By Tricia DiGaetano
A healthy romantic relationship is one of the most rewarding things this lovely life has to offer. But like anything else worth having, it takes hard work.
Think about the work you put in toward a rocking, healthy body — and mind. It takes sore muscles and scheduled gym time and best efforts for balanced diets. It takes slapping your hand away from the snooze button, and declining that 2nd piece of cake (let’s be real - ain’t nobody passing on the first). It can be, frankly, a huge pain in your toned ass. But it can also be a hell of a lot of fun.
And the rewards... oh, honey, the rewards.
I’d argue the work required to nourish, stretch, and strengthen our body and mind through healthy lifestyle choices is not all that different than the work needed to sustain a rocking, loving relationship. As the ever-so-wise Deepak Chopra tell us, it takes attention, affection, and appreciation. It’s a topic that comes up frequently for my coaching clients: Resisting the urge to coast in partnership. How do you keep the inspiration in your relationship?
First, please know that I am a huge supporter of making it your mission to do what is right for you and your life.
Find what works for you.
In a fitness sense, I’m a dance, SUP, and yoga kinda’ gal. Meanwhile, many of my friends dig spinning, Cross-fit, or running, all of which make me want to curl up into a ball and cry. I like my body to be soft but bendy, while others strive for tone and endurance. One is not better or worse, they’re just different. The same goes for our romantic relationships — they will only thrive when it is one that uniquely works for us.
Maybe it doesn’t look like what everyone else wants it to look like. So what? Are you really, authentically in it? There is no such thing as the perfect body, and there is definitely no such thing as the perfect couple. But folks can be gloriously, weirdly, imperfectly perfect for each other in ways that potentially make no sense to outsiders. And that is to be celebrated, not scorned.
When you’ve got something good goin’ on, continue to nourish it.
It can be easy to look across the table and criticize what your partner is doing “wrong” — but it’s important to remember our duty to fully own our shit. Recently, my partner and I engaged in what I’ll lovingly refer to as a “heated heart-to-heart.” As I laid out my concerns for the future, I found myself trapped in an uncomfortable spiral. When I finally came up for air, B very calmly (and correctly) stated, “You’re nitpicking.” Damn it. I wasn’t ready to take a look at the crap calories I was bringing to the relationship table, and instead was grasping at reasons for him to serve up something different. Once I acknowledged my role — and cringingly stated it out loud — we were able to move forward together.
Ask yourself: What may be possible when we shift our perspectives on challenges — new jobs, raising children, big moves, etc. — to see them as opportunities for bringing fresh, nourishing components of joy, play, and gratitude to the table? Consider choosing love, even when your partner is out of earshot. Speak highly of one another and acknowledge what you’ve already accomplished together. This is a healthy dish worth repeatedly feasting on.
Routine can be comfortable and reassuring. It can make us feel safe, and in control. But I advocate nurturing your sacred spark through presenting new activities, challenges, or opportunities — think the type of things that make killer, Instagram-worthy memories. In short: Go out and DO THINGS!
Look at it this way: Performing the same fitness routine over and over again will likely find you bored AND plateaued, neither of which will benefit your health. In the same sense, trucking along in a relationship without adding variety of some kind will be the ultimate death of romance. One frequently recommended way to spice up your workout is to involve other people. This also works well for partners, and I mean that in the most PG sense possible (unless, of course, you’re into that kinda thing). Spend time with folks who cheer for your relationship, provide community, and help you stretch by sharing in the adventure.
I often recommend Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages to my clients, and have made it required reading for the bride and groom at each wedding I’ve officiated. (Yeah that’s right, you can call me The Rev — thank you, $35 internet wedding officiant ordination!) The 5 Love Languages is one of the best resources I’ve found for examining how love-communication styles affect partnership. For me, “words of affirmation” is my #1 heart-melter. Not being much of a sweet talker and more of a joker, B has figured out that while lovey dovey-speak in person gives him the willies, he’s damn near Nicholas Sparks in writing. The moment he hands me a card, it’s swoons o’clock over here.
Consider what love language, or general behaviors and gestures, feel nourishing to your partner — hell, straight up ask them — and do these frequently, and creatively. How can you incorporate these into your daily life like it’s a job you’re honored to have been given?
And after all of that:
Give it rest.
This may seem counter-intuitive to “never coasting,” but it’s actually a vital piece of the process. This is a great space to sit back with gratitude, and enjoy the benefits of all the work you’ve put in. In fitness, maybe it’s the day you skip the gym — not necessarily a “cheat day,” but the one where you grant yourself permission to seek pleasure simply for pleasure’s sake, no goals in mind.
In a relationship, it’s the time you peacefully let it be (which can sometimes feel harder than all other work combined!). In the midst of never-ending life efforts, I find it helps to occasionally ask myself, How can I make this be easy? My dear friend Sara always tells me the simple secret to a great day is a good shvitz, a good shit, and a good shtup. Or, for you bewildered shiksas: a good sweat, poop, and sex sesh. Hard to argue with that recipe, amirite?
The point is: We are allowed to stop creating complication and head back to the basics. To let go of all effort; to just reach out and hold our person’s hand while life tries to kick our ass. To acknowledge that our Savasana is just as important as our vinyasa.
So, take a breath.
Let go of fear and control, and for goodness sake, remember to just enjoy!
Tricia DiGaetano is a Jersey girl for the first 18 years of her life, proud Penn State graduate, and lover of California, travel, food, the sea, art, cheese, wine, music, dance and her little sister. She is a Joyologist, writer, and wellness coach. She finds it to be a pleasure to hold space for folks as they learn to trust the process, and access their most authentic and fulfilling lives. Trish keeps a blog of her adventures called The Grateful Life.