Are there couples in your life who make you think, what do they know that I don’t know? They seem so happy! How do they do it?
Or do you see couples in movies or TV and wonder, does the kind of love they have exist, and if it does, where can I find it?
If you think other people have love all figured out and you aren’t sure how to figure it out yourself, this episode is for you.
I am sharing my personal 20 tips for curating, creating, and attracting epic love in your life whether you are single OR partnered!
Prefer the audio? Listen here.
These 20 tips are the result of years of being in a good marriage and 25 years of being a psychotherapist. Being in the trenches with clients has allowed me to identify what scratches away at the foundation of relationships, and what solidifies them.
When I talk about real, epic love, I am not talking about the types of love often depicted in fairy tales. I am talking about healthy love- sustainable love which feels safe and good.
Let’s dive in.
Tip #1: Mutual Respect
Someone in the union acting disrespectfully to the other person is a problem to be addressed.
Healthy love requires mutual respect because we cannot create a safe and sacred space without it.
Tip #2: Communicate Honestly + Authentically
Honest communication uplevels the intimacy in a relationship.
If you weren’t taught how to communicate honestly, do not worry- it is a language you can learn and I am into teaching you all about it.
I have an entire course about communication in relationships called Real Love Revolution, and I am teaching it LIVE beginning January 24. Check it out here if a 12-week deep dive into healthy love is something you’d love!
Tip #3: Really Like Your Person
Loving someone and not liking them is ultimately unsatisfying.
Focusing on your partner’s flaws or finding things to be annoyed by in the relationship can lead you down this road.
If you are partnered, think back to what originally drew you to your person and write those things down.
I remember how, at the beginning of my relationship with Vic, I wrote a 40-page letter by hand stating all the things I loved about him. (While I was on a trip to Tuscany!)
It said things like, “I love that you only wear T-shirts and jeans. I love how soft your skin is. I love how you smell.”
When Vic gets on my nerves (just like I can get on his), I think about this list and how I would have traded being in Tuscany for being in Elizabeth, NJ with him in a split second. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is!
If you tend to find and focus on your partner’s flaws, curate a list like this as a reminder of the things you really like about them. It is a valuable practice and a muscle you can flex daily.
Tip #4: Create A Shared Couple’s Vision
Do you sit down with your partner to discuss your shared life vision together, or do you just let life happen?
When I used to do couples counseling, I walked couples through the process of creating a shared vision together.
It consists of sitting down and talking about what you both want in the next year or two.
I recommend doing this at least once a year because people change and grow.
For example, during the pandemic, Vic suggested changing our couple’s vision by adding geese and chicken to Crackpot Farm.
This was not part of our ‘agreed upon’ plan, but I was happy to do it as long as Vic agreed to be the primary caretaker of those animals (which he did).
Becoming backyard farmers changed our lives in a big way, though. There is more to stay home for and take care of. But it also brings Vic a lot of joy and is important to him. Having our shared couple’s vision allowed us the space to talk about it and bring it to life.
On another occasion many years ago, moving out to the country came up during our shared couple’s vision. We were still living in New Jersey and had not necessarily planned to move.
We ended up buying a little lake house where my parents were from and loved it, but it took a lot of conversations and planning to make it happen.
Inside the guide, you’ll find questions you can ask to form your own shared couple’s vision.
Tip #5: No Unasked For Advice or Criticism
Do not give unasked for advice or criticism. If you are an auto-advice giver, please try to resist.
In my experience as a psychotherapist, most women just want to be heard. And from what I have seen, most men tend to want to ‘fix’ what they think is broken. ‘Fixing’ isn’t usually very satisfying for the person who just wants to be heard.
This is why it is important to hold space for each other to vent. I also invite you to get specific about what you need.
The magic question is, “How can I best support you right now?”
How can I best support you? might look like, “Want to make out?” “Would you make me a cup of tea?” “Would you snuggle with me on the couch?”
Here’s the thing: if we do not ask this question or tell each other what we need, then we are guessing and likely getting it wrong.
We often project and take action from what we would want in a certain situation, but our partner is a different person who might have different needs. For example, you might prefer a hug after a rough day while your partner may prefer alone time.
Besides “How can I best support you?” Vic also asks me, “Are we brainstorming? Do you just want to vent? Let me know what we are doing,” which helps avoid unasked for advice.
Tip #6: Value What The Other Person Wants For Themselves
In a healthy relationship, we value what the other person wants for themselves and become part of their solution to getting it.
Vic is an award-winning visual journalist and has gone on assignments where he gets embedded with the military in active war zones.
When he was first invited, the kids asked me, “How could you let Dad go to an active war zone?” I replied, “Because I don’t own Dad. I love Dad. He is my person and my priority, but I do not own him.”
Vic had also come to me for permission (to a degree), and I told him, “I am not going to beg you to get embedded in an active war zone, but if you are asking me if I am okay with it and you are telling me it is a lifelong dream of yours, then I am okay with it.”
Who am I to stand in the way of his lifelong dream?
Tip #7: Avoid Ownership, Jealousy + Punishing Behavior
Jealousy, feeling a sense of ownership over your partner, and punishing behavior are all damaging to a relationship.
From a therapeutic perspective, we tend to talk things out or act things out.
Talking is way more effective.
Acting it out does damage all around, and usually offers no resolution.
Jealousy indicates insecurity. You do not own your partner and they do not own you. It is an honor and privilege to find someone to partner with.
If jealousy is causing issues in your relationship, talk about feeling insecure, ask your partner for reassurance, or seek couples therapy.
Tip #8: Become An Active or Athletic Listener
It is joyful to ask expansive questions when your person is talking.
I love to ask Vic, “Well, then what happened? And then what did they say? And then how did you feel? And then what did you do?”
