I have come to believe that there are certain qualities in most good relationships. Having these qualities doesn’t guarantee that your relationship will stand the test of time, but these can be a good yardstick for measuring the authenticity (and longevity) of your partnership. Below are nine ways that can make or break your relationship.
Do: Remember the passion you felt at the beginning and what brought you together.
Don’t assume that it’s natural for romantic feelings to subside in a long-term relationship.
The cornerstone for most relationships is that electric spark of attraction. You like the way the other person looks, sounds, moves, and interacts with you. You can’t get enough of their conversation, and you want to be closer to them. You trust them with your secrets. Embracing feels safe and exciting.
It’s a shame that so many couples lose touch with this initial sense of delight and magnetism. Modern life can be so busy that we forget to take a breath, pay attention to intimacy, and create space for desire and romance to flourish and grow. Over time, you may not want the same things you wanted in the beginning. That’s okay if your interests grow and change. Just don’t keep it to yourself. Your partner may find your new romantic interests exciting and want to explore them with you.
Do: Regularly express affection in a way that respects your partner’s boundaries.
Don’t let your daily schedule of responsibilities get in the way of touching base with your significant other.
It’s obviously a bad idea to demand a half-hour of cuddling from a partner who is coping with a child who is ill. Neither would you barge into a business meeting with the expectation of a lengthy kiss. But it’s a good idea to express to your partner that he or she is the most important person in your life. Exchange regular hugs and kisses and remind your partner that you love them by saying it.
Do: Define the ways that each of you understand commitment.
Don’t violate your partner’s trust or their ability to count on you to show up in ways that matter deeply to them.
This can’t be stressed enough. If either one of you no longer believes there is a mutual commitment to the relationship, it is over, whether that is acknowledged or not. Does your partner make you feel that way with their words and actions and the way they look at and touch you? Paying attention to these things will let you you know that someone’s commitment is real?
Do: Expect conflict and treat it as a natural occurrence that can be addressed.
Don’t ignore problems until they blow up, get exaggerated, cause resentment or cause you to fight. Address them as occur.
Two people will not magically become mind readers once in a relationship. You are individuals with overlapping interests, and you will not always agree on every goal, process, activity, or belief. Expressing those differences can, oddly enough, help keep passion alive. Romance flourishes in the space between two unique personalities.
Do: Avoid resentments
Don’t harbor a grudge against your partner. It will eventually destroy intimacy and they may not even be aware there is a problem.
Resentments are a big cause of un-coupling. The most effective way to eliminate resentment is to be honest with each other about issues that are causing you to feel this way. Express your displeasure and work on a satisfactory agreement to fix the problem. Relationships that cannot adapt or evolve are doomed.
Do: Share responsibilities
Don’t assume it’s okay to let your partner handle everything (finances, housework, childcare, etc.). They will become exhausted and resentful.
It is easy to make excuses about handling the business of the family. “But you are so good with the children.” Or “Your so much better at keeping track of our budget”. Nobody wants to be stuck doing the dishes every day, or always folding the laundry. When one partner feels that they do more than their fair share, they are less satisfied with the relationship. Share responsibilities and don’t always wait to be asked.
Do: Have conversations about the future.
Don’t avoid doing your part to create and maintain economic and emotional security and safety.
Where do you want to be in a year, ten years, and at retirement? Everyone defines security differently. It’s up to both of you to create a vision of a prosperous and happy future together. And it is also up to both of you to make significant contributions to achieving that vision.
Do: Be sure to take time alone to do things that you enjoy. Have your own friendship circle.
Don’t spend every minute with your spouse or neglect your friends and family. Being apart is a valuable opportunity to take a breath, develop personal interests, and learn to be comfortable on your own.
It’s far too easy to take someone for granted if they are always around. Everyone needs some down time for personal reflection and to pursue their own interests. Most productive and loving relationships involve a decent amount of alone time, After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Do: Have a sense of humor.
Don’t assume that play is just for kids. Devote some time to finding fun and entertainment together.
Adult play is so important for stress relief, and it is also a potential way to bond with one another. This may seem trivial, but I have found that couples who have stopped laughing, teasing, and joking with one another start drifting apart. You don’t have to be a merciless practical joker or the obnoxious person who makes a joke out of everything. But life does get us in a corner sometimes, and laughter is an important way to cope with the pressure. Lighthearted joking and banter are another way we express our love for one another and create relational security.
I hope this is helpful! If you have other suggestions please feel free to leave them in the comments. May love endure, grow, and be a part of all of our lives.