18 years ago I met a girl. I knew immediately that she was probably going to be my wife.

We had a short and pleasant conversation and I kept going back to the place she worked to see her often and then, a few weeks later we went on our first date.

It was a disaster. A few years later, we met again and after a short romance, we were married.

Fast forward to today, and we have two kids and we are also one of the coolest couples I’ve ever met.

That said, our relationship is far from being perfect, as we come from different backgrounds and have arguments from time to time — all couples do. However, we are always learning new tricks on how to communicate and (cough-cough) healthily resolve conflict.

One such tool is to choose to focus on the points of strength of our relationship with each-other.

Using humor to prevent pointless arguments

Couples should tease each other a lot, and we often use humor to deflect useless arguments.

When there is some tension and we are about to fight over something small, we have the habit of changing the tone of the conversation from upset to funny. Sometimes it works. My jokes are often quite dry  and sometimes Maria might take a bit of offense. I hope she doesn’t and when I realise she’s been hurt, I’ll apologize.

Sometimes we just use an inside joke and immediately switch from feeling bothered to laughing together. Or we make fun of each other and any small tension that could grow into a pointless argument fades away.

We still address the problem, but we do it playfully — and healthily.

Obviously, if a more serious issue arises, we sit down and talk, as we believe in the importance of resolving conflict.

How to apply this habit:

Whenever you feel you and your partner are about to fight over something small, try to use some humor. Humor! Not sarcasm!

According to a study conducted at the University of Kansas, humor is positively associated with relationship satisfaction. A simple inside joke can often help release the tension and has the power to resolve a small issue without the need to argue.

We communicate assertively

Some people have the habit of subtly expressing their negative feelings through their actions instead of addressing them assertively. Other people avoid conflict by completely shutting down when their partner calls them out on something.

Maria told me that until a few months ago, any time she tried to tell me something she didn’t like, I got defensive and sometimes even a bit nervous. And I would just shut down. So she felt unable to communicate her needs because she always found a “wall.

One day we talked about it and we realized that what triggered my defensive behavior was Maria’s attitude when bringing something up. Although she thought she was doing everything right, the way she addressed issues was the cause of many arguments?—?and she had no clue about that.

I explained to Maria what exactly I didn’t like and she understood how she had to communicate negative feedback to me.

On the other hand, I understood the importance of listening to her needs and learned how to be more open to receiving feedback.

We found a way to talk openly about our expectations and needs without upsetting each other or keeping things to ourselves, and things improved a lot from that moment on.

All this was possible thanks to assertive communication, which is much more effective than a passive-aggressive communication style.

How to apply this habit:

Never keep things to yourself. If you have to communicate your needs, make sure to do it respectfully, without making your partner feel criticized. Never blame or make your partner feel guilty for communicating their feelings.

Try not to lose your patience, and don’t tell them they are being “too sensitive.Learn to actively listen instead, and always create space for healthy and non-violent communication.

We spend time apart

We both love spending time alone, from time to time. In fact, while not  introverts, we both often need some time alone.

I know and understand this and always give her all the space she needs.

Sometimes we also spend time with our friends, or on their own hobbies.

While it’s important to spend quality time together, successful couples know that time apart helps each partner recharge. It keeps things exciting and fresh. When you focus on your dreams and passions, and have the ability to respect your significant other’s space, a healthy relationship can grow. The need to spend time apart is often overlooked.

How to apply this habit:

Always make sure you and your partner make enough time to pursue your dreams and focus on other areas of your life — like your career or your hobbies. When you have a fulfilling life, you bring positive energy into the relationship and massively contribute to its success.

We know consistent, small gestures are essential

I love to cook. And I take real pleasure in preparing some delicious meals for Maria and the boys. Frankly, I wish she’d eat more of them. This is one constant complaint I have.

We also try to make each-other’s life easier. For example, if we go out on an errand, we’ll often ask if we need something from the grocery store. It’s our way to show each-other we care.

We’ll say good morning every day, and check in often throughout the day.

The fact that we consistently do all these small things for each-other makes us fall in love a little more every day. All those small gestures help her feel grateful for being in a relationship with me.

How to apply this habit:

When you consistently make an effort to make things work, you nurture the relationship and make it solid and special.

Keep doing nice things for your partner, like complimenting them, bringing gifts from time to time, or preparing breakfast  (I should do more) — not only during the honeymoon phase of the relationship but even after months or years. Be an attentive partner.

We support each other

I know that whenever I have a difficult day Maria is there for me. She know’ I have her back. Also, anytime I have to share some good news Maria is the first person I’ll call. Because I know she’s my biggest fan.

Similarly, every time Maria feels satisfied for any job-related achievement, or something related to her passions — like presenting or making a sale — she can’t wait to call me or text me, because she knows I believe in her. She knows I’m is genuinely happy for her every time she succeeds.

If we’re planning to meet, but she asks for more time to finish some work, I’m is happy to give her all the time she needs. When things like that happen, she feels supported. That’s love.

I’m not only there on the other side desk or the phone if she needs to talk, but I try to also able to show I truly care through my actions.

How to apply this habit:

Being there for one another and being supportive through concrete actions is essential to make a relationship flourish. That’s real love. Understanding and respecting your significant other’s needs and priorities is the key to successful and healthy relationships.

No relationship is perfect. All couples have their ups and downs, even the seemingly perfect ones.

However, despite the challenges, all relationships have the potential to improve.

Using humor, communicating assertively, spending time apart, consistently doing nice things for each other, and supporting each other, are all habits that can make your relationship thrive.

Healthy love is possible. It’s all about the desire to make it work and respecting each other along the way.