Work went late, it took forever to drive home. You went to the gym after dinner and you’re tired. Then, you get that text from your significant other, “I’m going to bed, I’ll talk to you tomorrow [insert miscellaneous fluff here].” It occurs to you that you know nothing of how the day or even the week has been on the other side of the phone. The relationship guilt sets in.
These days, everyone is busy. I can’t think of an occasion in the past year in which I spoke to someone who claimed to have buckets of free time. Although some are busier than others, it is undeniable millennials are busy these days. But what does that mean for relationships?
I would in no way call myself a relationship expert. In fact, I often tell my significant other that I am constantly blindfolded in the love game. However, if there is one thing I do know about relationships, it’s that work, school, and friends and family can challenge relationship maintenance. It often feels as though we can choose only two or three. Below are five tips for successfully maintaining all of the above.
1. Evaluate Your Priorities
Personally, I think we should do this often no matter what. However, it’s especially important to evaluate our priorities when we are concerned that our relationships are suffering because of our busy schedules. I’m sure I’m not alone in the sentiment that “cutting back” my activity level is the worst type of failure. I makes me feel as if I haven’t given myself the chance to fail.
However, cutting back doesn’t necessarily mean doing less for the sake of your relationship. It often means recognizing what is most important and what is less important. Then distributing your time accordingly.
Of course, maintaining your relationship doesn’t mean you have to skip yoga to sit on the couch. You can prioritize your relationship by bringing your significant other to yoga with you. (@ my significant other, who I like to drag to yoga with me).
If watching Orange is the New Black is low-priority but still necessary to your mental health, skip a few nights a week or opt to use it for “Netflix and chill.” If you’re in a long-distance relationship and knitting a sweater for your grandma is a top priority, put your significant other on speaker phone while you do it. If you have a huge paper due in two days, sit with your significant other while you write.
Multitasking may hinder productivity, but relationships aren’t about productivity. There are only 24 hours in a day, but we can maximize those hours by prioritizing as much as possible.
2. Identified Individual and Shared Goals
Once you’ve prioritized effectively, identify your individual goals, the goals of your significant other, and your shared goals, and apply them to your relationship. If an individual goal is to get a Master’s Degree, consider making a shared goal to do so before you consider cohabitating.
Likewise, identify where your individual goals and your significant other’s goals clash, and if it’s not a deal breaker, work to compromise for your shared goal. If your significant other wants to get engaged within the next two years, but you want to wait until you’ve graduated medical school in three, identify this conflict of interest and discuss your options with your significant other.
Communication and commitment are key in every relationship, but it is important to communicate your long-term desires as well as your short-term ones.
3. Prioritize Communication
As I mentioned above, communication is key in every relationship. However, it’s much easier to communicate positive feelings than negative ones when you’re super busy. It’s easy to send a text saying “Thank you so much for the flowers! I appreciate your support, I love you! [insert more fluff].”
It’s not so easy to send a text saying “I have to stay at work late again even though I promised I would stop.” Or “I’m too busy to go out this weekend but I don’t want you to hang out with [insert name of conniving lunatic here] without me.” Or even “You keep doing [insert series of annoying habits] and it’s driving me crazy.”
Communicating negative feelings, especially those of jealousy or discontent in the relationship, often requires a face-to-face discussion. Or at the very least a phone call. This can be a pain when you already have 30 hours worth of things to do in a 24 hour period.
However, putting off certain conversations can be harmful to both parties in a relationship. Talking it out should always be a top priority. It is also important to be emotionally intelligent when you’re busy and contact or time with your significant other is limited. It’s important to try to recognize if your significant other is having negative feelings even when you don’t have a plethora of time to discuss it.
4. Remember the Little Things
Remembering the little things is hardest when you’re busy, but that’s also when it’s most important. Knowing that your significant other takes coffee with milk instead of cream is challenging when you have a million things to remember. But making the effort is key.
Spending quality time together goes beyond just being around each other. Part of being in a relationship is getting to know and knowing another person. Making the extra effort to remember tiny details expresses to your partner how much you care. This is especially important during busy times when you’re a little distant.
5. Love Love
Love is what makes relationships worthwhile. Despite the stress that may come with being in a relationship, love should be what keeps you there. Above all, the key to being in a relationship when your life is hectic is to love the love and love the relationship.
These tips don’t just apply to romantic relationships. Our relationships with friends family, and coworkers can all be strained by the busyness of those involved. No matter how long your to-do list is, call your mom, make small talk with your boss and remember your friends’ birthday. Not all relationships are meant to last a lifetime, but busyness doesn’t need to end them.