Just what are the keys to a happily-ever-after? Long-term relationships take work, but it doesn't have to be hard. DID YOU KNOW? Studies have shown that using 'us' and 'we' as opposed to 'me' and 'I' messages ensure less marital strife.
In a world where walking out seems to be easier than staying, it's good to remember that numerous people have successfully stayed together for many years, growing together and still remaining in love.
Why do we all strive to have a long-term relationship? Is it pressure from the world at large that fitting into society, means we must be in a relationship? One explanation comes from the movie Dance with Me, where the character playing the wife says, 'We need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the planet... I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you're promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things... all of it, all of the time, every day. You're saying 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness.''
When you first meet your potential partner, you'll put your best foot forward ' your irritating habits or behaviours won't come to the fore and if they do, your partner will likely find them adorable anyway. It isn't that you're selling a lie, it's just that you want to give them the best of you. But nobody can maintain being perfect all the time, it's simply not natural. So, after a time, the quirks and differences are revealed. Often by this time, the rollercoaster of falling in love has smoothed out to being in love ' and it's that love that gives couples their best chance of staying together for the long haul.
Finding a partner is a bit of a gamble ' or at the very least, a lucky draw ' you go for someone who seems to have all the qualities you want, and you expect them to behave in a way you believe is how a relationship should work. You'll have expectations based on what you know, want and believe. Your partner will have the same expectations, but based on what they know, want and believe. These things might not match and quite often, expectations aren't completely met. One of the reasons for this is the age-old belief that men and women are completely different. Despite the Mars and Venus posits, men and women actually feel all the same emotions ' they just express them differently. That's why understanding how your partner expresses their feelings, needs and wants is vital to learning how to sustain a long-term relationship. It's a language that we sometimes don't look deeply enough into. After all, as they say, intimacy is really 'into-me-see'. Putting yourself out of the equation and really deeply seeing your partner is an exercise in understanding you will greatly benefit from.
TALK TO ME
Numerous studies have been done on how to have a successful relationship and most conclude that good communication is the key. But, managing expectations is also important; and this can also be solved with good communication.
Communication will keep the lines to intimacy open, as well as ensure there's always a pathway for a couple to grow together. But communication isn't always easy for both partners, so one of the keys is to find ways to communicate effectively, based on each partner's personality. Good communication should be:
These five attributes will ensure you give your partner the benefit of the doubt; you'll take the time to truly listen without judgement and hopefully without interruption; you'll be kind with your responses and generous with your time as well as your words; you'll share as much as they do; listen as much as you talk; and you'll be honest with each other.
There's a sweet song from the 1980's by Rupert Holmes ' it's called Escape, but more commonly known as the Pina Colada song. (If you like Pina Colada, getting caught in the rain')It's about a man who has grown weary of his wife and takes out a personal ad in the newspaper to connect with someone else. When someone answers the ad, he goes off to meet this new and exciting woman only to see his wife. Both of them were tired of their marriage and because of the ad, found out all sorts of things about each other that they didn't know ' such as liking Pina Coladas. They learned the value of communication and ostensibly went on to live happily ever after, sipping pina coladas and walking in the rain.
There simply isn't a formula for a perfect partnership, and when it comes to sex, everyone and every couple is different. There are no hard and fast rules about how much sex you should have or should want. It's up to you as a couple to fall into a groove that satisfies you both. But, it's also completely normal for the sexual spark to die a little, especially with the daily grind of cooking dinner, organising household tasks and bringing up children.
While communication and the other things you do for each other can be even more intimate than sex, physical intimacy is the one thing you as a couple have that's purely yours. You can have friends or family who will meet a lot of your needs, such as support, laughter, deep conversation and so on. But sex is just for you and your partner.
NOTE: Friendships and connection outside your marriage or partnership are so important ' keep friendships and do activities from time to time without your partner. These connections will strengthen and energise you, and will be good for your relationship.
Far from getting easier as the relationship grows, sex can often get harder. When you were first together, sex was a compulsion, you couldn't not touch each other. But research has found that couples can actually become more shy with each other as time goes by ' this is because the lines of communication haven't been regular, honest and generous.
We also grow older and our bodies change; women worry about their shape and men worry about their performance. If it's been a while since you were last physically intimate, it may take a lot of courage to bring it up, or to seduce your partner. If it's hard for you, technology has an answer. We looked at an app called Kindu, which offers a daily list of ideas that explore intimacy and sexuality you and your partner can (separately) choose. If you have both picked an activity, the app will notify you. It then allows you to message your partner that you're ready; you can also suggest some of your own. It's designed to eliminate embarrassment and create excitement and variety in your relationship. You can download the app for free on any smart phone.
SAY IT YOUR WAY
Staying together isn't difficult when things are going well. It's the stressful times that test your resolve more than anything. And it's during these time that you need to communicate more and practise more kindness. Find code words that you can use, for example if you're feeling low and simply don't have the energy to talk, agree on a word that describes that, with a promise to talk about the issue within two days. The same can apply for keeping the romance alive ' most couples will have a number of inside jokes you can use to spark off a bit of bedroom activity or as a message to say 'I love you'.
However long you've been together, it all boils down to the little things, and very often the boring things that keep a couple going for years ' but it's the effort that keeps you wanting to stay and wanting to make the relationship sustain and grow.
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