Relationships are hard work. In the beginning, love flows freely between two people. Your every move is symbiotic, your bodies fit perfectly together, and you finish each other’s sentences. However, as time goes by, the space between you grows wider. Your bodies are back to back. You’re living in different worlds under the same roof.
Your busy life keeps you active all day. Your relationships with co-workers are more intimate than with your partner. Lunch dates are longer and happy hours more frequent. You’re so busy texting that you can’t remember the last meaningful conversation you had. When was the last time you laughed together in bed without your phones?
Soon, you doubt your love. Your eyes start to wander. You’re choosing your daily outfits based on what your co-workers will think. Your partner’s desires and needs are at the bottom of your to-do list. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little bit of commitment, nourishment, and care; you can keep your love as warm and cozy as it was in the beginnning. In fact, the longer you’re together, the stronger your love is.
You can keep your spark ignited by doing things differently. Your love is still there, it’s just hiding beneath the surface of your distracted and tech-filled life.
Jump-start your day with these ten little habits that will make your love last forever.
1. Wake up every day and think, “What can I do to make you happy?”
It’s not that you have to spend your whole day thinking only of your loved one, but this question is more of a habit that locks in an attitude of prioritizing your partner’s needs over your own. You might think that’s unfair and say, “What about my needs?” However, if you put your partner before yourself, you’ll soon notice that (if you’re with a person who loves you too) you begin a back-and-forth give-and-take sharing quality into your relationship.
2. Pick your battles.
You don’t have to fight about everything that upsets you. Learn how to pause. Take time to choose to be wise. Ask yourself, “Is this really important, or can I let this one go?” Most of the time, people fight about small and unimportant things that aren’t worth fighting over. These petty fights cause distance and set off a negative thought process of doom and gloom. Don’t say things like, “Oh, this relationship will never work,” or “You’re such a selfish, inconsiderate jerk.” Once you tread this path, it just goes on and on. It will never end.
If you’re going to jump into battle, be sure it’s something worth fighting for. You can’t make it through a relationship without a fight. It’s unrealistic to expect that two people living together will always agree, never get their feelings hurt, and always be in control of their emotions. However, a long-lasting relationship knows that before, during, and after the fight; their love is stronger than the argument they’re having.
“Many couples tend to equate a low level of conflict with happiness and believe the claim ‘we never fight’ is a sign of marital health. But I believe we grow in our relationships by reconciling our differences. That’s how we become more loving people and truly experience the fruits of marriage,” says Dr. John Gottman, a marital therapy researcher.
3. Practice empathy and compassion.
You’re not the only one who’s going through hard stuff. Your partner is too. Since you’re not together most of the day, you don’t know what’s going on in your partner’s life. Did something happen at work that upset them? Is there something they’re worried about that they haven’t talked to you about? Take a moment to think about the burden your partner is carrying. It’s also important to understand that your partner is not you. Your family history is different. If your partner is an only child, you can’t expect them to have the same family social skills as you do if you have three siblings. Allow for each other’s differences and respect them.
4. Appreciate each other.
It’s easy to fall into comfort zones of repetitive behavior. You take each other for granted. You have expectations. Yet, you forget to tell each other how much you appreciate the way he picks up his dirty socks, brings you a cup of coffee, or clears your plate from the table. You might appreciate the little things, but how often do you verbalize them? Everyone needs to feel appreciated. As Esther Perel explains in her TED talk, when you are free to imagine and appreciate and maintain a fresh perspective you can keep desire in a long-term relationship.
5. Follow your strengths.
Like a good business, a relationship needs job descriptions. Be in charge of the area that you’re stronger in. Admit that your partner has strengths. Allow them their area of expertise. Each player brings their strength into the relationship, building a strong team. As you should with any well-functioning team, be supportive. Notice when your partner needs a boost. Be encouraging, loving, and supportive. Even the strongest and smartest person feels insecure at times (although they might not admit it).
6. Be present with each other.
Your busy life is filled with distractions. Your head is in your phone (and so is your partner’s). You’re going in one direction, your partner in another, and your relationship feels like two college friends sharing a dorm room. It’s improbable that anyone will put down their phone, but try to set aside phone-free time. Talk to each other again. Ask your partner how their day went. Share the events of your day. Take time to enjoy each other’s company. Most important of all, don’t forget to cuddle.
7. Stop Complaining.
Negative comments bring a dark cloud into your life. No one is perfect and neither are you. Appreciate what you’ve got. Don’t let what you want, ruin what you have. Small complaints affect your attitude. It’s easy to fall into a bad mood and make your partner feel worthless by constantly complaining about the “little” things that aren’t perfect. Never complain about your partner to a relative or a friend, unless you are in dire straits. In that case, seek professional help. Sharing your partner’s flaws with friends and relatives shows their negative traits. You are causing others to judge your partner without seeing the full picture. If you tallk about your partner behind their back, be certain that it’s only for you to work through your own emotions, decisions, and choices.
8. Look for the good.
When times get tough, you become blinded with negativity. All you see is darkness. Everything is wrong and nothing is right. That’s when you have to disengage from the darkness, and think about all the good things your partner brings to your life. All those fabulous qualities are still there, they’re just harder to see. People are naturally judgmental. It’s a necessary life skill that often becomes abused in our relationships. It’s easy to become critical and make your partner feel that they are not good enough. Remember the good times, especially when times are tough.
9. Be the best of friends.
Share your lives. Talk about your worries and concerns. Be there for each other. Show up when you’re needed. No one knows you as intimately as your partner. After all, they are the person you share your bed with. Once you’ve found your soul-mate, you’ll know it. Once you experience this deep connection, make sure you work hard to maintain it.
10. Let go.
When you hang on to old negative emotions, memories, and arguments, you bring the past into your present. Harbored resentments are damaging to your relationship. If you remember every time your partner said or did something that upset you, you will never feel free to experience the love of the present moment. You’re still living in the past. Forgive and learn to move forward. Don’t keep score of all the times you hurt each other. If you want your love to last, don’t keep a relationship scorecard.
Long-lasting love is hard work, but definitely worth it!