OK so I’m not OLD. I’m 33 (almost 34 as my husband is quick to point out). 33 isn’t old, but we’ve been happily married for 11 years this year. That’s a long time, especially in this day and age. We got married a few short weeks after graduating from college – I remember studying for finals while choosing the invitations for our wedding. SO crazy. We have literally grown up together. We’ve grown from being Miami-based struggling college kids to Chicago-based hardworking thirtysomethings building our dreams together. We’ve changed each other for the better. We have come a long way, and we’re just as happy together as we’ve ever been.

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love image via Shutterstock

 

I don’t talk about my relationship much because it isn’t who I am, and it isn’t who my husband is. Privacy is valuable and beautiful, and it should be cherished. So this post isn’t about sharing personal photos and private stories. What it is about, is the stuff I’ve learned along the way about what a strong relationship needs. Here are the five most important things to do in order for a healthy and happy romantic relationship, based on my experiences.

— Listen to each other. You learn so much about each other just by giving each other that respect. From the mundane details of the work day to what you dreamed about last night, the plans you’ve made for the weekend to the goals you have for the future – just listen to all of it. You’d think this was obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard of couples fighting or breaking up because they didn’t feel like they were being listened to or respected.

— Communicate and keep it 100% real. Sometimes this is hard and you run the risk of hurting each other’s feelings. But this is one of the most important keys to building a lasting relationship. Your communication has to be completely open and honest – no lies, no secrets, no cover-ups, no veiling of truth. All those mental games and tests and stuff like that – leave it to the pages of Cosmo. Be 100% real about what you want for your future, for your romantic expectations, for each other and for yourselves.

— Share your dreams. Support your partner’s dreams. In life and in relationships, it’s important to have shared goals and visions. Ideas for where you want to go. Things you want to work towards. An ideal partner will listen to your dreams, share their concerns or questions in a loving and understanding way, and help you make them come true. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be Afrobella today were it not for my husband. He believed in my creative capabilities, and his support and technical knowhow pushes me forward. And he knows that I’m here for him in whatever he wants to pursue. Being each other’s cheerleader and sounding board can make you a dream team.

— Make time for each other and be in the moment when you’re together. It can be so easy to be distracted. I’m terrible that way. Social media is constantly calling me. But it’s important to take the time and make the effort to be plugged into each other when you’re together. Put the phone down for a second. Let the Facebook notifications stack up. The rest of the world can wait. Give each other your full attention when you can. Not everything has to be relentlessly documented. Let some moments just be.

— Know what you have is special and treat it as such. There are so many people in this world who are alone and yearning for love, or trapped in a relationship that doesn’t make them happy. So if you are with someone who you love and who loves you and the pros by far outweigh the cons, then don’t take it for granted. Show appreciation for each other not just on days that commercials tell you you’re supposed to buy something for. Be happy. Celebrate what you have and bask in its glow.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody!

What are your top tips for a healthy and happy relationship?

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