14 Canadian love experts weigh in with their most insightful advice.
REVERSE THE GOLDEN RULE “Treat your partner how they want to be treated. I like that this requires you to really get to know someone else’s needs and insecurities. We don’t all want the same things out of a relationship, but if you commit to someone and really invest in them, you owe it to them to figure out what they want from love and do your best to offer it.” – Mandy Len Catron, who’s based in Vancouver, is the founder of thelovestoryproject.ca, a blog about love stories.
LOSE AN ARGUMENT “Economists measure bargaining power in relationships as the probability that you will get your own way whenever there is disagreement. Happier relationships are those where that bargaining power is shared evenly. No one likes to constantly be on the losing side of a battle; that is just as true for the person you love as it is for yourself.” – Marina Adshade is an economist at the University Of British Columbia and author of The Love Market: What You Need to Know about How We Date, Mate and Marry.
FIND A FRIEND WITH BENEFITS “To meet new people, you need a friend with an ‘open world view.’ This means that he or she is open to chatting with people and doing silly, spontaneous things in new circumstances. Don’t go out with big groups to meet someone. Your best friend might not be the person to go out to bars or parties with if all you’re going to do is chat with each other. You need someone with a ‘say yes’ attitude.” – Alexandra Chong, who’s based in London, England, is co-founder of the dating app Lulu, which allows women to rate men on a variety of criteria.
CHOOSE WISELY “Do not compare yourself to other people or try to shape yourself to be like someone else. Often, people concern themselves with ‘Will this person like me?’ or ‘Will this person want to be with me?’ but think about the fact that you are not only being chosen; you are also the chooser.” – Barbara Morrison is a Saskatoon-based couples therapist.
WORK THROUGH YOUR PAST “A lot of people seek the love they didn’t receive when they were younger. Gaps, broken hearts that have been ignored or previous experiences that haven’t been unpacked don’t disappear. These things can break down a healthy relationship without us being conscious of it. We all have to be engaged in the process of working through our own histories so that we are able to be good to our partners and ourselves.” – Debra Macleod, who’s based in Calgary, is a therapist specializing in infidelity.
LOOK FOR WHAT’S EASY “It’s a lie that relationships ‘take a lot of work.’ When a couple is naturally compatible and motivated to maintain emotional and physical intimacy, relationships hum along pretty nicely. Yes, there are times when you have to recommit to each other and struggle through life’s challenges. But if you’re constantly fighting to get along or having to talk things out, then you’re not meant for each other.” – Kim Katrin Milan, who divides her time between Toronto and New York, is an educator who often speaks about love in the queer community.
BE THERE FOR THE GOOD STUFF “When we talk about relationship advice, we often focus on how to deal with the bad stuff: disagreements, setbacks and stressful events. But a growing body of research suggests that how you deal with the good stuff is just as important. Expressing excitement and enthusiasm when your partner succeeds, and being there to celebrate their achievements with them, can go a surprisingly long way toward making them feel supported.” – Samantha Joel is an Austin-based psychologist studying how we make decisions in relationships.
KNOW YOUR EXPECTATIONS “Mismatched or unspoken expectations are a big challenge in a relationship. This is directly linked to the myth of the soulmate and the idea that if your partner really loves you, he or she should just know what you need, want or mean – which is completely unfair. You can change this by regularly checking in about what you feel or want. This has to be a conversation, but it won’t be effective unless you understand where your own expectations come from.” – Reva Seth is the Toronto-based author of First Comes Marriage: Modern Relationship Advice from the Wisdom of Arranged Marriages.
STAY FOCUSED “Most people put their relationships on the back burner once they feel that that part of their life is locked down. But commitment is when the work really begins. Don’t say ‘Now that I’ve conquered finding love, it’s time to focus on my career, my friends, my car collection.’ Say ‘How can we keep our relationship healthy, fulfilling, stimulating and sexy?’ Set aside a weekly or biweekly date for setting goals for the future, talking about your interests and reaffirming your love.” – Kimberly Moffit, who’s based in Toronto, is a psychotherapist and couples counsellor.
EMBRACE CHANGE “I think one of the most challenging things a relationship can face is sudden, traumatic change. For us, it happened eight years ago, when my husband suffered a traumatic brain and spinal-cord injury at work. In a split second, our whole world changed. We survived by allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and honest and kind with each other, and even when we were hurting, we made each other laugh. We advocated for each other, threw out the old expectations and committed ourselves to creating a new kind of life.” – Kara Stanley, who’s based in Halfmoon Bay, B.C., is the author of Fallen, a book about her husband’s injury.
DEAL WITH DIFFERENCES “Avoiding dealing with big issues out of fear of losing someone is a recipe for an unhealthy relationship. Ask yourself if you can accept and live with the differences in the long term. Address them up front, discuss them, talk about your reservations and see if there is room for compromise. If there is no willingness on either side to compromise, then gracefully end the relationship before making a major commitment.” – Edel Walsh is a Vancouver-based couples counsellor.
TEAR UP THE SCRIPT “Look beyond the ‘script’ that relationships are supposed to follow: meet ‘the one,’ date, have sex, get married, have kids, die. It helps to stand back and look at the big picture to see how society is feeding us these models and creating pressure to conform. If we resist the pressure to change ourselves, love will change to meet our needs and not vice versa.” – Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins, who’s based in Vancouver, is the founder of The Metaphysics of Love Project, which explores romantic love from a philosophical perspective, at the University of British Columbia.
DEVELOP UNSHAKABLE LOVE “The hardest challenge for interfaith relationships is gaining the acceptance and approval of families. But persistence and determination, driven by unshakable love for each other, helps people through it. In a world where divorce rates continue to climb and communities and countries continue to fight over differences, it’s refreshing and reassuring when you meet people in love who have overcome their differences by being open, respectful and accepting of each other’s beliefs.” – Jennifer Rodrigues is the Toronto-based project manager for The Interlove Project, which captures black-and-white images of interfaith couples.
EXPLORE MINDFUL MEDITATION (FOR BETTER SEX) “Pioneering research has shown that mindfulness techniques can help boost sensation and reduce distraction and negative thoughts during sex – common issues faced by women. In other words, it helps you be present. The next time you’re making love, try to focus your attention on the sensations in your body (rather than worrying about what you should be feeling) and see what happens.” – Sarah Barmak is the Toronto-Based author of Closer: Notes from The Orgasmic Frontier of Female Sexuality.
Text compiled by Sarah Treleaven