Everyone wants a 50-years-later kind of love. But, based on the research of failed relationships and marriages, not many are willing to put in the work to accomplish this kind of love.
Relationships are hard work. Even the most successful couples admit that keeping their love alive isn’t easy. However, if you’re willing to put in the effort, you can build a long-lasting relationship.
Practice active listening.
This means preparing to listen to hear the message of your partner and not to prepare your defense. Find a time and place where you can be without distractions and focus only on what your partner is saying. Try to set aside your negative perceptions about his or her actions or motives so you can focus on the conversation in real time.
Orient towards your partner. Make eye contact.
Nod your head when you agree and show you are attentive. After he or she finishes speaking, paraphrase what was said like “What I heard you say was that…” and ask any questions to clarify whether you got the right message “Am I right in thinking you feel like…?”
Be aware of the nonverbal signs as well as what is said out loud.
Does the message your partner is sharing with you line up with the nonverbal cues? Also, look for signs of tension or frustration. Balled fists, crossed arms, or frowns may demonstrate that the other person needs a break or is to upset to resolve any issues right now.
Use “I” statements.
Communication is not about blame, it is about responsibility. “I” statements start with how you are feeling about the behavior or action of your partner. It means you take ownership of your feelings and also suggest a way to improve the behavior. The focus is not to tell your partner the action is bad, just to share your own experience of it.
“You” statements frequently blame the other person. Avoid making these kinds of statements. They may sound like “You are always making big purchases without asking me first!”
An example of an “I” statement may be “I feel confused when you make big purchases without me because I thought we agreed to go together. From now on, I would like to be included in these purchases.”
Use a soft, warm tone when speaking.
Your relationship should be based on mutual respect and love, not fear. A soft voice reflects the love, compassion and understanding that is missing from yelling. Meet your partner’s eyes and speak from a place of love and understanding. Disagreements don’t require anger and yelling to resolve.
If affectionate names are commonly used in your relationship, you can use such names to show that you still care for your partner even during a disagreement. Saying things like “What do you think, dear?” or “I’m sorry I disappointed you, baby. How can I make things right?” may help to ease the tension.
Be respectful to your partner always.
Save harsh words, even during arguments. You can’t take back what’s been said. When you say something hurtful to your partner you send the message that a disagreement is equivalent to a war. You are on the same side. Remember that.
To prevent saying nasty things and getting caught up in anger, many couples use a “24 hour” rule. In this scenario, if things get too heated, they table the discussion for 24 hours so both parties calm down and are able to talk. It is pretty rare to find a discussion that can’t wait for a cooling down period if need be.
Resolving Conflict and Crisis
Discuss issues upfront instead of letting them grow in size.
It is a relationship myth that a solid relationship does not require work. Be prepared to put the work in. You can accomplish this by addressing any problems with your partner before they rear to their ugly heads.
For example, you notice your partner withdrawing more money out of a shared account than usual. Instead of building a case over time, you might address the issue right off by saying “I noticed you have been needing more money lately. Do we need to adjust our budget to account for this?”
You will never be perfect nor can you expect this from a partner. There will always be issues that come up and you can either learn to treat them as you would any other obstacle or you can hide them until they balloon into a huge problem.
Make a commitment to hold a weekly check-in in which either of you can bring up any issues you have on your chest. Communicating problems with the idea of tackling them as soon as they come up helps you establish a strong foundation.
Be willing to compromise.
Pick your battles wisely. Not every issue needs to turn into a battle. There will be some that need to be talked out, others that go unsaid and finally some that just end up not being important compared to what you gain from the relationship.
Compromising may include writing out a pros and cons list to points of disagreement and talking through the list objectively. Talking aloud may clearly point out which choice is mutually beneficial. It also means finding a way that both of you can have your needs met without jeopardizing the needs of the other.
Another way you can compromise is doing things one person’s way one time and then favoring the other person’s opinion the next time. For example, you may watch one person’s favorite movie one night and the other person’s top pick the next night.
Before you find yourself waging war against your partner about a small issue, assess how important the matter truly is to the happiness and growth of your relationship. If it’s truly not a big deal, move on.
Work through problems as a team.
Relationships are about the “we” and not the “I” or “you”. Focus on honest communication to work through problems together with room for each of you to give and take. Learn from one another instead of working against one another.
For example, if you need a sum of money to pay for a big purchase, you can sit down and find ways for both of you to contribute. Each of you can put money into savings for a span of time, or cut back on non-essential expenses.
Using terms like “we” as in “We will get through this” or “us” as in “Let us figure out a solution together” help foster a teamwork approach.
Every relationship comes with ups and downs. When you encounter an issue, go through it logically and objectively and make a decision based on a the mutual well-being of both partners.
Make your values and needs known to your partner.
Be sure to clearly define what you need from a partner and what you intend to give to your partner. Follow through on your obligations to your partner and speak up when he or she isn’t doing the same in a constructive manner.
It is a myth that you do not need to tell your partner what you value and need. You are mistaken to think that simply because your partner loves you, he or she should know what you need. Mind reading is impossible and the expectation of it merely hinders your growth.
Communicate your desires simply by saying something to the effect of “Charity is really important to me. What can we do to honor that moving forward?”
Get on the same page about finances.
This is one area that can be very dangerous if you ignore it until it becomes a bigger issue. Make sure you share financial values early on in the relationship. If you want to save for the future while your partner lives for the moment, this may not end up lasting long term.
Sit down and discuss where each of you stand financially. Create a budget if you live under the same roof. Talk to a financial counselor if you have trouble seeing eye-to-eye.
Maintaining a Strong Foundation
Date each other no matter how long you’ve been together.
This includes giving your partner the same level of respect and attention you did from the start. Many relationships end as one partner just stops respecting the value or feelings of the partner and fall into old habits they never would have done early on
For example, texting an old flame after you are married shouldn’t happen. If you wouldn’t expect a new date to be OK with that, why should your spouse ignore it simply because you are married?
Treat your partner with the utmost respect. Strive to make him or her smile. Make an effort to schedule quality time shared between the two of you.
Continue to demonstrate honesty and build trust.
Never lose sight of how important trust is to keep your relationship healthy. When one or the other partner is not trustworthy, doubt creeps into the relationship. You can build or repair loss trust by:
- Being there for your partner, both physically and emotionally
- Being consistent in your actions
- Showing up when you say you will
- Keeping confidences
- Respecting your partner’s personal boundaries
- Doing what you say you will do
Have mutual and separate interests.
You cannot expect another person to complete you or to be everything that you are. It is healthy to share interests and to also maintain some activities you do apart. When you enter into a partnership you become a team but each part of the team will gain something from also taking time to be an individual.
A relationship should allow you to be your core self, while giving you someone to love and cherish. It will not be good for you or your partner if one of you become codependent and requires the other to take an interest in anything.
Understand one another’s passions and dreams.
Support these dreams and also recognize you cannot make all of them come true. You are there to love and encourage their dreams, not to take responsibility for achieving them.
While the two of you should have separate dreams, it can also be unifying to have shared goals that you work towards as a team. Have a talk with your partner and brainstorm some dreams you’d like to accomplish together. It can be brought simply by stating “I think it’d be great if we set some shared goals. What are some things we can work towards together