1. Maintain your identity
New relationships are so exciting, and while it’s easy to eagerly throw yourself into finding common interests and shared ideals, it’s also important to maintain your identity as an individual. We all know that inseparable couple whose personalities and interests seem to have completely merged into one being. And I think we can all agree that is not #relationshipgoals. Healthy and long term relationships acknowledge individuality, and the fact that different identities and interests can complement each other and create a stronger bond.
2. Create your own goals
A great way to maintain your identity as an individual is to set personal goals. These can be work-related goals, or goals pertaining to exercise, dieting or creative projects. Devoting mental energy to goals focused on your self-improvement independent of your relationship helps carve out much needed personal space in both new and long-term relationships. Encouraging this same behavior in your partner will allow you both to grow and succeed individually. Partners that support each other’s individual growth are also able to grow together.
3. Create shared goals
While creating personal goals is a good way to maintain your identity in a long-term relationship, it’s also important to share future goals with your partner and to work towards those goals together. Want to visit Peru? Want to save money for a house? Want to learn how to two-step? Establish things you want to pursue as a partnership so that you can envision at least some part of what your future will look like as a couple. Creating shared goals early on can help the longevity of a relationship by ensuring that both you and your partner are on the same page about important life decisions like having kids, living near your extended family, owning pets, etc.
While individuality is important, you need to walk the thin line of expressing yourself and your opinions without overshadowing the expression or needs of your partner. Maintaining your identity and creating goals isn’t about prioritizing yourself over your partner, so make sure that you approach the longevity of your relationship with an open mind, so that both you and your partner can reach mutually beneficial decisions as a team. Sometimes this means not always getting your way, and that can be a hard pill to swallow, but in the end it is important for relationships to have give and take. It’s important to note that compromising isn’t about keeping a scoreboard of who gets their way, it’s about acknowledging that you have to give a little to get at little, and that in the long-term being flexible will lead to a happier relationship.
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5. Understand your communication styles
Just like everyone has their own astrology signs and personality types (writing as a Libra, ESFJ), everyone has a communication style that influences how you interact with people and how you handle conflict. Understanding your personal communication style as well as your partner’s communication style can help you navigate misunderstandings and conflicts as a couple with more empathy and ease. These skills will not only improve communication in your relationship, but will also benefit work-place communication and communication with friends and family.
6. Embrace Tell Culture
While everyone has a preferred style of communication, it is also important to recognize that in some situations you just need to tell your partner exactly what you mean. You can drop as many hints as you want, but sometimes s-p-e-l-l-i-n-g things out is absolutely necessary. Articulating your needs creates authentic dialogue that will help your partner support you. Embracing tell culture also means listening to your partner when they tell you what they need.
7. Learn how to listen
Learning how to be a good listener is a huge asset to any long-term relationship. Being a good listener isn’t limited to just active listening skills, it also involves understanding what your role should be in the conversation. I used to find myself offering advice to my partner when they came to me with their problems and I would get SO offended when the advice wasn’t heeded. After many of these encounters, I realized that my partner wasn’t seeking advice, and just needed to vent. I was spending energy on something that wasn’t needed, instead of focusing my energy on being an empathetic listener. Now, when my partner comes to me with a problem I ask if they are seeking advice, a sounding board, or if they just need to get something off of their chest. By doing this, I can establish what my role should be in the conversation.
For those of us that are conflict averse (hi, yes, that would be me), it can be helpful to schedule relationship check-ins. Check-ins can be weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, honestly it’s whatever you feel most comfortable with. Check-ins are helpful, because they create a safe-space for open communication. Proactive communication can allow you to address certain negative feelings before the feelings fester and cause a conflict. Check-ins don’t necessarily have to be about conflict, they can also be a time to praise your partner for things that are improving your relationships.
