Love’s Reality Check

Maybe it’s the fairytales, the love songs or the romantic comedies, but most of us have an idealized, romanticized perception of what life will be like once we’re settled down with “the one.” After all, the hard part is finding them, right? Wrong!

Sustaining a happy and satisfying long-term relationship takes just as much effort as finding one. Contrary to popular belief, that effort doesn’t stop when you fall in love. In fact, once you meet your special someone and commit to being a couple, the fight for “happily ever after” is just starting!

Luckily however, not every fight has to be a struggle. Nourishing your partnership simply requires that you pay attention and stay engaged, rather than letting outside forces get the best of you. In other words, if you want to foster a loving partnership that grows over time, it’s important not to throw in the towel once the deal is sealed – instead, you’ll want to hunker down and commit to the long haul.

To do just that, try these four reality-based tips for relationship success:

1. Be vulnerable together
Early in relationships, most of us are on our best behavior. Now that you’re out of that phase, however, it’s likely that your strengths and weaknesses are on full display. This can be tough for many people. After all, no one wants to be seen for their less-than-stellar attributes. These qualities, however, are what make us human – and leave room for us to grow.

To foster a successful and supportive relationship then, it’s vital that we allow ourselves to be ourselves with each other – even at our most vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to share your fears with your partner, and be sure to listen to theirs. Whether these vulnerabilities relate to work, life, family or the relationship, being open with each other gives you both a sounding board, and cements your bond by increasing intimacy via trust.

2. Emphasize the positives
When we’re dating, we tend to see the good in people while overlooking the bad. Over time this equation flip flops, and we find ourselves annoyed with each other – often for the very things that used to charm us.

While you mustn’t be afraid to share your insecurities and familiarize yourself with your partner’s weaker points, it’s also vital that the negatives don’t begin to outshine the positives. We all have good and bad sides, sure, but people in successful relationships take the time to notice the things they love about each other, rather than placing constant emphasis on the areas that need work. Make it a point to highlight your mate’s best qualities – out loud, and in your mind. If it’s difficult, remember when you first got together – what you were drawn to, and why.

3. Take pleasure in little moments
As we grow used to each other and our routines, it’s easier and easier to get swept up in the day to day world outside of our relationships. Work, friends, family and myriad other responsibilities take precedent over romance – and elaborate outpourings become further apart and fewer between. This is natural, and it’s exactly why it’s important to shift your romantic focus from grand gestures to finding pleasure in smaller expressions of love. Whether it’s the laugh you share while cleaning up the table or the snuggle in front of the TV, day-to-day exchanges are the stuff of a solid commitment. When you enjoy your mate’s company above that of all others – and make the effort to feel connected by the small stuff – you’ll find yourselves a stronger unit when you’re facing down bigger adversities.

A relationship’s highlight reel may include the showy moments – vacations, gifts, the grand gestures that we so often see in movies – but the foundation is built on the everyday interactions. For that reason, it’s vital that you make those important.

4. Choose communication over complacency
Finally, often in our long-term relationships we sweep our own needs under the carpet, either out of complacency or on the assumption that those needs won’t be met. But staying silent is a recipe for failure… or at least dissatisfaction. The two of you will never be able to give each other what you need if you don’t tell each other exactly what that is, no matter how uncomfortable (or seemingly obvious) that might be. Yet another of our relationship fairytales is that properly paired people just naturally understand exactly what the other one wants – and delivers it. That’s just not true! So share, and be willing to listen in return.

Of course, if you’re always complaining you’re bound to foster negative feelings – and more of whatever it is you’re complaining about. So, be sure also to express the things that make you happy. Everybody likes to hear when they’re doing well, and knowing the ways in which you’re pleasing each other will make the areas that need work easier for you and your partner to address as they arise.

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