You might have optimized everything around (and that goes into) you. But what about what’s widely considered the most important driver of quality of life?
We know from studying Blue Zones that social connection is among the most potent correlations with long healthspan. Committed relationships are another level above. Adding extra flavor to life. Sharing precious moments. Enjoying great company. But also providing another perspective on your lifestyle. Exposing your inconsistencies. Nothing beats relationships for self-growth.Your relationships are the ultimate mirror of the human you're becoming Click To Tweet
When you’re a new quarantine couple or not, you’re probably spending tons of time with your partner. Banning large gatherings, in-person work, restaurants, and social events fast-tracks the experience of living together. Which can make or break relationships.
The way you show up in your relationship is the way you show up to the world.
Today I’m sharing some of the wisdom I’ve learned from my most significant partnership. Some of which include fun practices to share together. Other tips deepen your connection. A harmonious household begins with you (but share this with your partner too 🙂).
Speak the Same (Love) Language
There’s a common quote that I can’t stand, simply because it’s bad advice. Don’t treat others the way that you want to be treated. People are different, with different needs. So instead…
“Treat others the way that they want to be treated”
Easier said than done. That’s where the concept of Love Languages comes in. In his 1992 book, Love Languages, author Gary Chapman describes five common ways of giving and receiving love:
- Words of Affirmation — Saying supportive things
- Acts of Service — Doing helpful things
- Receiving Gifts – Gifts and tokens to show you’re thinking of them
- Quality Time — Meaningful time spent together
- Physical Touch — Physical affection and close proximity to each other
Everyone has dominant love language(s), and languages that mean little to them. Compare love languages early in your relationship. Go out of your way to learn their language, and work show it in your daily interaction.
Intimate knowledge of what love looks like (and feels like) to them will make every day and interaction easier.
Engineer Your Lifebooks
Lifebook is an online program that helps you design your dream life — from the bottom up. You think through and plan twelve different facets for your maximum quality of life:
- Health and fitness
- Love relationship
- Quality of life
- Life vision
For each section, you define your premises, purpose, vision, and strategies to get to your goal. By the end of the (free) online course, you’ll have a blueprint to living a rich life. See my Lifebook online review for all the details. Then, you can run everyday decisions through your own custom Lifebook to determine where to focus without succumbing to FOMO.
The process becomes even more powerful when completed with your partner. Set aside a few hours per week to take on each of the categories. Come up with your own answers and then afterward compare notes, quotes, pictures.
By planning your ideal lives together, you’ll see the big picture. How you best mesh together, and where you differ. Strengthening your relationship and giving you something to look towards in times of uncertainty and difficultly.
Regular Blocks of Time
Meaningful relationships require a special bond. And that bond takes time. Lots of it, especially in the early stages. Some have an easy time blocking the calendar for extended periods. For others, myself included, it takes deliberate thought and planning well into the future.
In the Lifebook Love dimension, you define the strategies you’ll use to create your perfect love life.
Whether you’re the ambitious Type A personality, or more laid back, prioritize recurring chunks of time together. You’ll discover the shadows of your partner, hidden in everyday life.
I like to plan something for each timeframe:
A long yearly vacation, just the two of us. Then once per quarter, taking a weekend to ourselves somewhere off the beaten path. Sometimes learning new things together, physically challenging ourselves. Other times just relaxing. Every week we completely block off one day to reconnect and enjoy each other. On the rare occasion that something unavoidable comes up, we reschedule.
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.”Richard Feynman
We trust our thoughts. Good or bad. And they often lead us astray.
We become caught in thinking —> believing loops. Each cycle further reinforcing the neural circuit. Until we thoroughly engrain those beliefs.
Those patterns are fine until they’re stress-tested by the outside world.
Your partner knows your loops and is in the prime position to help you break disserving thought patterns.
Sometimes as a gentle reminder, and other times calling you out. In a loving way.
Where few others will give you the needed jolt, your partner can — in a low-stakes setting. When done lovingly, challenging your thoughts and beliefs grows you into a balanced human.
What’s one thing that the military and professional sports teams have in common?
Brotherhood (and sisterhood).
People with a tight bond that feels like kin. So close that they’re willing to take a bullet for each other.
This bond comes from sharing intense, emotionally charged experiences together. And what better stimulus than grueling workouts?
Sharing physical exercise forges a powerful knowingness. During a time of vulnerability, showing up and supporting your other. From performing a BFR training session anywhere in the world, to spotting each other through painful but effective super slow strength training. Partners that workout together stay together.