9. Embrace healthy conflicts
To some people, healthy conflict might seem a bit like an oxymoron. Afterall, we often think of conflicts as huge fights or blowouts. But, addressing small disagreements in their early stages can actually prevent huge blowouts from manifesting. Conflicts are destined to happen in any relationship whether it be romantic, platonic or familial, so learning to embrace conflicts and learn from the disagreements is an important life skill.
There’s a right and wrong way to address conflict with your partner. A Relish relationship coach can help you navigate these conversations and prevent future arguments. Try free for 7-days.
10. Pick your battles
While it’s important to embrace healthy conflicts (see above), it is especially important to prioritize what disagreements are worth fighting about. No one wants to be nit-picked about every little thing, so if you feel yourself picking a fight over something petty, take a step back and reflect on your mood, the situation, and the actual cause of your annoyance or negative feelings. Is the petty thing really something to do with your partner, or can you walk away and return to the situation when you’re in a better headspace? Being overly critical or picking fights about every little thing does not create a safe space for your partner to be human and make mistakes that go along with that. Picking your battles will also help you reflect on what are make-or-break things for your relationship, and communication these things clearly will lead to mutual growth.
11. Perfect forgiveness
Some conflicts are absolutely necessary, but in order for a relationship to recover from a conflict, both people need to embrace and perfect the art of forgiveness. Not all conflicts will end in a peaceful resolution, but even if they do, it is important to learn how to move on from disagreements in a meaningful way. Healthy, long-term relationships thrive when you can love your partner despite differences and disagreements.
Respect is a KEY aspect in any kind of long-term relationship. You must respect your partner as an individual, as a decision maker, and as an equal in your relationship. Respect doesn’t necessarily mean seeing eye-to-eye on every little thing, but it does mean valuing your partner’s point of view and input. It is also very important to respect yourself in a relationship. You know what type of behavior is and is not okay, don’t accept anything below your standard, and hold yourself to that same standard with your behavior. Reciprocal respect will pave the way for all other aspects of a healthy, long-term relationship like good communication and compromise.
13. Try something new
A huge, and very common, fear in any relationship is staleness. When the honeymoon phase eventually wears off and you feel stuck in a rut. Most long-term relationships experience periods of closeness and periods of distance, and with these periods may inevitably come a time when you and your partner feel stuck in your normal habits and routine. To avoid these periods, or to help yourself break out of them if you do find yourself in this situation, try something new with your partner! Whether it’s a new restaurant you’ve been wanting to try (once dining in at a restaurant is safe again...), a new activity you’re both interested in, or something new in the bedroom, it’s important to introduce some novelty to your relationship.
Take a virtual cooking lesson, learn a new language or find new music to listen to together. For more ways to keep a relationship fresh, get started with the #1 relationship coaching app for free.
14. Continue to learn together
Learning is a huge part of any form of growth. As individuals, we learn as we age and become more mature. As individuals we should all seek out new ways to learn as we age, especially when feeling stuck in a rut or dissatisfied. Learning a new skill or new knowledge is a rewarding experience that can distract from stressful or unsatisfying work or living situations. In addition to being an important skill for individuals, it is good to encourage your partner to learn new skills, or to even suggest learning something new together. If your interests don’t exactly line up, this could be a bit of a tall order, but otherwise a super fun way to spend time together and to grow. Finding ways to grow as individuals, together, will create a long-lasting bond.
15. Be active
Maintaining your personal health is key to promoting good physical and mental health. Being active is a good way to stay in shape, and boost the endorphins associated with mood and productivity. You can exercise as partners or as an individual, but prioritizing your health will lead to a higher quality of life and also a higher quality of relationship. Encouraging this behavior in your partner is a way to show them that you care about their long-term health and well-being. What’s more romantic than that?
16. Support your partner through sickness
Through sickness and through health is a phrase most often associated with marriage, but in reality one that should be applied to any long-term relationship. While equality is so important in every relationship, some circumstances, such as sickness, require you to step into a care taking role. It’s important to show your partner that you care about them, and are willing to sacrifice some of your autonomy to support them through difficult times.
