We’ve been together for over 17 years, so we have a lot of relationship advice we want to share with you to explain how we’ve built and maintained a healthy marriage.
We started dating when we were 17 years old. Now, we’re 36 which means that this year, we surpassed the point where we’ve been together longer than we’ve been apart! (Mind blown!)
Our relationship hasn’t been smooth – we’ve had many bumps in our years together. However, we’ve learned a lot of tools and mechanisms to get over them and push through. In celebration of our relationship, here are 17 relationship tips from 17 years of being together.
If you’d prefer to watch our video on the 17 tips for a healthy marriage, click the play button below. If you’re a reader…then keep reading 🙂
Relationship Advice from Siya and Kristen
Advice #1: Listen with an Open Mind
Most of us are better talkers than we are listeners. But sometimes we shouldn’t be giving advice – sometimes we should just listen to our partner. Learning to listen with an open mind is a fundamental part of a healthy marriage. If you can master this, you’re well on your way to having a solid foundation.
A great way to do this is to repeat what your partner says:
“I understand that you feel this way because of (enter reason they explained). I hear you.”
Just being heard can melt the tension away.
Sometimes I just need to let out whatever I’m feeling. It might seem like I’m asking for advice, but I only need a good listener. I just need Siya to be there and know that I can tell him anything – that he’ll just listen and accept what I’m saying without any judgement. That is enough.
Advice #2: Communicate Effectively
Every relationship expert will tell you it’s all about communication. Every elderly couple that gives you relationship advice says, “oh, it’s all about communication.” But, no one gives you the actual tools on how to communicate effectively.
Understanding how your partner receives messages is the key here. That’s something you learn over time as you get to know the person and learn how they process and hear things because everyone does it differently. You could be saying one thing, and your partner’s brain interprets it entirely differently.
Advice #3: Stop Counting
Have you ever found yourself counting all the little things you and your partner do in a day?
“I did the dishes twice yesterday!”
And they’ll say…
“But I did the laundry twice last week.“
Stop counting! It’s not healthy for your relationship to be tallying everything you both do. It builds toxicity, and it can also create resentment. Most of the time, we’re counting and not telling our partner that we’re counting! How can you make any changes if you’re not communicating effectively?
It’s better to have an understanding that overall it’s 50-50 between the two of you. Perhaps you’re putting more effort into one aspect, and your partner is putting more effort into another. However, if everything’s getting done and everything’s working, it’s best to look at it from that perspective.
Advice #4: The Five Love Languages
The Five Love Languages is a fantastic book that talks about the 5 different ways humans feel the most loved. The five ways are: words of affirmation, quality time together, acts of service, receiving gifts and physical touch.
How I receive love is different from how Siya does. Knowing what his love language is allows me to make sure I give him love in the way he best receives it.
Siya’s love language is acts of service. So, if he comes home and I’ve cooked his favourite meal, that would mean a lot more to him than buying him a gift.
It’s important to note that your love language could change throughout the years. Therefore, it’s essential to be aware of that and communicate those changes with your partner.
Advice #5: You CAN Go to Bed Angry
Contrary to popular belief, sometimes the best thing to do is sleep on the conversation. We’ve had many nights staying up until 3 am, talking about something in our relationship. Sometimes we manage to work it through. Other times, we just have to go to sleep and wake up the following day with a fresh mind and new perspective.
When you sleep, your brain organizes all your thoughts. So, the next time you and your partner are having a heated conversation that’s going nowhere, just go to sleep and revisit it the next day.
Advice #6: Don’t Stop Dating
Another relationship advice from us is to spend quality time together. Spending time together is something we don’t get to do too often since our daughter was born. But, we do try our best to make time to relax and disconnect from everything else and just be a couple – and not have to think about anything work or parent-related.
We recently had an incredible experience at a wellness spa in Costa Rica called The Retreat. We ate delicious food, had a couple’s crystal healing massage, slept in heavenly beds, and just got to be together as husband and wife. It was magical!
Advice #7: Falling In and Out of Love
You will fall in and out of love. Most relationships end at the first falling out part. At the beginning of a relationship, you feel so much passion and excitement – they’re a new body, new lips, new experience.
After the honeymoon phase, that passion might start fading away, and you think, oh no, this is the end…But if you just stick it out, that passion and excitement will come back. Like every emotion, you’re not always happy, sad or angry. Similarly, you’re not always feeling love, and that is okay!
The beauty of it is that you get to fall back in love again after falling out of love. Moreover, it may be a sign that there’s something you need to work on as a couple or individually. Maybe you need more time for yourself or more time for each other.
