All of my life I heard that relationships take work. That sounded pretty shitty to me. As a mainly B- student for most of my grade school years, the last thing I wanted was to take on more work, so why would I want to be in a long relationship? My parents didn’t seem that happy, and ended up divorcing when I was 18, so I formed an idea in my mind that marriage was too hard and typically didn’t work out…at least not if you wanted to be happy. I desperately wanted to believe in the fairytale, that you just meet someone perfect and live happily ever after.
Underneath the surface, I was yearning to know what you needed to do for a relationship to last. I’d ask anyone I met who had been married over 20 years what their secret was. And now, being married myself, I realize that yes, it does take work. But not the kind of work I thought. There are just some key things you need to do for a relationship to last, so here are 15 important ones:
1. Choose to love each other when some days you don’t even like each other.
I’ve been in enough relationships now to know that there will be times you don’t really like the person you’re with. You may even look at them in disgust wondering, “how was I at one time so in love with him?”
I used to feel that way about an ex-boyfriend of mine on occasion and break up with him, only to rekindle things a few months later, madly back in love again. That is not what I’m advocating here. What it did help me to realize though is that there are going to be times where you don’t like your partner, but the feelings can later return again. If you want your relationship to last, you have to be willing to wait out those feelings and start anew.
2. Don’t stop being who you are.
The biggest fear to me about getting married was the thought of losing the confident, independent person I was. The version of me who rode her bike through the streets of Boston, not a care in the world, music blasting in her ears. Who got into Harvard graduate school just because she wanted to. Who did her hair and got dressed up because she liked the way it made her feel. Who moved to a farm on Hawaii because she needed a bit of a change.
This part of me was very much real and very much loved. However, there was the other part of me who wanted a home, and family, and comfort. I was terrified that this other part of me would dominate the first part, leaving me parched and dry and grasping for thrilling nourishment.
If you want your relationship to last do not ever stop being who you really are. It’s why your partner fell in love with you in the first place. Things might change a bit, but don’t allow them to change so much that you become unrecognizable to yourself. I created a free training to help you find a soul fulfilling relationship here.
3. Understand your blueprint.
Growing up we all create a notion of what love is supposed to be like. If you came from the perfect family who had a perfect marriage, you might believe that love is prioritizing each other and sticking together no matter what. If your father was always busy and absent, you might have come to believe that love is lonely. If you watched too many Disney movies like me, you might have grown up believing in a Prince Charming who would rescue you. Or if you had a very strong independent mother you might have grown up believing that you must rescue yourself, every single day.
The point is that you have your own love blueprint and your partner has one, too. They’re probably going to look different, which is where a lot of conflict can enter into a relationship. I have a client whose parents have been married for 40 years and made her a priority. She often accuses her boyfriend of not being there enough in which his reply is, “but I spend more time with you than I do with anyone else in the world.” I helped her to realize that she had a certain love blueprint that her boyfriend didn’t necessarily understand.
You can’t force your partner to change their blueprint, so instead ditch the script. Realize that there’s no “right way” of being in a relationship, so try to walk in your partner’s shoes and see things from their perspective.
4. Own your 50.
I’m not talking about “two halves make a whole” here. I do believe that you’re a whole person, finding another whole person, and entering into a relationship together. However, once in the relationship you have to own your 50% of that new whole. When conflict arises in a long-term relationship, we often want to blame our partner.
If he didn’t say it like that, I wouldn’t have gotten so upset.
If he stopped playing video games and would do some cleaning once in a while, I could relax.
If he called me like I asked, I wouldn’t have to get jealous and insecure.
These are just some examples of things that I hear from clients. It’s not to say that these aren’t valid points, but realize that they are only part of a complete truth. Before blaming anything on them, you have to first own your 50. Ask yourself if there was anything you could have done differently? Did you own your own emotions or just blame them on your partner?
5. Forgive and forget.
Long-term relationships take a lot of forgiving if you want them to work. If you place a million rules on your partner, you are most likely going to wind up disappointed at some point when they inevitably (because they are human) break them. Therefore first and foremost, relax your rules.
If you truly feel hurt by something you then have a choice. On one hand. you can choose to leave. Even in marriage, it is still a choice. In fact, I think this enhances a marriage, to remember that you always have choice. You’re not ‘stuck’ in a marriage against your own free will. You still must choose each other, every single day.
On the other hand, you can choose to do the harder thing, which is to stay, work it out, and forgive. Forgiveness may take time, and that’s okay. But once you’ve gotten to a place of forgiveness, it is vital that you also forget. Don’t bring it up every single time you’re in a fight and angry…that’s not forgetting and it’s not true forgiveness.
Never ever forget that it is only when we refuse to accept anything less than a fully committed relationship that we find that is exactly what we eventually end up with in the end., if both you and your partner are willing to put in the work, and choosing each other over and over again.
You, my beautiful friend, deserve nothing less than this.