Learn New Skills
New challenges grow the brain. Similar to physical exercise sessions, learning something new gives you a shared mental workout.
Pick something that you both care about. Something that you’ve wanted to master (or at least grasp).
What you learn matters less than your mutual interest, and dedication to picking it up. Schedule the new activity or skill development into both your calendars.
Some great learning activities to share with your partner include:
- Puzzles and games
- DIY projects
- New languages
- HRV training
Last year we began practicing a style of dance called Bachata. Aside from the sensuality, we learned to tune into and match each other’s rhythm.
Explore the world while many of its wonders remain intact.
Experiencing different cultures together contrasts your familiar lifestyle. Putting you both into the unknown. Gauge how your partner reacts to the unexpected, and you’ll get to know each other on a deeper level. International travel teaches how to manage uncertainty and spontaneity. Great for those of us that typically follow rigid routines.
Other cultures also show that many alternative paths lead to the same successful outcome. Adding new tools to your toolbox for future situations. Then you can choose your ideal path — whether or not it aligns with your culture’s standard.
And a reminder that (most of us) will survive gluten, a little less sleep than normal, and supplement-free days for short periods.
Judging by the effects on your brain and body, light should be considered a drug.
Early morning light naturally wakes you up and stimulates a healthy cortisol spike.
Bright blue light at night can do the biological equivalent of a shot of espresso. My article on how to sun gaze covers the details and benefits of this 5,000 year-old practice.
To summarize, sun gazing improves vision, resets circadian rhythm, reduces cravings and appetite, boosts energy, and enhances sleep.
Watching the morning sunrise is a meditative practice. The stillness, quiet (even in New York City), and ambiance are unmatched. Words cannot do justice to regularly sharing sunrises and sunsets.
But if you can’t get natural light, modern technology can help. For about $150, you can make your own therapeutic homemade near infrared sauna. Near infrared is a type of light that relaxes and restores the body.
Or, spend a little more and upgrade to a top red light therapy panel (see my review of the Luminousred Model 2 Pro to know why) to get the benefits of near infrared light and the healing power of deep red.
Both routes synchronize your circadian rhythms and provide a nice serotonin-induced mood boost. All while improving your health together.
Have you ever made eye contact with a stranger and felt some sort of mutual connection?
If you haven’t experienced it yourself, science has repeatedly shown that eye contact triggers feelings of personal connection. This 2003 study showed that the longer strangers make eye contact, the greater their attraction.
Eye gazing is essentially long, sustained, usually intimate eye contact.I’ll admit that the concept of eye gazing sounds strange.
The benefits outweigh the initial awkwardness.
More recent 2017 research found eye gazing to break down the boundaries between two people.
Other benefits include:
- Increasing trust
- Building intimacy
- Recognizing emotion
- Deepening connection
Practicing is simple enough:
- Set a timer for as long as necessary. 30-seconds is a fine starting point, and eventually you can work up to 10-20 minutes.
- Sit together. Optionally touch or hold hands
- Softly gaze into your partner’s eyes
- Allow yourself to blink as necessary, and gently sync your breathing
You’ll emerge from the session feeling aligned.
Breath is one of few automatic bodily processes that you can voluntarily control.
You can modify your breathing for peak sports performance, use the Wim Hof Method “fire breathing” to increase your tolerance to stress, box breathing for instant stress reduction, or the 4-7-8 technique to unwind after a long day.
Deliberate breathwork floods the body with a potent cocktail of hormones and neurotransmitters.
Like sharing light therapy, regularly breathing together is a healthy and fun bonding activity. You’ll learn to tap into the way you and your partner feel quickly.
Outside of breathwork sessions, from their breathing alone, you’ll pick up on subtle cues to discern how they’re doing.
With practice, you’ll start to notice how others feel based on their breathing patterns too.
Follow the lead ofnegotiators, and expert communicators by understanding this form of non-verbal connection.
Understand the Masculine and Feminine
All the study in the world does no good without hands-on experience.
Masculine and feminine are two energies that everyone feels and exhibits. In different and constantly fluctuating ratios. Regardless of gender, and even in same-sex relationships.
These two energies lie on opposite poles. The stronger the feeling of one, the weaker the other.
In successful relationships, the partners sit on opposite ends of the spectrum. Usually, it happens without intentionality.
As David Deida in The Way of the Superior Man (yes, not the best name, but an interesting book) explains, understand masculinity and femininity and you’ll get why archetypical:
- Men explain logically and rationalizes without feeling.
