I’m horrible at dating. Absolutely horrible. Jana and I have gone on exactly one ‘date’ in our entire relationship, and that was after we moved in together. We somehow skipped that entire awkward phase, and went from being friends to being really good friends to being really good friends with a sex life and who happen to live together and share life goals. I can’t help your pickup game, but I can give you some tips for making your relationships a bit more stable.

The Basics

You’ll never get all of someone’s attention all of the time. Relationships are about give and take; not just between you and your partner, but also between the relationship itself and the other things going on in your life. It can be easy, as a young couple, to think that anything that subtracts from ‘couple time’ is bad. But with work, health, family, and personal interests, sometimes certain dynamics need to be put on the back burner to ensure that everyone gets what they want in the long term.

Sometimes, you’re going to be angry and all you’re going to see are their flaws. Handling that anger and coming back with a clear head is your responsibility. It’s your job to realize when you don’t have the emotional capacity to deal with a certain situation, and you should never expect your partner to ‘just know’ when you’re angry or struggling with something. Communication only works when you use it to preempt a situation; damage control only works for so long.

Take the above paragraphs to heart, because they’re the basis of all of my relationship advice. Patience, self-control, and understanding what your partner is going through. Read on to see some of my more specific advice.

Sharing Responsibilities

Because I work from home, I do the bulk of the cooking and cleaning. We give people my number to call when they have questions. I work ten to twelve hours a day for very little pay, but because I’m in a situation where I can juggle my professional work and my house work, I do it. I couldn’t imagine not doing it. Splitting everything equally is great in theory, but it rarely works in the real world.

The division of labor is never fair, because there will never be an equal division of time. Someone will do more work, someone will do less work, and there will always be something that no one wants to do. Figuring out who does what is a delicate balance, but the biggest thing it requires is humility.

No one wants to admit that they do, actually, have the time to do the dishes. It’s easier to come up with conceptual arguments as to why you shouldn’t have to do them than it is to fit it into your schedule. No one wants to clean up for someone else, either; they just end up doing it because ‘the house’ has become their responsibility.

If you assume that maintaining shared responsibilities doesn’t require active negotiation and periodic checkups, you’re going to have a rough time. Asking for help, asking if you can help, and generally communicating about the division of labor is healthy. Making a point of doing more than you ‘want to’ because you know how draining life can be will go a long way towards creating healthy practices.

Being ‘Romantic’

I am as cheesy as I am broke, which means that while I’m the bomb at making people blush, I don’t buy lots of gifts. For whatever reason, people have really specific fantasies about romance. They want things to be done in certain ways, and they use it as a kind of messed up litmus test for potential partners. I just do cheesy stuff because I’m in love. Life’s a lot easier that way.

Materialism is a horrible gauge for a relationship. It doesn’t matter how much you like expensive gifts, measuring interest through financial liability will get you nowhere. Be realistic about your (and their) financial situation, and place value in what you do with each other rather than what you do for each other.

Don’t set unrealistic expectations for holidays or anniversaries. Planning something together can be more fun than planning a surprise, because it can be more elaborate and more affordable. Take the time to learn what they like, then see what the two of you can do together to expand upon it. Working on a gift for someone who knows what they’re getting is cool; every time you make progress, you both get to be excited about it.

If you’re the kind of person who just really likes to buy people things, talk about it ahead of time and agree on a price limit. Some people aren’t comfortable with money being spent on them, or they might not like getting gifts for certain holidays. It’s better to talk about it well beforehand than it is to create an uncomfortable situation for everyone.

Ultimately, every couple finds different ways to express themselves romantically. There’s no secret to it; take your time with each other and figure it out. It’s fun.

Sex

I’m a Dom. I’m aggressive. Sometimes that plays well into our dynamic, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m the kind of person that gets more aggressive the harder I work, and a long day of writing typically means a long evening of stress relief. But expecting Jana to match my libido when we’re both under a lot of stress is unfair. Different people handle stress in different ways and being unsupportive of that is foolish.

Sex won’t always work out. Depending on the amount of time, energy, and attention span available, you’ll go through peaks and lulls. You won’t always feel attracted to your partner, and they won’t always be attracted to you. It’s normal. As long as you’re willing to communicate and compromise, you’ll be fine.

Handling mis-matched libidos can be hard. It can be easy to get into a funk where you either feel pursued, or like your partner is acting like the ‘sexual gatekeeper.’ At the end of the day, however, your libido is your responsibility. Talk about it, find a rhythm with your partner where both your and their needs are being met, but don’t hold it against them when life gets in the way.

A lot of people are embarrassed about sex. It might be their body image, it might be their physical fitness, it might be their fantasies. With the way the western media markets sex, very few people are raised with realistic expectations, and getting past that takes time and patience. As long as you’re open about it, though, getting into a good rhythm isn’t that hard. Figuring things out is part of the fun.

Fighting

Couples argue. No questions, it happens, you can’t avoid it. You’ll fight about big things, you’ll fight about small things, you’ll fight without knowing why. That doesn’t mean you’re going to shout, that doesn’t mean you’re going to stay angry with each other, and that doesn’t mean you’re not going to apologise later.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to fighting, is that your emotions are your responsibility. It’s your job to make sure that you’re emotionally collected enough to talk about things that make you angry, and it’s on you to apologise when you lose your cool. If you need time and space to cool off and re-approach the subject, you’re the one who needs to ask for it.

Speaking from experience, you’re going to get upset about the strangest of things. What you argue about doesn’t matter nearly as much as how willing you are to own up to it and move on. You’d be amazed at what you can work your way through when you’re not holding on to your ego.

Use ‘I’ statements. Don’t force your emotions onto your partner. Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know why you’re upset. Accept the fact that sometimes it will take a lot of time, patience, and space to move on from something big.

This is, obviously, the tip of the iceberg. Relationships are complex, but you shouldn’t have an issue if you’re open and honest. Do you have any relationship tips for the young and stupid? Let us know!