You might be married, in a new relationship, or living with a partner. No matter what romantic situation you’re in, working on your relationship is a must. Love in the everyday world starts very much like what you see in movies. You find yourself saying he or she is ‘the one’, you think about them constantly, and you lie awake talking and cuddling all night.
This initial stage of any romantic relationship is known as ‘infatuation’ or ‘limerence’. It is when you get butterflies every time you kiss. Still, if you’ve ever made it past the two or three year mark, you’ll notice that things start to become a little predictable; even a little stagnant. The butterfly feeling is sporadic at best, and the romance has transmuted into something more like a deep and caring friendship.
Don’t worry: this is normal. This next phase of love is known as the ‘companionate love’ phase. The bond between you is actually stronger than ever and not reliant on a warm fuzzy feeling in the pit of your stomach.
Still, with the alarming divorce rates of modern times, it’s easy to assume that when the butterflies disappear, the love does too. So how on earth do you make sure your relationship isn’t doomed? What exactly makes a relationship last?
Before entering into any relationship, you have to be emotionally mature enough to handle some uncomfortable truths. No matter how much you love the person, there are going to be good and bad times in the years ahead. True love and partnership is about much more than the honeymoon ‘head-over-heels’ phase.
If you want your relationship to last, you have to prepare yourself for times when your significant other will annoy you, make you cry, or even hurt you deeply. This is life. Humans are complex, and we often hurt those we care about the most. Do not enter into a relationship thinking it will be constant romantic candlelit dinners and rose petals on the bed. Life simply does not operate like a chick flick. Real life includes times when you have morning breath, when cosying up on the couch to watch TV becomes date night, and you order pizza because you’re both too tired to go out for dinner.
Come to terms with this reality, and it is much more likely that your relationship will go the extra mile.
Be Happy and Healthy; Avoid Codependency
Have you ever gone through a phase where you’re simply unhappy? The work grind is wearing you down, you look in the mirror and feel ugly, and the friends you used to love hanging out with are now a chore to be around? If you’re in a situation like this, the last thing you want to do is find a relationship just to fill the void.
You should never seek out romance because you’re unhappy, because the result will be a highly toxic relationship. You will most likely become codependent. Co-dependency is when a romantic relationship evolves into something where each participant becomes entirely dependent on the other. They stop seeing old friends, stop doing activities they used to enjoy, and cut off ties with other connections in their life. Their entire life becomes centred on their romantic partner. This is not healthy. First, this relationship will never stand the test of time, because this intensity simply will not last forever. One or the other will become disillusioned after a period of time.
Where does this leave you, if you’re the one still clinging on? In a word of hurt, that’s where.
So, before you go diving into your next relationship, make sure you’re not just doing so in order to try to find some sense of happiness. Work on achieving some level of contentment first, and then your future relationships will be much healthier and much more likely to last.
Just Be You: Flaws and All
It sounds so simple, but being yourself can be quite difficult. This is especially true if you don’t really like who you are, have low self-esteem, or are an introvert. Have you ever met someone you’re romantically attracted to and measured what you say to them? I’m sure many of us have. It’s tempting to pretend you’re someone you’re not, but putting up a facade will lead to nothing but disaster in the future. Let me give you an example:
You’re the shy, reserved type. You meet this guy or girl who is very extroverted. They do things like ask what underwear you’re wearing over message. You blush when you read this message. Now, as a shy, reserved type, do you honestly feel comfortable sending a saucy response? The answer is no. If you are brave enough to actually be yourself, you will answer honestly:
‘Cringe, this is not my sort of flirting’ or ‘oversized cotton ones with a sheep design’ (who says introverts can’t have a sense of humor). If you’re an introvert and you find yourself pretending to be an extrovert, you’ll respond with something like:
‘Black silk’ or something ridiculous (only people in movies wear black silk when they’re sitting at home on the couch). This is an occasion where you had the chance to be yourself and instead you put on a facade. This flirtation will never develop into a long-lasting relationship. Who cares if they laugh at you when you tell them about your cotton underwear? At least you know you can delete their number and find someone who accepts you for who you are. Life is not sex and the city. Real people wear cotton underwear.
Instead of trying to mould yourself into what someone else wants you to be, find the significant other who will appreciate your sense of humor, and not the lingerie you choose.
Don’t Get Too Comfortable
Once you find that special person who doesn’t mind when you don’t brush your hair, you don’t want to fall too far off the ledge either. Getting too comfortable in a relationship isn’t just about letting your physical appearance go down the tubes. It is much more than this, and it is something you want to avoid.
Getting too comfortable includes slowly stopping doing things you used to do for your partner. Perhaps it was your thing to take the trash out, and now you forget. Maybe you used to make home-cooked meals every other night, and now they’re lucky to get one a week. It’s not that the things themselves are important, but they speak of something else altogether: effort. When you don’t take physical pride in yourself, when you lose the motivation to cook something nice, or when you no longer do your share of the chores, you are saying that you don’t care enough about the relationship anymore to put any effort in.
So, next time you think your relationship may be in danger, examine all of these things. There is almost certainly something here that you have neglected. If you genuinely want your relationship to last, these tips will help you along the way.
Published author, university lecturer, PhD.