- Women say things that she “doesn’t really mean” and ignores the “facts”.
These stereotypes don’t always hold true, but they build awareness of what “mode” you’re in.
I also recommend John Gray’s book Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus for a deeper exploration and practical ways to come together by acknowledging the differences between the two.
Nothing will help you see things from your partner’s perspective as well as studying these two poles.
Date someone long enough, and you’ll get to know their smallest quirks. When and where their mind wanders.
Daydream for a split second and they notice.
Your partner can help you overcome today’s ADD-inducing context switching. To fully hear each other and engage in an entire conversation without distraction.
To stay present and develop focus. Without a formal meditation session.
Benefits of presence and increasing attention span carry over to other relationships, your career, your hobbies, and general mental health.
Once you master the healthy physical stressors of breathwork, light therapy, and physical exercise, you’re ready for one of my favorites… Temperature.
Modern humans have become shockingly fragile. Moving from one air-conditioned room to another. On the other end, centrally-heated apartments, warm showers, and electric blankets shield us from mildly uncomfortable winters.
Until eventually one day you don’t have the comfort of artificial insulation from the environment.
Build personal resilience, the ability to thrive anywhere, by learning to tolerate extreme temperatures together:
- Heat: saunas, steam rooms, infrared light
- Cold: cold showers, ice baths, cryotherapy
Start with a simple and painless cold shower.Slow and deepen your breathing. For the last 30-seconds of your shower flip it to cold. Talk to your partner. Show your support. With practice, you’ll be ready to transition to endorphin-producing and mood-boosting cold baths.
Conversely, you can learn to tolerate high temperatures. Get or build your own sauna. Or visit your local gym. Begin with just a few minutes. Work your way up longer and longer. Meditate. Stretch. Do some light movement. Breathe together.
No matter how you feel at the start, extreme temperatures shift your mind and body into a calmly focused flow state.
Push Each Other
Good relationships feel like a mirror. Giving you different perspectives, but always showing what you need most.
Sometimes that’s support when you’re down. Other times it’s an ego-check. Yet others it’s friendly competition. Your partner should push you to grow in healthy ways. Whether in your career, personal life, fitness, recovery, or just living authentically.
Gamify your health together. Get a wearable like the Oura Ring, Biostrap, or other device and compete. You can use a platform like InsideTracker to measure core vitals and build healthy lifestyle habits around your personalized needs as individuals and together. Or at least compare notes and hold each other accountable.
In my house, we check each other’s Oura scores. Though the numbers might be a little off, every day we connect and talk about what we see and how we feel. We help the other person come up with things they can try to improve.
And as we know from “Blue Zones” — hot spots where people regularly live to 100+ (see my top healthspan tips here), the social component of health is among the best correlated with how long you’ll live.
EFT & EcoMeditation
Inevitably you’ll go through negative experiences and feelings. One partner gets offended and reacts, and the other gets hurt. Over time, these negative experiences lead to a pattern. Perpetuated patterns lead to trauma.
I use two tools to combat this, EFT tapping and EcoMeditation. These allow you to take a step back and diffuse situations before they escalate.
By neutralizing the emotions, you relax and communicate clearly and effectively.
EcoMeditation is the culmination of multiple research-backed practices. Benefits carry over to other facets of your life:
- 5X your productivity
- Improve problem-solving skills by 490 percent
You’ll feel your physiology shifting within about 90 seconds.
“We always see our unavowed mistakes in our opponent” — Carl Yung
The ego protects itself by denying impulses and qualities in oneself. Instead, it attributes them to others.
Projection flows both ways. You project onto your partner, and they project onto you. This passive defense mechanism happens via the subconscious and does not accurately reflect reality.
It occurs when we interact based on assumption over what we’re “certain” we know what they think or their underlying character.We see others not as *they* are, but as *we* are. Click To Tweet
Projection generally comes out as:
Two aids I’ve found that help with projection include:
- Becoming aware of projection in your relationships. Question blame and attributions. Both the ones that you make, and those that others put on you.
- Pure authenticity. Sharing your authentic self mitigates projection, as you’re seen more accurately. Which in turn, enoucrages others to share their truths, helping you understand them better.
Just like the brain never stops rewiring, humans continue adapting and changing throughout life. We’re malleable creatures, largely molded by our environment.
With time, love, and care, we take on some of the characteristics of our partner. Personalities constantly bend, mold, and fuse.
