This Habit is one of the 10 Habits of Happy Couples Tina and Michael LeBlanc write about in their blog and in their book that will be released in the Fall of 2022. To check out the other Habits as they’re released weekly, check out the index below. To really use these Habits to work on your relationship, you can access their book – The 10 Habits of Happy Couples – which gives you complete examples of each Habit and exercises that you can do with your partner to develop these Habits in your relationship.
The 10 Habits of Happy Couples
Habit #4: Prioritize Your Relationship
Habit #3: Understand Your Fights
Habit #2: Always Repair
Habit #1: Talk Openly and Tune In
Habit #4: Prioritize Your Relationship
Prioritizing your relationship means that you often put your relationship in front of everything else. Not all the time, but most of the time. It comes from a belief that a healthy relationship is the cornerstone of every healthy family. It’s essential to stay connected as a couple through life’s ups and downs, so you have to make time for your relationship regularly.
If you don’t plan to regularly go out for lunch, meet up for a walk or go to dinner and a movie once in a while, you basically end up being more of like roommates. This is especially important if you decide to have kids because often, this is when couples stop prioritizing their relationship. It is easy to get consumed by caring for and thinking about the kids. But guess what? The kids will be out of the house at some point, and you don’t want to be roommates with a stranger.
Prioritizing the relationship also means that we need to pay attention to our partner in small ways as well. The small things add up to big things. Daily attention through your morning kiss and good night kiss, for example. Helping your partner with something important to them. Make sure to say “I love you”. This all adds up and does wonders to help us stay connected. It builds up the ‘integrity account’ couples have, which can act as a buffer when the struggles come. And this is often the only part we can still tend to when life gets SO busy that we can’t have our regular dates and prioritize our relationship in that bigger way.
Tips on How to Prioritize Your Relationship
It’s important to be careful that it’s not one person doing all of this prioritizing. It takes conscious effort and energy to prioritize the relationship in these big and small ways. If only one person focuses on this, it will likely take a toll on them and resentment will creep up. There needs to be a commitment from both partners that the relationship requires attention. Both partners need to initiate time together.
We’ve also seen couples where neither partner is good at prioritizing the relationship and spiral down quickly into withdrawal and disconnection. Often neither of them knows how to prioritize each other or has the energy to do it. Because they lose sight of the ‘smaller’ ways to prioritize your relationship. If they can’t figure out how to make bigger chunks of time available to each other they just stop trying out of helplessness. These couples are usually excellent at parenting and tackle this as a team, but neither takes charge of prioritizing each other. It’s almost as though they feel they had to pick either parenting or their relationship, so they pick parenting.
Remember that a good marriage makes good kids – not the other way around. This ‘Habit’ is here for a reason. It needs to be on both people’s minds for it to work. And this is a big part of what creates lasting love. The relationship constantly has to be nurtured, 365 days a year. We’ll say this again, so take note: The relationship must constantly be nurtured, 365 days a year!
We invite you to do two things right now:
- Reflect on your own ability to ‘pay attention to the relationship’ in those small ways and identify one or two things you can improve on.
Consider things like being more present and noticing your partner, doing something nice for them, commenting on what they are wearing, noting how great they look, kissing them on the cheek in passing or stopping them for a hug. Try texting or calling to check in through the day, visiting them at work with a coffee or to scoop them up for lunch, or ensuring to tell them you love them every day of their life. And don’t forget that you can simply ask your partner what they would like to see from you to make sure you put your efforts where it truly counts in their eyes. When in doubt, check with your partner to see how they prefer to be loved.
And remember that these little things are even more important when life is busy. Because you probably won’t be able to go out much together.
- Chat together as a couple to figure out how to prioritize your relationship in bigger ways as well.
Decide who will plan for it by using each other’s likes and skills to make it more likely to happen. When can you plan for regular date nights? Where are the times where you can get away somewhere for a night or a weekend and who’s going to take care of the kids when you do that? When are the best times to chat to see how you’re both doing, as discussed in Habit #6 (Goal setting and dreaming together)?
Food for thought… Remember that it becomes much easier for partners to support and respect each person’s individual time and space when there’s also time and space for the relationship.
About the Authors
Tina and Michael LeBlanc have been happily married since 2003, are parents to two teenage boys, and have over 20 years of combined experience as Licensed Counselling Therapists. Being experts in the Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) model and using it to help couples in their work, Tina and Michael drew from the EFT model to create a list of 10 Habits of Happy Couples. In this series of articles, they take you on a comprehensive walk through the 10 Habits, and with each, they give you an overview followed by specific tips you and your partner can use in your daily life.