- Category: Love and Relationship Readings
- Last Updated on October 08, 2015
- Written by Dana Copeland
Committed, monogamous relationships are one of the cornerstones of modern society. As a people, we adore love. We like to talk about it, write about it, and read about it. We fall in and out of it with a gusto only rivaled by the rising and setting sun. But one thing that we aren’t sure of is how to maintain that love once the shiny newness has worn off our relationships.
With hard work and dedication, however, many of us can create healthy, lifelong emotional ties with a special someone. These seventeen guidelines in four major areas of love dynamics are designed to help build, strengthen, and maintain the long-term partnerships that most of us crave in the year 2016.
It is a much-talked-about skill that few have mastered, but everyone will benefit from learning how to do more effectively. One major way that we separate ourselves from animals is through language. Using language appropriately can stop fights in their tracks and bridge a stronger connection between you and your partner.
The philosopher Fyodor Dostoyevsky once said, “Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” Don’t let lack of communication destroy what you have with your partner. Open, honest communication is the first step to a healthy relationship.
Whether in normal conversation or disagreements, compromise is key. One should never aim to be the “winner” in conversation with a loved one. Instead, both parties should decide on a solution whose outcome each can be satisfied with. “Winning” and “losing” are for sports, not relationships. Often, no one really wins, and the relationship will suffer.
3. Get Specific
When fights do happen, be sure not to think of your partner or their actions in generalized ways. Instead of saying, “You never consider my feelings,” try, “I need for you to consult me when you make purchases, because it lets me know that you care.” Express your emotions in a calm manner that does not lay blame on one person or their hypothetical faults. You dislike the action, not the person.
Without clear cut boundaries, relationships can become sticky messes of co-dependence or abuse. Clear boundaries need to be set at the beginning of your relationship. Tell your partner what you think is acceptable or not. Boundaries should be explicitly stated and never crossed.
“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others,” says author and relationship expert Brene Brown.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T is more than just a song, and it means something different to everyone. Deep down, however, we all have similar feelings on the subject. We want it, and we don’t want to settle for relationships in which respect doesn’t factor high on the list of priorities. With respect, relationships grow and evolve in an organic, advantageous fashion. Without it, you risk a volatile and dangerous situation.
6. Trust and Honesty
Trust is one of the most vital aspects of a healthy relationship. Not only should you have trust your partner, your partner should have faith in you. If your partner doesn’t call right away, the worst case scenario should not be the first thing that pops into your mind. If it is, you need to examine why. Has your partner broken your trust or been dishonest? If not, you need to figure out why you think they will suddenly turn on you. However, if your partner has been dishonest, you need to decide if the relationship can be salvaged. Are you willing and able to rebuild that foundation of trust?
People have different opinions on privacy in relationships. Some people have an absolute “on the table” policy. Everything is always out in the open, passwords are shared, and phones are swapped without caution. Talking to one partner is just like talking to the other, because they tell each other everything.
Other people have more stringent limits about things like checking one another’s email or Facebook messages. This goes back to boundaries, and what each of us deems acceptable in a relationship. If you believe the privacy boundaries in your relationship are too strict, evaluate why you feel that way. Does this go back to a lack of trust or honesty?
A SHARED EXPERIENCE
Two people with a common bond are what make a relationship. When one partner is weak, the other must be supportive in order to keep the relationship afloat. Support means being there through the ups and the downs. There is a reason that marriage vows include stipulations for richer or poorer, in sickness and health. If you feel like you can rely on your partner, and they feel like they can rely on you, you are both more stable, and your bond will weather the storms of life.
Guidelines from the researchers at the University of Texas Austin state that, “Emotional support involves accepting your partner's differences and not insisting that he or she meet your needs only in the precise way that you want them met.” The groundwork of a relationship is in a common understanding of what the other needs as far as emotional backing.
They don’t call two people in a relationship partners for no reason. Each individual, regardless of gender, social standing, job status, or material wealth, should feel equal to the other. Relationships need not be power struggles. In fact, relationships in which neither partner has more power than the other are much stronger than relationships in which one partner is devalued as submissive or lesser. Strive for equilibrium to keep struggles over dominance to a minimum.
