Before I met my wife, I had never been in a relationship which lasted more than a few months. The thought of being with the same person for a long period of time somewhat frightened me, but as I write this, I can’t remember why. That’s because the past six years have been filled with the most amazing love I could have possibly asked for. I won’t go on and on about what a fairy tale I’m living, but in all honesty, because we follow the points in this article, my marriage is as close to a fairy tale as can be.
1. Living separate lives, together
When you first enter a relationship, all you want to do is be with that person. Nothing else matters; friends, school, and work all take a backseat to your new-found love. Not only that, but either side of the relationship might feel slighted if an offer for a date is rain-checked for a night. As you grow together, you realize that it’s important not to get too attached and let other aspects of life pass you by, and to let the other person have the same freedom that they allow you.
2. Compromise is necessary
Once it’s been established that each person in a relationship accounts for two individual lives, it’s important for each to see the world from the other’s perspective. You can’t just have it your way 100% of the time; sometimes you have to do things you don’t exactly want to do. However, compromising can lead to whole new experiences you never would have had if it weren’t for your significant other. I wouldn’t be caught dead at a craft fair by myself, but going to one with my wife is another opportunity to create memories that will last a lifetime. The same goes for when I drag my wife to a Yankees game. By compromising, we introduce each other to a new world that we otherwise would never have known.
3. Understanding is vital
Along with compromise must come understanding. It’s one thing to compromise and be okay with your partner spending the night out with friends, but it’s much more important to understand why they need that time. Understanding a person’s needs is just as important as letting them have their way at times. By doing so, not only are they fulfilled, but you also are comfortable in knowing their intentions.
4. Jealousy ceases to exist
The best relationships work under the knowledge that there is only one person out there for the other. This understanding is truly important in allowing each other to grow separately and individually. It means that one can spend time away without the other constantly wondering what they’re up to. There’s a huge difference between not being able to wait until the other is home so you know they aren’t messing around, and not being able to wait until they’re home because you want to hear all about their night.
5. Grudges must be dropped
In order to move forward in a relationship, you must let go of the past. There’s no point in forcing your partner to carry a burden because they made a mistake months ago; and if it’s something that continues to pull at you, the relationship is doomed anyway. Bringing up past arguments only serves to rehash negative feelings. Serious couples realize each party will make mistakes, and they will grow closer as they let each other’s faults slip away.
6. Apologies and forgiveness work hand-in-hand
True apologies work in two stages: the act of saying sorry, and the act of changing your behavior. Forgiveness also works in two stages: the act of showing forgiveness, and the act of letting go. Like we discussed, holding a grudge is nothing but detrimental to a relationship. Of course, if a party doesn’t hold up their end of the apology, it needs to be revisited. But the point of apologizing is to improve as a person and as a couple. Even the best relationships require hard work.
7. Don’t sweat the small stuff
Just like letting go of grudges, serious couples don’t let petty annoyances get on their nerves. If you’re going to spend the rest of your life with someone, you can’t nitpick at the tiny things. And, like with grudges, if something small really pulls at you, the relationship isn’t meant to be. The mark of a true relationship is the fact that each of you knows everything about each other and looks past their insignificant negative factors to see the overall good person that they are.
8. Communication is key
Keeping feelings bottled up is a surefire way to ensure an explosion. Serious couples survive so long because they talk to each other. They lay their feelings out on the table and make it clear when something bothers them. Just like with apologies, an open line of communication serves to improve the relationship.
9. Communication must be pure
A common problem in society today is people have trouble discussing the “tough stuff” in person. Text messages, emails, even phone calls can all exacerbate an issue if one party takes something the wrong way. The most loving couples know they can face each other head-on in order to solve their problems, no matter how uncomfortable it may be to do so.
10. Honesty is the best policy
We all have secrets, and everyone has baggage. But the best part about being in a serious relationship is that you can let these secrets out, since you have someone to help carry your load. And as far as being honest with your significant other, there’s no reason not to be. From a logical standpoint, why would you want to spend time with someone you can’t be yourself around? And from an emotional standpoint, loving someone means being able to bare everything to them, good and bad.
11. Cultural norms are meaningless
My wife and I were together for five years before we even lived together, let alone got engaged. While this was partly due to her being in school and other aspects of our lives, we simply never felt pressured to jump into something we weren’t ready for. In those five years, I can’t begin to tell you how many of our friends moved in with a partner, broke up, and had to move back home; or how many got engaged and broke it off; or how many had kids before they were ready. We’ve taken it slow, but it’s because we wanted to know we were ready for the next step. On the other hand, we did push our wedding up a year, because we were ready much sooner than we thought we’d be!
12. Keeping it fresh
Everyone’s heard the saying “the honeymoon’s over,” which, to me, is a euphemism for “we’re in a rut already.” I don’t mean to be rude, or make it sound like my relationship is perfect, but that’s how that sounds to me. People in serious relationships never quite “get used” to each other; but that’s because each of them is always doing something to surprise the other. Something as simple as cooking a nice dinner, going out to eat on a Tuesday, or getting flowers “just because.” Making sure you never fall into a routine is how you ensure you never hit a snag.
13. Fidelity is never a question
Of course, serious relationships require fidelity. I guess this should go without saying. The running thread through this article is simply, if you have doubts about being with only one person, you’re not taking the relationship seriously. People in serious relationships can look at each other and know they couldn’t ask for anything more from this world besides the loving embrace of their soul mate.
14. Focusing on the future
Couples who plan together, stay together. They don”t just go about their day-to-day life, eventually reaching the points where they “should get married” or “should start a family.” They actively plan these momentous occasions. It’s part of the fun of being in a serious relationship: making commitments to take the next steps in life together.
15. Unconditional love thrives
We’ve touched on it in some of the other entries, but unconditional love transcends all else. True matches made in heaven are full of a love that is never-ending, through the good and the bad. There are no doubts, no hesitations, no hangups. You see past the other’s mistakes, and you love them with every fiber of your being, without question.
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