How do these couples stay in love, in good times and in bad? Fortunately, the answer isn’t through luck or chance. As a result of hard work and commitment, they figure out the importance of the following relationship “musts.” Because few couples know about all of the musts, I think of them as the relationship “secrets.”
1. Develop a realistic view of committed relationships.
Recognize that the crazy infatuation you experienced when your romance was new won’t last. A deeper, richer relationship, and one that should still include romance, will replace it. A long-term relationship has ups and downs, and expecting it will be all sunny and roses all the time is unrealistic.
2. Work on the relationship.
An untended garden develops weeds that can ultimately kill even the heartiest plants. And so it is with relationships. It is important to address problems and misunderstandings immediately. Some people believe good relationships just happen naturally. The truth is that a good relationship, like anything you want to succeed in life, must be worked on and tended to on a regular basis. Neglect the relationship, and it will often go downhill.
3. Spend time together.
There is no substitute for shared quality time. When you make a point of being together, without kids, pets and other interruptions, you will form a bond that will get you through life’s rough spots. Time spent together should be doing a shared activity, not just watching television.
4. Make room for “separateness.”
Perhaps going against conventional wisdom, spending time apart is also an important component of a happy relationship. It is healthy to have some separate interests and activities and to come back to the relationship refreshed and ready to share your experiences. Missing your partner helps remind you how important he or she is to you.
5. Make the most of your differences.
Stop and think: What most attracted you to your partner at the beginning? I’ll almost guarantee that it was exactly the thing that drives you most insane today. Take a fresh look at these differences. Try to focus on their positive aspects and find an appreciation for those exact things that make the two of you different from one another. It’s likely that your differences balance one another out and make you a great team.
6. Don’t expect your partner to change; but at the same time give them more of what they want.
If both you and your partner stop trying to change each other, you will eliminate the source of most of your arguments. At the same time, each of you should focus on giving one another more of what you know the other person wants, even if it doesn’t come naturally. For instance, instead of complaining how your partner never cleans out the dishwasher, try just doing it yourself once in awhile without complaint. Your partner will likely notice your effort and make more of an effort themselves around the house. If you do both of these things at once you’ve got a winning plan!
7. Accept that some problems can’t be solved.
There may be issues upon which you cannot agree. Rather than expending wasted energy, agree to disagree, and attempt to compromise or to work around the issue. Two people cannot spend years together without having legitimate areas of disagreement. The test of a happy relationship is how they choose to work through such issues — through compromise, change, or finding it’s just not that important to stew over.
Lack of communication is the number one reason even good relationships fail. And here is a useful format for doing so, especially when dealing with incendiary topics: Listen to your partner’s position, without interrupting him or her. Just listen. When he or she is finished, summarize what you heard him or her say. If you can, empathize with your significant other even though you don’t agree. This will take your partner off of the defensive, and make it easier for them to hear your thoughts and feelings. It’s hard to argue when you use this format, and best of all, you may come up with an understanding or a solution.
9. Honesty is essential.
You may share with your partner the things he or she doesn’t want to hear. Better this than to have him or her doubt your honesty. Mistrust is one of the key deal breakers in relationships. And once trust is lost or broken, it can take a very long time to re-establish it in the relationship.The happiest couples are the ones where honesty is as natural and every day as breathing.
10. Respect your partner, and don’t take him or her for granted.
Treating your sweetheart with respect is likely to get you the same in return. And regularly reminding them how much they mean to you will enrich your relationship in indescribable ways. When you say, “I love you,” pause for a moment to really mean it. And don’t be afraid to express your feelings of appreciation with your partner — he or she will be thankful that you did.
Making these secrets an integral part of your relationship won’t be easy. In fact, your efforts may initially seem like planted seeds that never come up. If you maintain your efforts, however, you will likely reap what you sow.