Relationships are relentless. Think about it: for most of us, they begin at the end of a struggle – the struggle of searching for someone with whom we click. Then, just when we think the trouble is over, when we’ve found the one and life will be happily ever after, reality hits: love is work! The good news is there are skills you can learn that make the job easier – and a whole lot more rewarding!! Whether you’ve been married for years, are considering a relationship or you’re combing the scene as a single, remember these keys to romantic success:
You’ve got to talk! Okay, so this is easier for women than it is for men – or so we think. The truth is, being open about the things that mean the most to us can be more difficult than we acknowledge. Sometimes, while men are loathe to blabber on about feelings and women seem to like to “talk” all the time (the phrase “honey we need to talk” comes to mind), when what a woman has to say may threaten the balance or cause a shift of any significance in her relationship, she’ll clam up. We get nervous that by asking for what we want or need we’re going to lose the man we love if what we say doesn’t jive with him. Likewise, men tend to fear showing weakness – which they sometimes confuse with showing emotion – because they want their woman to feel safe. What’s the end result of all this? Discontentment and resentment. The solution is simple: you’ve got to talk! Before all the men out there go running for the hills, I’m not implying that you need to spend hours on the couch belaboring the way you felt last Tuesday when she snapped at you for not doing the dishes or hashing out your emotional growth from ages twelve to fourteen. I’m referring to the big things that affect your day to day and your future, individually and as a pair: hopes, dreams, fears, triggers. In short, if one person in a couple doesn’t know how the other person is feeling or what their goals are, then there is no way that either person can expect to give – or get – what they need or want, never mind support in achieving goals or weathering tough times.
Learn the art of fighting Choose your battles wisely – everything is not worth fighting for and if you let things escalate over minutia, the important issues won’t hold the gravitas they deserve. If things do get heated, never say anything intentionally cruel – you won’t be able to take it back afterward. Learn to talk before things get to this stage (see previous). Perhaps most importantly, since arguing sometimes is inevitable, know how to say you’re sorry. The ability to see when you’ve been wrong – or even if you haven’t been, when you’ve let something get the best of you – is invaluable. Think about it. A sincere apology goes a long way. Just remember it the next time you’re experiencing similar feelings. And try to talk before things get that far!
Do things together… the couch doesn’t count! The couple that plays together, stays together. This doesn’t mean you have to do everything as a team. In fact, individual activities and hanging out with friends are just as important as couple time if a relationship is to be successful. But that’s another story (see below), and there’s a balance. What’s vital in this instance is that as a couple, you spend time together doing things you both enjoy. This keeps things firey, gives you a shared ritual and sustains you when things are tough. Of course, sex is an activity – and a super important one in any romantic relationship (note: physical contact is another key to success). But this connection has got to go beyond the bedroom. There’s got to be some ground where you can be friends and moreover, partners in crime!
Don’t forget who you are! It’s easy when we get into relationships to forget who we used to be, the things we liked to do, how we used to spend our time. But one of the most vital elements of a working partnership is that you maintain your individuality as part of a pair. Think about this logically: in order to create one whole, you need two complete halves… otherwise, one or the other of you (most often both) is going to feel that something is missing. No one person can be all things to you. What you do with your girlfriends cannot necessarily be what you do with your mate. But it’s not necessary, and in fact, can be detrimental if you make your lover your everything. Identify the areas that are important to you – and know when to include him and when to go it alone or with someone else who’s a part of your life!
Accept change. Change is going to happen; it’s a part of existence. This is why it’s so very important that you genuinely like the person with whom you have settled down. It’s not necessary that you like every single thing about them (in fact, that’s probably impossible), but when it comes to the big things, you’ve got to want to encourage them. You’ve got to respect them. You’ve got to share in their wants, appreciate your differences and perhaps most importantly, you’ve got to show you care. While the sparks may dwindle or at least periodically rise and fall as the years wear on, always show your partner affection. A kiss, a touch, a sweet word in the middle of a crowded room. Whatever you do, let him or her feel that you support the cause and trust that you’re there for the long haul – even if things don’t look exactly like either of you planned.
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