No one is immune. Even the hardest-headed, Type-A, independent folks will change as a result of working to improve.
Towards the start of the relationship, take inventory of your core personality and qualities. Start identifying how your partner compares and contrasts. Recognize that for each item, you’ll both meet somewhere in the middle.
By building the relationship, you’re implicitly accepting these terms.
Occasionally reflect on your progress and where the relationship has led.
Any successful long-term relationship tests your patience.
Everyone goes through countless ups and downs. The handling of those situations, however, will in part determine its longevity.
Long, drawn-out fights leave both parties drained, resentful, and apprehensive about the future.
Instead, make the conflict a game. The winner is the first person to de-escalate the situation. Accomplish this by:
- Listening to them
- Understanding them
- Demonstrating understanding by narrating their perspective, but in your own words
- Comforting them
- Preventing this from happening in the future by coming up with a game plan
Of course, don’t suppress the way you feel. Once the emotional charge calms, discuss the situation from your perspective. When you’re on the receiving end, proactively solicit your partner for their wants and needs.
De-escalating when emotions run high is uncomfortable and tricky. You want to be heard. To first assert yourself and your needs. When both partners do this, things spiral downward. Take it slow.
De-escalation gets easier and more natural with practice.
Whether you keep tally and make the de-escalation game competitive doesn’t matter. When both partners focusing on de-escalation, you’ll quickly move beyond fights to spend more time connecting.
Fill Your Tank
For a while, I thought that random acts of grand spontaneous love would show commitment. To show my partner that I thought about her.
The big gestures communicate love but in a fleeting way.
The real currency of a relationship is trust. Grow it every through your micro-actions. Things like random texts, helping them with projects, small tokens of appreciation, genuine interest in their life, and many others.
Weigh your actions through the lens of how they’ll affect:
Think of each good day like a small deposit into a bank account. One big fight, on the other hand, can deplete your balance.
What communicates love vaires from person to person, so check with your partner.
“First seek to understand, then to be understood” — a relationship cliche
Hearing is not the same as listening which also differs from understanding.
The ears involuntary hear (perceive) sounds.
One step further is listening, which requires (shallow) interpretation, concentration, and presence. Without formulating your next response while in the middle of their sentence.
Last and most important, comes understanding. Which only results from active listening and a desire to see the situation from their position. It involves an information exchange between the body and mind. To replay, articulate, and build on their view better than they did. Called “steel manning”. Steel manning shows that you fully get them.
Few people ever feel deeply understood. I’ve found that when one partner experiences it, they want to reciprocate and hear the other.
The Invisible Passenger
Do you ever say or do things that you wish you didn’t? Natural instincts seemingly yanked a reaction out of you?
Natural instincts aren’t completely natural. Much of our personality comes from the first few years of life. Our earliest experiences with family and our environment.
We never really “leave” relationships. Any close relationship leaves its mark.
As we go from one to the next, we carry the experiences, patterns, and trauma of our previous relationships with us.
They come out in seemingly random but automatic behaviors or words. Scrutinize them long and close, however, and you’ll discover a deeper cause. Sometimes this takes the work of a skilled therapist. Other times you can do it on your own.
Knowing your early roots gives you a starting place to work from. When you feel that same pathway getting activated, you’ll understand what’s happening and can make amends.
At the same time, your partner has their own instincts. Talk through your early experiences together. Talk through your other relationship. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Uncover your roots together, and be patient.
Poison of Indifference
In a relationship, the opposite of love isn’t hate. But rather, indifference.
With hate, you’re still trying.
You’re still talking.
You’re still caring.
You’re even still fighting.
Though the message is wrong, hate still puts energy into the other person. Hate is pain from trying or expecting to get the other person to change.
Indifference is a numbness that comes from giving up. When passion dies, we put up a protective wall to block future dangers. We go off on our own, doing what we please without regard for our partner.
Identify and work through indifference ASAP, or the relationship will dissolve.
How to Bioharmonize Your Love Relationship
Your life partner can either elevate your life or drag you down.
Fast or slow.
The peaks and valleys of relationship drama can outdo even the most physically intense days. Before committing, your relationships warrant thorough investigation.
Do you want to build something powerful?
If so, do you have the required time, energy, and emotional resources?
If not—no shame—the time might not yet be right.
From adventuring through life’s most special situations together to overcoming physical discomfort.The fruits of life are sweetest when shared Click To Tweet
I’m new to all of this. For the relationship veterans out there…
What are your top relationship tips & hacks?