If you fall out of love, don’t see it as the end of the relationship. Instead, see it as the beginning of a deeper relationship.
Advice #8: Talk to Love Experts
Don’t look at getting relationship advice from a couple’s counsellor as something negative – you’re trying to better your life, and that is powerful! Even after 17 years, there are still things we want to do to help further improve our relationship and speaking to love experts helps us get there.
We’ve had some great round-table discussions with other couples and with experts. During those discussions, you could feel alone and think, “no one else will understand what I’m going through.” But then, all of a sudden, all these other couples are relating to what you’re sharing. You realize that what you’re going through with your partner is totally normal and others around you are going through the exact same thing.
Advice #9: The Three Relationships
Most people don’t realize that there are actually three relationships in a relationship. There’s your relationship together, your relationship with yourself, and your partner’s relationship with themselves. You need to be improving all three of them at the same time.
If you’re not bettering yourself, learning and doing things that benefit YOU, this will show up negatively in your relationship with your partner. When you spent time on YOU, you’re able to bring the best version of yourself to the relationship with your partner.
Advice #10: Best Friends with Benefits
This relationship advice is about knowing when to speak as a best friend and when to speak as a couple. There may come a time when you need to be the best friend and give advice to your partner as a friend would – even if it goes against what you, as the partner, would advise.
We’re lucky that we were best friends for two years before our first romantic kiss, so we had that foundation. However, that’s not to say that we haven’t kept building our friendship since that moment. Even if you weren’t best friends initially, developing and nurturing this aspect of the relationship is one of the foundational keys to a successful marriage.
Advice #11: Spend Time Apart
We’ve spent a lot of time apart throughout our relationship, including long-distance in college and many solo trips.
Having time with ME, is something I personally NEED in my life. I need to have my own time to explore things I’m interested in. That could be spending a day doing something I love, or it could be months travelling somewhere solo. Yes, it’s completely okay to do some solo travel when in a relationship!
Taking time to be with myself allows me to reconnect to my needs and desires without the interference of anyone else. I also get to miss Siya! If I’m with him 24/7, then there’s no room to miss him, and they say “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Having this space allows me to create my own life stories without him, so I can then go back and share it with him, which I think is super fun and has really made our relationship much stronger.
Advice #12: Try New Things Together
It’s fun to try new things you’ve both never done before. It helps you bond. Maybe you’ll even find something new you’re both passionate about that you can enjoy together. Like the time Siya and I learned how to dance the Viennese Waltz in Vienna, Austria!
Doing something new allows you to problem solve together. You’ll also get to explore more of life side-by-side, and even if you fail, at least you fail together!
Advice #13: It’s Okay to Have Crushes
In fact, we tell each other about our crushes. Yup, for real. Yes, we could totally have a crush on someone and not say a word because that would be taboo OR we can normize that yes there are many awesome people in the world that you vibe with and it’s okay to feel attracted to them. It’s fun to flirt with other people. It’s healthy, it’s normal, and we feel that it should definitely be normalized more.
There are so many wonderful people in the world that we naturally just connect with. Just because we’re in a committed relationship doesn’t mean we can’t have innocent crushes on other people.
We think it’s super healthy that we’ve been able to share our crushes with each other instead of thinking we have to keep them hidden like it’s a forbidden or horrible thing.
Advice #14: Make Out Often
This relationship advice needs no explanation!
Advice #15: Travel Together
Travel gets you out of your everyday routine. It allows you to experience things for the first time together, as a couple, and be playful and laugh and cry and go through all of the emotions. It bonds you and your partner in a brand new way.
Some of our best moments happened while travelling – not when we were at home. Travelling together has opened us up to opportunities to receive more love, give more love, laugh, and be playful.
Advice #16: Stay Intimate
It’s been fun to try new ways to be intimate throughout the years – to be extra creative, adventurous, honest and vocal about what we both want.
You have a lifetime of sharing a bed together, so it’s only fitting that you explore as much as possible what you want to do in a safe environment with your partner. If you need help in this area, there are courses, workshops and retreats that you can take part in.
Advice #17: The Most Important Tip
The most important advice we can give you is to customize your relationship. Every relationship advice we have mentioned has been significant, but this one stands out because no one relationship is the same.
We’ve learned a ton about each other over the years – what our needs and wants are individually and as a couple and what works specifically for us.
Remember, what works for us might not work for you, and that’s why you need to customize every element of your relationship. From sleeping arrangements to spending time alone, find out what works best for you and your partner.
We know that relationships are hard work, but they’re worth it! We hope that our 17 tips help you and your partner build and maintain a long, happy relationship.