17. Stick to date night
Let’s face it, life can get hectic! Between work, grocery store runs, general fatigue and stress, you might be tempted to ditch date night every now and then to stay afloat. Don’t get me wrong, it is important to prioritize your mental health, but it is also important to prioritize special time with your partner. Even if you live together, it is important to take time out of your busy schedule to discuss things other than everyday life. Date night doesn’t need to be a fussy ordeal, it can be as simple as a movie night in or cooking your partner’s favorite food. Showing that you prioritize shared time together, amidst the hectic nature of life, demonstrates your long-term commitment.
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18. Keep the romance alive
Buy flowers! Compliment your partner! Take a little extra time to look nice before a date night activity! Activities associated with the courtship phase of a relationship don’t have to end just because you’ve won each other over! Continually feeling desired by your partner is an important component of long-term relationships. Simple ways to show your desire and dedication are through small romantic acts that initially attracted you to one another. Whatever worked in the beginning will probably still charm your partner, but don’t be afraid to try new things! Acts of romance can and should evolve as your relationship does.
Learning to trust another person can be a scary task, because it requires giving up a certain degree of autonomy and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. But, trust is extremely important to cultivate in a long-term relationship, because it creates security which can allow for more emotional connection.
20. Be intimate
Intimacy is a huge part of every romantic relationship, it’s what separates platonic relationships from romantic ones. Intimacy isn’t just about sex, (though that is also important!!) it’s also about a physical and emotional closeness cultivated through tender day-to-day acts. Not everyone is into hand holding or PDA, and that’s okay! Cultivating intimacy is about finding what makes you feel loved and safe in your relationship.
21. Know your love language
Like the communication styles mentioned earlier, it is important to understand your love language as well as your partner’s love language. Love languages are the distinct ways that we express and experience love, through words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. Knowing your love languages is important when discussing your emotional needs with your partner. Being in tune with your partner’s love languages can help you recognize how they are showing their love and how they want you to show yours.
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22. Be open to change
When in a long-term relationship, both partners must be open to change. Afterall, change is an inevitable part of life, so there is bound to be some degree of change in your relationship. Change is often a scary concept to think about, especially if you view change as the loss of a certain aspect of your relationship. It can help to reframe change as evolution. Evolution, especially a co-evolution with your partner, should be something a long-term relationship aspires to. Co-evolution demonstrates a connection strong enough to weather change and come out stronger on the other side.
23. Have realistic relationship expectations
Let’s be real. Genuine, long-term relationships are almost nothing like what is portrayed on-screen in Rom-Coms or TV shows.You probably won’t have a love-at-first-site moment, and you definitely won’t be head over heels for your person every minute of every day. So don’t go into a relationship with those expectations! If you expect to be completely infatuated with your partner at all times, you’re setting both your relationship and your partner up for failure. Instead of expecting a whimsical type of love, evaluate what your needs are in a relationship (weekly check-ins, support for your career, plans for children, back rubs, etc.), communicate those needs and move forward with your shared expectations and goals.
24. Avoid comparisons
In the age of social media, it’s easy to compare yourself and your relationship to what you see posted online. Deep down we know that people curate their social media presences to show the good and exciting parts of their lives. This is the same when people post about their relationships. All relationships go through ups and downs, no matter what is reflected on a couple’s Instagram feed. Don’t fall into the trap of feeling inadequate or unloved because of unfair comparisons prompted by social media.
25. Take responsibility for your happiness
Relationships can and should be a source of joy in your life, (if they weren’t why would you invest all this time and energy?), but at the end of the day, you are in charge of your own happiness. There is no doubt that your partner will contribute to your happiness, but it is not their role to make you happy, and if you burden them with that huge task, it will only lead to frustration on both sides. In a partnership, it’s important to recognize that you are the only one with ultimate control over your mental health. Your partner can contribute (hopefully in a positive way) to your mental state, but it is your job to take action to maintain your mental health and happiness.
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