Written by: Cally Worden
Finding a happy relationship is one thing. Keeping it is another thing altogether. We’re romantics at heart here at the Working Parent, so we have searched far and wide for wisdom on how to keep the love fires burning for the long-term. Here are the top 8 secrets we uncovered.
1. Accept that neither of you are perfect – in those early loved-up days of a new relationship it’s easy to imagine you have found your ideal match. You slot together seamlessly and seem to complement each other with every word and action. But as time goes on life kicks back in, the stress and mundanity of everyday living brings out all aspects of true selves. We all make mistakes. We’re all unreasonable sometimes. And we can all behave in ways that are, well, frankly less than loving. Long-term relationships endure because each partner accepts all aspects of their partner’s personality.
2. Learn to forgive – this follows on from point 1. As those imperfections come to light it’s necessary to forgive them. How easily and readily you forgive each other early in your relationship, sets the scene for tackling bigger issues later. Forgiveness is a vital part of healing. And long-term couples are generally more willing to take a step back and offer an olive branch.
3. Expect the sex to change – sexual intimacy takes many forms. In the early days of a relationship it is driven by passion, lust and a hunger to learn about each other’s bodies. As this urgency wanes it can be replaced by a different kind of need, perhaps focused around trying for a baby. And once children arrive, sex, may of necessity, become sporadic and hurried. As time goes on, one of you may be feeling insecure for some reason and for a time, sex may be about maintaining closeness and offering reassurance in the face of uncertainty. Sex can be affected by stress, your mood, your age and any number of other factors. The only thing for certain is that it will change. Happy long-term couples know, and accept this.
4. Activate your listening ears – I say this all the time to my kids, but it’s good advice in any relationship. As you and your partner get used to each other, life has a habit of creating white noise that can filter out the really important stuff. Take time to stop and really listen to what your partner is saying to you when they talk. Relax and absorb their words, read their body language and allow the possibility that these may contain hidden messages that you may have been missing. Strong relationships are built on mutual respect – you can’t respect someone if you don’t hear them.
5. Be nice to each other – sounds simple, right? But as relationships progress we tend to take them for granted. And when that happens we can sometimes unconsciously allow ourselves to treat our partners badly. Ridiculing your partner, talking down to them, or dismissing their thoughts and ideas out of hand are all sure signs that you’ve forgotten how to be nice. Being kind means having your partner’s back, being supportive of their endeavours and their issues. If you find yourself being a meanie ask yourself why? It’s often a sign of insecurity in the relationship. Time for an honest and open chat before you channel yourselves towards destruction.
6. Learn to be alone – although this sounds counter-productive to securing a long-term relationship it does actually work. The reason is that we are all individuals, with our own very personal needs. If you suppress your inner self for the good of your relationship and always do things together, then your individuality becomes diminished. You lose some of the spark that attracted your partner to you in the first place. Being alone helps you to feel refreshed and remain centred. It will ultimately allow you to express yourself more openly, which is one of the keys to long-term loving.
7. Allow yourself to be vulnerable – all relationships work on trust. If we have been hurt in the past, it can be difficult to open up to your partner for fear of being hurt again. But mutual vulnerability is like a glue that binds couples together. It allows you to find a connection on a deep level, which creates a bond that is hard to break.
8. Make couple time – it’s a clich√©, but so true. Children have a knack of taking over your world; while it’s only right that they receive a lot of attention from you, it’s vital not to lose sight of who you are as a couple. Happy long-term relationships are based on a strong connection between two grown-ups. This connection needs to be nurtured, without the little guys around. Because one day they won’t be there and you and your partner will just have each other again. The couple part needs to be loved just as much.