I want Vic to know he has my full attention when he is telling me something important, and he also has the floor. Meaning, I am not looking to turn the conversation around and make it about me.
I was not good at this in my twenties. I was a wait-to-talker. I thought I was making a connection with the other person by saying, “Oh my gosh, something similar happened to me, too!”
I did not think relating to someone’s story was self-centered behavior, but my good intentions did not matter.
If someone tells you a story and you bring it right back to yourself, the other person will likely not feel heard.
Download the guide for more expansive questions you can ask during conversations.
Tip #9: Take Responsibility For Your Health
You need to be willing to take responsibility for your mental and physical health because a lack of it affects your partner profoundly.
Vic and I agreed about this before we got together because he was already 10 years my senior. I requested that Vic take responsibility for staying healthy. This includes going to the gym, meditation, and working out with a trainer.
He has taken this to heart, and if he slacks, I remind him of the agreement we made.
He knows I don’t want him to die or get sick. I just want him to be well enough to do all the things we enjoy doing. It is important to me, but it cannot be my responsibility.
Tip #10: Have Fun and Have Sex
Having fun means being silly and even unproductive. Go for adventures and take rides together.
It is also important to prioritize sex and find a way to stay sexually interested in each other.
In my own relationship, I have found it important to prioritize a physical life together.
This connection is the difference between being best friends and being in a romantic relationship.
(This doesn’t apply if you are in a relationship where sex wasn’t a priority to begin with, or if you are both on the same page about no longer having sex.)
Tip #11: Try Not to Interrupt
Even if your partner is telling a story wrong, try not to interrupt.
I laugh about this because there are times when Vic tells a story and I want to say, “That isn’t how it happened,” or I feel like he could make the story funnier. 🤣
But I bite my tongue because it is none of my business. When he tells a story, I need to leave him alone and let him tell the story.
Tip #12: Be Flexible + Spontaneous
Be flexible as much as possible and spontaneous at least some of the time.
Shit happens. Sometimes things do not work out. Instead of blaming each other, try making adventures when small things go wrong.
If you go out to eat and the food is horrible, focus on something other than the bad food. Focus on the fact you spent time together and simply agree to not return to the restaurant.
Step outside your box and think of ways to make the ordinary adventurous.
Tip #13: Admit Mistakes Promptly + Apologize Often
In a healthy relationship, you need to be able to apologize and own your mistakes as well as graciously accept an apology.
This normalizes being wrong and saying sorry, which is beneficial to the relationship.
(I am talking about when you are genuinely in the wrong- not when someone is trying to manipulate you into thinking you are wrong.)
Tip #14: Be Polite
Say please when requesting something from your partner and thank you whenever your partner does something for you.
This might sound weird, but it is too easy to take your person for granted. Being polite expresses appreciation for them and adds deposits into the well of goodwill. Having a reserve of goodwill makes weathering inevitable storms easier.
Additionally, you know who does not work for you (unless they do)?
Vic does not work for me. Every kindness he extends to me, which is massive on a daily basis, is a gift.
He makes the bed, he unloads the dishwasher, and I do the same. Whoever does it, the other person says, “Thanks for doing the laundry. Thanks for putting it away.”
Treat each other with kindness, because a relationship (even if you are married!), is voluntary. We choose it every day.
Tip #15: Focus On What’s Right
Focus on what is right about your person rather than on what is wrong.
It can be easy to think about the annoying things they do, but how about pointing out what they do right? Can you think of all the ways they make your life easier, or all the ways they add value?
Tip #16: Accept Shortcomings + Empathize
This goes along with the previous tip, but accepting the other person’s shortcomings to the best of your ability and empathizing with their pain is huge.
You do not need to understand your person’s pain. You just have to care.
If I am in pain, I don’t necessarily need Vic to fully get why. I just need him to care about my pain and want to be part of my solution.
When someone is in pain and the other person says, “What can I do?” rather than judging, it makes the person in pain feel loved.
Tip #17: Celebrate
Life is short and fleeting. Celebrate everything.
Tip #18: Be Generous With Physical and Verbal Affection
Physical and verbal affection is important in most healthy relationships.
Appreciate a nice butt in a pair of jeans. Hold hands. Wink at each other. Smile. Flirt.
Being affectionate keeps you close. Don’t let it fall by the wayside. And if it has, bring it back!
Tip #19: Do Things Because It Will Make the Other Person Happy
I do a lot of things for Vic that I do not necessarily want to do. He does as well, and if you are in a lasting relationship, you likely make compromises, too.
However, you have to do it with generosity and joy. Compromising and bean counting does not work, and it can fuel resentment.
Here’s a personal example: Vic loves classical music. I do not. But I have seen many hours of live classical music in my life because he loves it and I love him. I make a night of it by inviting my sister and brother-in-law to dinner before the concert.
Tip #20: Don’t Go To Bed Mad
Life is fragile. Don’t make it a habit to go to bed mad. Talk it out.
People die. If your partner got abducted in the middle of the night, would you be glad you ignored them instead of kissing them goodnight? Probably not.
You are not guaranteed anything in this life. Every moment you have is a gift. Value it.
Those are my top 20 tips for healthy love. What do you think? Is there anything I missed? What would you have added? Let me know over on Instagram (@terricole) or in the comments below, and don’t forget to download the guide to create your couple’s vision.
Remember, if you want to hang out with me for three months and dive into heart-centered love, communication, boundaries, sex, and more, or deeply understand why you are the way you are when it comes to love, join me in Real Love Revolution. I would be honored to guide you through upleveling the relationships in your life whether you are single or partnered. We start on January 24!
I hope you have an amazing week filled with love, and as always, take care of you.