One failed marriage, even two, is not indicative of your ability to have a successful relationship. But, achieving a different outcome requires learning a new approach to love. You may have the capacity to love, but do you have the ability to prevent and overcome relationship challenges? Here are some tips to help you attain a happy and healthy relationship.
1. Take your time.
Some of the biggest relationship failures have been attributed to rushing into a union. Yet, no one ever regrets taking too much time to get to know a potential lover. Everything you desire from your relationship can happen much more smoothly when you give it time, as opposed to condensing your plans into irrational timeframes. More importantly, there are warning signs that you can easily overlook if you don’t let the relationship evolve at a steady pace. Financial issues, poor health status, criminal histories and family conflicts are always revealed in time. Give yourself the chance to explore whether you are pursuing a mate that will compliment, not complicate, your life.
2. Understand that there are different stages in a love relationship.
In the beginning, you fall madly in love with your partner. You would probably spend every waking hour with them, if you could. In fact, you can’t even remember your life before them. Well, one day you’ll snap out of it and that fierce infatuation will simmer down to a healthy amount of respect, admiration and mature love. You may even experience a resurgence of lust from time to time. If you are in it for the long haul, be aware that your relationship will ebb and flow and your feelings toward one another will evolve into something much more sustainable than fickle fascination.
3. Create goals individually and as a couple.
Don’t be the chick that loses herself because she has fallen in love. Why? Because it never ends well and the world has enough of those. Your partner fell in love with you because all of your wonderful qualities, including your ambition and chutzpah. Not only should you continue to strive towards your personal goals, creating goals as a couple will keep you aligned as you work towards building a future together.
You cannot have a successful relationship without commitment. Once you have resolved to give the relationship a go, give it your full attention. Do not keep a mental backup. Forget about your co-worker in the other department that always flirts with you (that you would definitely date if you were single), or the ex that pops up from time to time to confess you were the one that got away. Stay focused. You owe it to yourself to give your current relationship your full energy in order to give it the best chance of succeeding.
5. Learn how to forgive.
This does not require an act of Jesus. I am not talking about possible deal-breakers (i.e. infidelity, abuse, etc.), I am talking about day-to-day conflicts that can affect your relationship. He didn’t take your videos back when you asked him to and now you have a late fee. He didn’t want to go to your best friends dinner party because he finds her insufferable. He constantly wears that same golf shirt that you told him you hate. Focusing on small annoyances can make you lose perspective until you convince yourself that the relationship is not what you want. For relationship longevity, you must acquire the ability to keep everything in prospective, learn to forgive and overlook the petty things.
6. Continue to date.
He's hot, you're hot -- so what's the problem? Romance is often the first thing that suffers under demands of your time from work, children and other responsibilities. However, you must continue to do the things that remind you of why you fell in love in the first place. Relationships do not sustain themselves, you must continue to keep your romance fresh in order to make it work. Make a conscious effort to devote time to get out and do things as a couple. At the very least, plan activities that you can do at home that will foster your love connection. Snuggle while you read a book together, cook a meal together, or watch the sunset together from your backyard deck.
7. Learn to value privacy.
Newsflash: You are not living your life in front of reality TV cameras. That means you can give up the notion that what is modeled in the media is a realistic way to manage a relationship. We may live in a tabloid society, but some things are meant to remain private. Resist the urge to air your dirty laundry in front of friends and family. The 10 minutes you took to vent about your partner, or share an intimate story, could come back to haunt you and cause irreparable damage. Painting your partner in a bad light, or revealing embarrassing personal information, is not a sign of loyalty, love or respect. When you honor your partner by keeping the details of your relationship sacred, others will learn to respect your relationship and your privacy too.
8. Assess your relationship regularly.
This is crucial. You will never know if your partners needs are being fulfilled if you do not ask. They cannot read your mind either. Do not assume your partner is happy because they have not brought up any issues. They might not know how to start the conversation and prefer to avoid confrontation. Rather than let resentment build over time, until one or both of you feel negative about the direction of your relationship, check-in! Asking “How do you feel about ___?” and “What do you need from me?” may clue you in on information that could save your relationship.
9. Learn each others love language.
You do not have to like self-help books to benefit from reading The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. The audio book can even be found on YouTube. Its purpose is to help you identify what your partner needs from you in order to feel loved, or their “primary love language”. As Chapman explains, people have different love languages. You can work tirelessly to cater to your partner, only to wind up feeling unappreciated. What you have been doing may be what you want them to do for you, but it has nothing to do with what makes your partner feel loved. This book will increase your awareness about yourself and your partner, and dramatically improve your communication.
10. Seek counseling before you hit a rough patch.
Don't wait until your relationship is in the dumps to work on your relationship skills. Counseling can be a great bonding experience for couples who want a future together. With the right counselor, you can learn more about yourself, your partner and the issues you have both dragged into the relationship from the past. You will also have an opportunity to address potential problems (i.e. different values that may cause conflict down the line) and brainstorm realistic solutions. Best of all, you have a neutral third party that can call you out on your stuff and make you realize when you are being unreasonable and are just plain wrong.
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