because. Whatever time and budget allow.

Take up a new hobby together. Mastering a new skill that belongs to the two of you is special.

Cancel your cable subscription. Nothing kills awesome experiences together like routinely coming home and watching two hours of television.

Take care of yourself. It's easier to have an omgbestever relationship when you feel like you're an omgbestever version of yourself.

Recognize that even the omgbestever relationship is never always omgbestever, there will be good times and bad times, and that's natural. This advice is straight from my mother, married 42 years.
posted by psycheslamp at 7:34 PM on April 17, 2011 [9 favorites]

Sit down together when you have some time and ask your sig. other these 5 questions:

What are my strengths?
What are my weaknesses?
What do you like most about me?
What do you like least about me?
Is there anything else you want to say?

Invite him to be as open and honest as possible. Be prepared for the truth - do not get defensive or upset if you hear something you don't like - take in on board use it to better yourself and your relationship.

This is an amazing exercise.
posted by saturn~jupiter at 8:23 PM on April 17, 2011 [6 favorites]

"Men are simple creatures with simple needs. They don't need compliments so much as sex, food and being left alone sometimes when they're watching the game on TV."


What an awful, wrong thing to say. God. Men are people. Just like women. Perhaps some are simple, but I have to say, I have never met a person of either gender, or anything in between, that could be accurately and fully described as "simple".

My boyfriend definitely needs compliments, for example, and it's one of my failings as a lover that I am far too willing to soak up the compliments that I need without reciprocating, even when I frequently think complimentary things about him.


My relationship is only about four and a half years old, but I can quote my mom. She has always said that she and my dad were lucky. That, yes, they put in a lot of work and were willing to do that work, but that luck plays a part as well.

Personally, I think "rules" are often counterproductive. Maybe cable TV is bad for some relationships. I think it can be good for others, especially for a relationship with a shared love of pop culture and a thirst for lively discussion about it. Whatever.

I would say this: care about your lover. Do not reduce him or her to their gender, or occupation, or anything else. Don't scour cosmo for tips. Just... be genuinely caring. This sounds like another rule, but I try to keep it from being a rule in my life. Just the way that I try to interact.
posted by kavasa at 8:43 PM on April 17, 2011 [11 favorites]

I think "cancel cable TV" is just generally good advice for most contexts, inasmuch as you can get the good stuff from there elsewhere (and as Mike Birbiglia has pointed out, cable TV — especially in America — has a way of making everything seem important, especially things that aren't).

FAILING ALL ELSE, especially with someone you are in a relationship, practice awareness and deliberateness in your TV habits. Watch stuff you actually want to and mean to (and with DVD sets that's easier than ever — watching Life on Mars or the 1979 Mobile Suit Gundam or The Muppet Show together has been great, since we can watch an episode or two as we see fit), because if it's good then it's worth your time and you can have conversations about it and it actually enriches your artistic blah blah blah blah words

I guess I'm basically just saying that if you're going to watch TV together, do it on purpose, instead of as something to just fill time idly without having to try too hard.
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:02 PM on April 17, 2011

My husband would wilt into a puddly depressed mess without the daily 'I love you's and hugs. Seriously. And he'd love it if I watched a game with him, except I hate it and make snarky comments about to homoeroticism of both the game, the commentators and the uniforms.

In other words, people are different and any relationship hack is necessarily prey to those individual issues. As an example, we try and build storming off time into any argument because I physically need solitude (and usually hard work) to process my emotions usefully. We tried the whole 'never walk away, make eye contact, blah blah blah' and it sucked. He's ADD and I'm GAD and that shit does not work for us. So we argue, clean the bathroom, argue some more, tidy up, cuddle and sort it out. Same for TV - as a thing it sucks, but it is super nice to chill and watch a show or a movie once a week.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:04 AM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, I recently read in Cosmo (yeah yeah) that pet names de-sexualize your partner. If a good part of a relationship is sexual tension, should I start trying to eliminate these? I like all the pet names I give my partner, but I like sex better.

That might depend what the pet names are. If the pet names in your relationship are things like "fuck puppet" or "love rider", they probably won't desexualize your partner.
posted by Kurichina at 8:10 AM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Always kiss each other goodbye in the morning and hello in the evening, no matter how late/stressed/tired/cranky you are.
posted by kidsleepy at 11:23 AM on April 20, 2011

Also, we have a predetermined scale that we use when making decisions or asking for favors. It's essentially from 1 to 10, with 1 being "Can you scratch my back?" and 10 being "Can you bail me out a of jail and never tell anyone about it ever?" So if an old high school friend is getting married and I'm nervous about seeing all these people for the first time in years, I would say "Please come to this with me. It's an 8." Or if it's my cousin's daughter's birthday party, I'd say "If you want to come, that'd be cool. It's about a 3." It's a quick and efficient way of communicating our needs to each other. Just don't abuse the system. Wanting to order Chinese take-out instead of cooking at home is never a 10.
posted by kidsleepy at 11:28 AM on April 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

SO just reminded me of another rule we follow: no fighting when either party is drunk, tired, or hungry (or any combination thereof). Goes with likeso's fighting fair advice.
posted by kidsleepy at 11:47 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I popped in to say that the Cosmo advice about pet names is whack. If your SO likes being called "sweetums," then by all means keep doing so.

Also, and this one is from personal experience and people may disagree, but be completely open and honest about ever cent you ever make or spend with each other. Keep an open bank-book policy. This means no secret credit cards, or whatever. Nothing breeds trust better than knowing how everyone spends their money.

I don't mean, like, disclosure right away, though; surprises and birthday gifts don't need to be disclosed immediately. But if your SO wants to know how much it was after you give it to 'em, then tell 'em.

(Note that I'm not an advocate of keeping a joint bank account. This is a bad, bad idea, especially for non-married couples. Separate bank accounts, open for all to see, is good. Again, it has to do with trust.)
posted by jabberjaw at 5:52 PM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Burn every issue of Cosmo that's anywhere near you. Their goal isn't to improve your life, their goal is to sell magazines. Good God.
posted by talldean at 8:19 AM on April 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Identify the problem spots and do something to resolve them.

My wife and I struggle to make dinner decisions when we are hungry and then we end up being short with each other. So we moved the decision away from when we are tired and have low blood sugar and plan our meals or dining out options well in advance (BTW this has also dramatically reduced our food bill).

Sometimes the best thing you can do to make a walk enjoyable is to take the pebbles out of your shoe.
posted by srboisvert at 1:53 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wanted to echo what has been said about how people's relationships are different. I've been engaged twice (wedding is in August. The first one didn't happen). In the first relationship we fought weekly. The fights were always fair, and she was almost always the first one to get angry.

Now, we don't fight. We have fought, but I can literally count the number of times we've gotten into a real fight on one hand. For whatever reason, that's just the way our relationship works. It's a lot... easier. Better, for me, but not for everybody. The point is, it works differently than my last relationship, and it works different than other people's relationships. It works for me. For us.

One of the reasons it works, and I think this is more universal, is that we communicate well with each other. We're both slow to anger, or even get irked about something, but if one of us is irked, they say "Hey S.O., you did this thing and it irked me. I'd be happier if you don't do it anymore."

It's really that straightforward. And whoever did the irking tries not to do it anymore, since it bothers someone they love. And the relationship is better for it.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:07 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

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