I've collected a lot of data over the years.
Am I scientist? Nope, I'm just a girl who's experienced quite a few relationships, talked with a lot of people in and out of relationships, and learned lessons from them all.
My research has spanned over two decades, and recently I've come to a conclusion -- actually it's more like a recipe -- I like to call HICCUPS. It has seven main ingredients when mixed together, create a healthy, happy long-lasting relationship.
Here are the ingredients:
Love is honest, brutally honest. A relationship built on the foundation of honesty has an indestructible framework of trust.
Honesty and trust breed respect. Respecting your partner is critical. Without respect, love can't last. Be honest, no matter what. If you are honest and the relationship ends, it is meant to end. If a relationship is meant, nothing you say (if you are speaking truthfully) will cause it to cease. Have faith in the truth.
2. Intellectual Compatibility
Two people must be friends in mind, not necessarily like-minded, but equal-minded. The smarty/bimbo combo has a shelf life, a short one.
If you are on the same intellectual wave length, you will always have something to talk and laugh about. In turn, you will never bore of each other -- which is vital if you plan to last after your nest empties and erectile dysfunction sets in.
The ability to give each other a mind-gasm is more explosive and longevous than a physical one -- it will keep you cumming for a lifetime.
"We never argue or fight." That's not something to brag about. It's a red flag.
If a couple doesn't argue, it is a sign of distrust. One or both members of the relationship are avoiding confrontation, and dismissing their own thoughts and feelings to please their partner in order to escape the discomfort of discourse. These relationships will not last because there is an absence of trust and an overwhelming presence of fear.
Examine your relationship and ask these questions:
Do each of us have the ability to listen and sift through the words, the tears or the yells to see the heart of what our partner is trying to communicate to us?
Are we willing to step outside of our desires to be right and validate each other's feelings?
For those who are afraid of confrontation, focus on the solution, because it's not about the argument, it's the resolution that matters. Healthy relationships allow space for discomfort, because they know their partner is equally as committed to finding a solution. What destroys a relationship is the need to win. What strengthens a relationship is the ability to listen. An argument will dissolve when the people having the argument feel heard.
When each person feels heard, there is peace. When there is peace, there is perspective. With perspective comes an apology. Giving an apology is important, but the acceptance of the apology is more important.
How does the recipient accept the apology? Does he or she accept the apology and release the residue that can lead to a terminal grudge and resentment? If he or she doesn't accept the apology, contempt will seep into the relationship. Once contempt is present, the relationship is over.
Fighting fairly and honorably is an art. It is a lifelong practice. When partners are committed to the relationship, they will devote to communicating well and approach their disagreements as an opportunity to improve their partnership.
A relationship is only as happy as the least happiest person in it, and the relationship is happiest in the middle of the two people in it. Mature participants of a relationship know sometimes one person has to travel a little farther to the center than the other. They are willing to make the trek, because they trust that the other will do the same when it is their turn.
When compromise is necessary ask yourself, "What matters more to me, my want to get my way or my need for peace? What do I need to do to create harmony right now?"
When you think and act in favor of the well being of your relationship, you will always air in favor of compromise; even if that means you travel a little farther than your partner because you know, if your partner is miserable, you will be, too, and so will your relationship.
You may know your partner now, but you weren't born into his or her family. You didn't experience his or her life firsthand. Everyone is formed and conditioned by their circumstance. We are taught how to communicate and function (whether directly or indirectly) by our parents.
You and your partner come to your relationship with different needs and ways of communicating. As his or her partner, it's imperative you are understanding and accepting of your differences. Instead of expecting them to communicate how you do, study them like a foreign language and learn their language with the same passion you show your favorite hobby. This will keep you from entering the gates of judgment and frustration, as you learn to "speak their language" and love them the way they need to be loved.
No one belongs to you. You can't control anyone either. Despite how hard you try to persuade or manipulate another to respond and react in the way you want, they won't and they don't. Everyone thinks, feels and acts in their own way, on their own time.
If you try to rush someone's process or push them to do something they don't want to do, they will feel pressured. When a person feels pressured, they feel unsafe, unloved and unable to give love. They will no longer be themselves, and when someone is not themselves, they are not honest. Without honesty, love dies, as will the relationship.
The most important thing you can do for the person you love is give them space. When a person has space, they feel free -- free to feel and think, do what they love and be who they are in their own way, on their own time and they will want to share themselves with you. Remember, love is not in a rush, it has all the time in the world.
I use the word "sex" to describe the seventh ingredient, but it's more than just intercourse. It's affection, touch, attention, warmth and kindness. The ingredient of sex is comprised of reciprocity (an equality of service to one another) and the desire to show your partner he or she is special and wanted by you. When a person feels wanted, they feel safe, loved and free (there's that freedom part again).
Sex and all its components disappear because the individuals in the relationship stop feeling special, wanted and acknowledged by the other. The feelings of love develop effortlessly, but if you want to keep love alive, you have to maintain it -- you must work at it. Relationships demand effort by both people, equally at the same time.
Daily effort applied to a relationship by its partners will lead to a lifetime of love. It can be a simple effort -- a gentle touch, a sweet kiss, an arm wrapped around her belly as she washes dishes, or sitting by his side as he reads a book or watches his favorite show. All of these actions are a reminder to your partner -- I see you, I acknowledge you, I choose you, I'm trying because I love you and I want to keep loving you.
I've been alive for 34.5 years, and I have concluded that love is undefinable. Although I do know one thing I am absolutely sure of, and that is love is a choice.
Loving another person is a moment-by-moment choice. "I choose to love this person with everything I have right now." If you are in a relationship, I hope you commit to loving your partner with an honest heart, a fully present mind, transparency in feeling and thought, a willingness to compromise (because you understand who they are and what they need to feel loved).
I hope you choose to be patient with their process and you always find the time to express your love with a hug and a kiss, as if this moment is the last time you will ever hold them in your arms. Oh, one last thing, never forget to say I love you -- we can never say it too much.
**First published on Elephant Journal.