1. Make sure you understand your partner’s needs—specifically, how they’re different from your own.
True love is rooted in authenticity—mutual respect and appreciation for each other’s weirdness, so to speak. Chances are, you have a lot in common with your significant other. But you also probably have some traits, habits, hobbies, dreams, and needs that diverge from theirs. Think long and hard about what makes you happy, inside and outside of your relationship, day-to-day and in the “bigger picture.” Then communicate your needs as you perceive them to the person you plan on building a life with, and don’t be afraid to let them know if anything changes along the way. The more you share, the better equipped your partner will be to love and support you along the way.
2. Anticipate how you can help your partner meet their individual needs.
Maintaining relationship harmony requires attentiveness and constant compromise. You have to be mindful of your partner at all times, and proactively help them to feel fulfilled by sacrificing your own needs sometimes. For instance, if you’re dating someone who’s happiest reading a book at home, offer to stay in and sit alongside your partner as they quench their thirst for quiet time, even if all you want to do is party your face off. In exchange, expect your significant other to rally and go out with you on occasion when it’s the last thing they want to do just so you can get your fix of socializing. Your needs will always be competing on some level, and that’s okay—as long as you’re both committed to doing your part to maintain some kind of balance together.
3. Show your partner the kind of love they’re most receptive to.
You and your partner might respond to entirely different expressions of love. According to Dr. Gary Chapman’s bestselling book, The 5 Love Languages, there are a few main ways to give and receive love: physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, gift giving, and quality time. Some of us respond much more to certain forms of affection than others. And while it’s our tendency to assume that the best way to demonstrate love is in the way that we like to receive it, that isn’t so. For instance, a woman who relies on physical touch to feel loved might shower her partner, who, unbeknownst to her, prefers words of affirmation, with human contact when all the man secretly wants is to hear “you’re such an amazing guys!!!” Though well intentioned, because the snuggly woman isn’t speaking her significant other’s native love tongue, a lot of tenderness is lost in translation. Figure out which love language you and your partner both speak by taking this simple quiz so you can start conveying just how much you love each other more effectively.
4. Have sex.
Hot tip: People like sex because it feels really good. Sensual pleasure is a gift you get to give your significant other again and again and again. Naked playtime is also a great way to build—and rebuild—intimacy. Don’t wait around until you’re both in the mood to do it. You have to make love regularly if you want to stay in love long-term. That’s a fact. How often does anyone regret having sex with the person they love anyway?
5. Don’t weaponize your vast knowledge of each other.
Fighting sucks, especially when you find yourself pitted against the person you love—the person who knows you inside and out, who has long ago pinpointed your every strength and vulnerability and is thus armed with more power to hurt you than anyone else. When we fight, we tend to become the meanest, angriest, most defensive, least attractive versions of ourselves. We resort to nastiness, but some things are better left unsaid. When you wield your intimate knowledge of someone to cause them pain—when you attack their Achilles heel in the way only you can—you risk damaging your relationship permanently. Your partner might very well forget why you were fighting that night, but they won’t forget how you made them feel. No human bond is beyond repair, but some wounds take far longer to heal than others. So why go there?
6. Seek to understand your significant other before seeking to be understood.
In the midst of a feud, we all want the same thing: To be understood. We want so badly for the person we love to see things from our perspective, and when their opinion on any given issue just won’t align with ours, it’s incredibly upsetting. We argue to validate our way of seeing the world. But if you can find it in your heart to pause, take a deep breath, and try your best to understand where your significant other is coming from BEFORE attempting to substantiate your position, you will be rewarded with context. Forcing yourself to at least try to see things the way your partner does is a calming exercise that will dampen your desire to attack. When you seek to understand before seeking to be understood, you effectively temper your animalistic instincts, allowing your more evolved self to shine through.
7. Don’t interrupt.
Another handy rule for butting heads in the most civilized manner possible is to take turns speaking (or screaming). Fights escalate much faster when two people continuously interrupt each other or attempt to talk over each other. When you force yourself to listen to your partner’s entire tedious rant before launching into your own, they have no excuse not to sit back and listen to you for a bit. Interrupting fosters frustration and leads to massive communication failures. It’s a waste of everyone’s time, essentially. So do yourself a favor and pledge to wait your turn to lash out. If you’re uncertain whether or not your partner’s done talking, ask them outright: Is your thought complete?
8. Accept that it’s okay to walk away sometimes.
Let’s face it, you’re not always going to have it in you to get zen in the heat of an intense battle. When two people can’t reach common ground, a lot of times the worst thing to do is keep talking (or, rather, barking). Maybe you both crave closure, and you’re too stubborn to concede your respective points. Maybe you’re equally desperate to have the last word. Maybe you’re both exhausted. Suck it up, and get some space. You can always revisit that oh-so-important argument later. It’s not going anywhere. In the meantime, there’s no shame in walking away to regroup, or falling asleep. Every timeout is an opportunity for two people to find their inner peace again.
9. Realize that you won’t ever agree on everything.
You are not your partner. No matter how compatible you are, you will not agree on everything. But that’s not a reason to freak out. If anything, it’s cause for celebration. You’re not a couple of lemmings! Yay! Sometime, it’s necessary to set your differences aside altogether and move on, knowing full well that you haven’t succeeded in convincing your partner that they’re flat out wrong. Shucks! That’s life. It’s not your fault if your significant other just doesn’t get it sometimes.
10. Be nice.
Mean people suck. That’s why no one wants to be around them, let alone date them. So be the opposite of mean. This is by far the best relationship advice anyone can offer. Things are far more likely to go smoothly if you work hard on being kind. It might take practice, but it’s worth it.