As crazy as it may sound, the driving force behind any successful relationship is not just sex. Insane, right? Of course, it goes without saying that being sexually attracted to your partner is quite a necessity, and having fun between the sheets is pretty important too, but it’s not the standalone activity that keeps the relationship alive. Love is more than skin-deep, obviously, so it makes sense to consider that aiding its survival are actions with a little more substance.
Notice that I said “successful” and not “perfect” when discussing relationships. That is because there is no way anyone can promise something that ambiguous. It’s too big a claim, and it’s a pointless thing to aim for. Seeking perfection will only wear you out – it’s simply not possible. Therefore, the focus is on what is depicted as “healthy” in regards to a partnership. Which is why, before we even start, I’d just like to set out the “relationships for dummies” anecdotal reminder: healthy couples don’t see their partner as someone who should solve all of their dilemmas, give them something better to do on a Friday night or show off to all of their friends.
At their most fundamental level, successful relationships are based on respect, trust, honesty and loyalty, and putting them into practice requires following some golden rules. Three of these (my personal favorites) are outlined below.
1. Lose the pedestal
Propping someone on a metaphorical throne is not going to do your ego (or theirs) any good. People who unite in such a way are meant to be considered equals, so flitting between levels on the romantic hierarchy is the worst thing you can do. What it does is set up impossible expectations, which, when not met, lead to constant disappointment. Over and over you’ll see that they just can’t reach your idea of what they, or the relationship, should be. It’s the whole concept of seeking perfection again. Yes, there are certain things we do expect from our partners, but unrealistic concepts aren’t one of them. In all of life’s situations, we have to face confounding variables that will mess with our perfect plans and burst our fairy-tale bubble. Remember, having high standards is one thing, but having high expectations is another. So lose the pedestal and instead, keep it fair. Things are much simpler that way.
2. Share your secrets
Again, no one expects their partner to be flawless. We all have a history and have done things we’re not proud of or experienced things we wished we hadn’t, but if we’re not able to communicate with our partners about our concerns freely and openly, then it’ll hit a dead end pretty speedily. While our other half is not strictly meant to play the part of a superhero or agony aunt, you should be able to talk to one another about pretty much anything and everything. No topics should be avoided like potholes in the road, however hard they may be to discuss (or even perceptibly weird). If you both respect and trust one another, then talking should be easy. It’s all a part of being honest.
3. Keep your identity
Being in a relationship does not mean becoming a Siamese twin. As much as you are a couple, you are not joined at the hip. You are still your own person, and you do not need anyone else to validate your identity. Sure, when you are married or living together, there are certain things that may need discussing first. And even if you’re not, it’s polite to keep someone up to speed with things when you know you should. But even though you have a certain amount of owed responsibility (just like you would a parent or friend), that shouldn’t be confused with Big Brother. You’re not in a relationship with a private investigator. Healthy relationships require trust and a shared understanding of one another, meaning each person should be happy to allow one another to continue being the person they fell in love with. So keep going to your dance class on a Thursday night and having your Xbox and pizza nights with the boys — as long as you’re both being respectful to each other, then there should be no reason to sacrifice elements of your personality in place of a relationship. If what you have is strong, then doing your own thing won’t matter.
In essence, it’s the fear that ultimately destroys relationships. We often think that by holding on tightly enough, then what we have won’t slip away. But it doesn’t work like that. In order for a relationship to be successful, there must still be the freedom to spread our wings and fly. And if there’s enough trust between you both (and honesty, respect and loyalty etc.) then this freedom should be easy to express.
So you be you and let them be them, live for each day, and be true to one another. Life may be short, but it’s the longest thing you’ve got, so live it well.