From a young age, we’re taught that we should be on the lookout for our soulmate: someone who completes — or at least complements — us. We learn that relationships are the basis for families and can be truly wonderful when you meet someone who just gets you. And sure, that’s true, but also, relationships are really hard work. That’s the part people tend to leave out of the conversation.
As humans, we’re constantly developing and growing as people, and there’s no guarantee that your partner will grow alongside you (though that’s definitely #relationshipgoals). As great as it would be to have a super easy relationship that just sort of happened on its own, that’s not the case for most people. Here are four ways to make a relationship last that can help couples at any stage.
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Things may be hot and heavy in the beginning of a relationship, but the phrase “the honeymoon’s over” exists for a reason: most couples progress beyond the early romantic love stage. And that’s when having compassionate love for your partner becomes even more important than ever. “This type of connection is more stable and predictable than passionate love, if less exciting,” Dr. Kelly Campbell writes at Psychology Today. “The couple’s bond can be described as deep, comfortable, and caring.” But at the same time, if a couple relies solely on compassionate love without any sort of passion or romantic spark, they may eventually transition into becoming close friends and roommates.
Make Sure Everyone Listens and Feels Heard
As close as we may be to our partners, they’re not mind readers, so if you’re feeling a certain way, let the person know. Ideally, they will listen to you, and you’ll do the same for them. As Sarì Harrar and Dr. Rita DeMaria write in Reader’s Digest, the single most powerful thing you can do to keep a relationship solid is to speak less and listen more. “Blame, insults, criticism and bullying predict a bad end, or at least a living hell,” they write. “When talk turns combative, don’t interrupt, offer a solution or defend yourself too soon.”
An integral component of communication is body language, both your own and your partner’s. Ask yourself, are you scrolling through your phone when your partner is talking to you? Are you fully present and listening to what they’re saying instead of just formulating your response? Are you taking defensive physical stances by crossing your arms and avoiding eye contact? These are all things to keep in mind while you’re speaking and interacting with each other.
Both Partners Must Be Committed
We’ve all seen — and maybe even been a part of — one-sided relationships, and know that they just don’t work. In order for a relationship to last, you both need to be committed and play on the same team. “Partners should believe in making the relationship work, no matter what,” Campbell writes at Psychology Today. “Many people enter marriage expecting it to last forever, but somewhere along the way, at least one partner changes their mind. It is vital to talk to your partner about their views on commitment: For example, do they believe in deal breakers? If so, what are they?”
Don’t Blame Your Partner for Everything
When things go wrong, it’s natural for us to want to assign blame to someone — ideally, not ourselves. And if we’re in a relationship, that blame may fall on your partner, regardless of whether or not it’s actually their fault. “It’s tempting to blame your partner when you feel angry, disappointed, bored, betrayed or stressed out about your relationship,” write Harrar and DeMaria. “The next step is seeing your mate as the one who must change for the relationship to improve. That’s a cop-out. Trying to improve your partner puts him or her on the defensive and casts you in a negative light. The result? Nobody changes. Nobody takes responsibility. Everyone is unhappy. And making your partner the bad guy means ignoring the 90 per cent of him or her that’s good.” Instead, be more introspective and take a closer look at yourself before automatically assigning blame to your partner.