It is very important to love oneself if one wants to properly love another. In psychology, this advice comes frequently in most matters of the heart and mind. Without self-love, it is very difficult to have an equal, supportive, and respectful relationship. It is too easy for the stronger partner to become sovereign and take advantage of the vulnerability of someone with low self-esteem.
THE LITTLE THINGS
Relationships are a lot of work, but they don’t have to be all business. One important aspect of relationships is how much each partner enjoys it. When relationships are always somber, the joy of spontaneity is lost. One way to liven up an overly austere relationship is to imbue it with a sense of whimsy. Be playful. Not everything is life or death. Sometimes, you need to joke, laugh, and have fun to put a smile on each other’s faces. Partners who laugh together stay together.
Be enthusiastic about your partner. Do they feel passionate about something? Share their joy! When your partner discloses a dream, goal, or hope, prop them up by telling them how much you believe in them, in their goals, and your future together. Being a downer all the time, even if it feels like you’re just grounded in reality, is a buzz kill, especially for an idealist. Lightening up can work wonders for reviving the magic.
13. Physical Affection
One major component of relationships is physical touch. Whether it’s a kiss on the cheek on the way out the door, holding the hand of your partner while you walk down the street, or the light brush of a finger along a cheek in a tender moment, skin-to-skin contact brings us closer together. Even in times of high stress, when it can seem fruitless to engage in physical affection, strive to get a little closer. Sharing a kiss can do wonders to lift moods, especially if it leads to something more sensual.
Research by neuroscientist Edmund Rolls proved that touch activates the orbitofrontal cortex of the brain – the part that controls feelings such as compassion and reward. One of the perks of being in a commitment with another person is this ability to share feelings in a physical manner that transcends spoken language.
INDIVIDUALITY AND LOVE
14. External Interests
Being together all the time might seem like the recipe for a perfect relationship, but it’s easy for things to grow stale in the absence of oxygen. Breathe fresh life into your relationship by developing outside interests. If one partner is interested in pottery, but the other would rather study martial arts, each should feel free and be encouraged to pursue their own interests. The time apart will breed more things to talk about, and can help partners achieve a new kind of closeness that cleaving hand in glove to one another cannot.
15. Separate Identities
Take it one step farther and make sure that each partner has a distinct and separate identity. Nothing is more unnerving than meeting that couple who are carbon copies of one another. They dress alike, they talk alike, and if you engage them in conversation, they even have shared thoughts. From “We think,” to “We feel,” it can create the impression of a two-headed monster. Meditate on what makes you different, and cultivate those distinctive interests. Discuss them with your partner, and you may just find out that what makes each of you unique is actually complementary to each other.
Ernest Hemingway wrote in his book, Men Without Women, “The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special, too.”
16. Time and Space
Just like the two-headed monster of shared identities, couples who spend all their time together can start to live in a vortex of their own making. This can lead to separation from friends, family, and the rest of the world. Couples can start to feel like the world is passing them by.
This is where having separate interests, especially those that get one or both partners out of the house to meet new people, can come in handy. The old adage, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” is based in reality. Take some time apart to truly appreciate each other when you come back together.
17. Friend of a Friend
Outside interests and separate identities naturally lead to friendships outside the relationship. Be sure to encourage platonic relationships outside of the home. More than that, maintain your cordiality to your partner’s new friends, and appreciate what is unique about each new acquaintance you or your partner bring into your lives.
Cultivating friendships outside of the family has much to offer. Not only are new friends a rich source of unknown information, but they can become a sounding board and confidant. When a situation presents itself, and you are unsure of how to broach the subject or handle it effectively with your partner, a loyal and trusted friend will lend an ear and a word of advice.
Successful relationships take work, sacrifice, and understanding. Without an open mind and a giving heart, we are unable to forge the unsinkable, unbreakable bonds of genuine and permanent relationships. Dig deep within yourself, practice these seventeen tips, and do all things with compassion, and enduring love will triumph.