There’s no such thing as a perfect relationship. Even the happiest couples have bad days from time to time. Having different opinions and ideas keeps our relationships fresh and interesting, but can also make seemingly simple decisions more challenging—like where to eat, for example.
While there’s no instruction manual or exact science to maintaining peace in a relationship, there are a few universal dos and don’ts if you want to survive life as a couple. I’ve been in a committed relationship for nearly 15 years, and while we are both still alive, I wouldn’t say I know what I’m doing. So, I turned to my friends, who collectively have been in all kinds of relationships with varying degrees of success, for advice.
Behold the master list of dos and don’ts for keeping the peace and staying out of the doghouse.
1. Don’t bring up old shit.
Discuss it, settle it, and move on. Circling back to a topic that once caused an argument is guaranteed to cause another argument. It’s relationship science.
2. Don’t expect your spouse to do things the same way you do them.
You are different people with different ideas. Say you like your towels tri-folded, facing the same way, with the edges aligned—as a non-specific, completely hypothetical example—you can’t expect your spouse to fold them the same way. There are two options here: you either do it yourself, or you dial it down and let them fold the towels however they want.
3. Don’t go to bed angry…unless you want to.
At some point in your relationship, you will hear the “don’t go to bed angry” piece of advice. But guess what, sometimes a good night’s rest and some time to process is what you need. So, if you are pissed and tired, go to bed. Try again tomorrow. Or stay up and work it out. It’s really whatever. Like I said, there’s no instruction manual for this crap.
4. Don’t call names.
Once words come out, you can’t put them back. And we are all adults here, so use your grown-up words.
5. Don’t use words like “never” and “always.”
I don’t care how often your spouse misses the hamper or leaves their beauty products all over the bathroom counter, don’t utter these words. “Always” or “never” statements are exaggerations and rarely true. More than anything they are just going to piss off whoever you are talking to.
6. Do be honest about your feelings.
It’s easy to be honest about things that are nonconsequential, but sometimes being honest about your feelings can be hard—do it anyway. Guessing games are relationship poison. Subtle hints only work in Matthew McConaughey movies.
7. Do have interests outside of your relationship.
You are not expected to love and enjoy everything your partner does. Shared interests and friends are great, but a shared Facebook account is not.
8. Do allow your partner time to calm down.
You are going to have disagreements, but button pushing when someone is mad is only going to make things worse. Don’t poke the bear.
9. Do apologize.
It sucks to be wrong, but you can’t be right all the time. When you’re wrong, apologize. Say sorry and be sincere when you do. Half-ass or sarcastic apologies don’t count. They make things worse.
10. Do make time for your partner, no matter how busy you are.
Be supportive, listen to each other, and laugh—just be there, no matter what.