It seems that the further we look, the harder it is to find couples who are in strong, happy, healthy relationships. But, it is important not to get discouraged, because they are out there, in all generations.
We often credit our parents' or grandparents' generations with having longer-lasting, more solid relationships. While this may be the case, relationships like these do not just happen randomly. They require consistent effort from both partners. Here are some valuable lessons we can take from couples with the strongest relationships.
1. Arguments are natural and don't end it all.
Strong couples understand that if you've got a house and a light bulb goes out, you fix the light bulb -- you don't sell the entire house. Just because you have arguments or fights doesn't mean the demise of the relationship. You can disagree with someone and still be in love with them. Just make sure to never be insulting, and understand that if you fight all the time, it is a red flag.
2. You can't overstate how much you love someone.
If you love him or her with the intensity that you need to in order to spend a lifetime together -- make sure he or she knows it. Hearing "I love you" never gets old. As an added bonus, it helps eliminate any insecurities or doubts because you are keeping your partner confident about your feelings.
3. Your family is their family, and vice versa.
Family is an important part of any relationship. If you don't think so -- just imagine the tension present if you are with someone who your parents/aunt/uncle/friends/brother/sister openly dislike.
While it is unrealistic to expect everyone will always get along and like each other, it is important to put in the effort to treat his or her family as your own.
4. Keep your private life private.
It doesn't take more than 30 seconds of scrolling through Facebook to spot more than one person's relationship issues. When you start inviting the public into your relationship, it no longer becomes your relationship. Sure, share your fun dates, post goofy photos together, enjoy yourself -- but make sure you draw the line where necessary.
5. Don't let things get stale.
Particularly in longer-term relationships, it is natural to fall into a routine with someone. This is why it is important to stay spontaneous and keep the fire burning. Plan a date night, get in the car and pick a town for a weekend away; surprise him or her with tickets to that concert they've wanted to go to. Nobody wants to be in a mundane relationship forever.
6. Be punctual.
Just because you're not picking someone up for dates anymore doesn't mean you can be late. If you're going to a party or event together, do your best to be ready when you both plan to leave. If someone is waiting around for you and getting impatient because you're going to be late to something that's important to them, it can cause unnecessary tension during an evening that's supposed to be fun for you both.
7. Pick up the slack when your partner is overwhelmed.
Life can get busy, work can be stressful and people can get overwhelmed. This is why it's important to blur the lines of gender roles in a relationship. Doing the laundry and cleaning the kitchen are not roles for a woman -- they are necessary household chores, and it is important that both share the responsibilities.
If your significant other who usually does a certain type of chore or errand is feeling stressed, step in and take care of it.
8. Take care of your partner when they are sick.
Nobody wants to get sick and nobody enjoys it -- but being in a relationship is not just about being there when things are great, it's also about stepping in to do what it takes when things are not great. Cancel your dinner plans, go to the store for more medicine and do whatever it takes to make him or her feel better.
Don't have an attitude about it either, nobody likes to feel like they are a burden on their significant other -- if you are going to grow into old age beside this person, you'll need to know they are willing to take care of you when they have to.
9. Don't stop doing the little things.
If you are checking out at the store and their favorite candy is on the shelf, grab some of it. Bring home flowers randomly. Plan a date night. The small things you do for someone randomly are what count the most, because it shows you don't need a holiday or special occasion to do something nice. You just do it because you're in love.
10. Ask how your partner's day was.
We all need to vent sometimes. Regardless of if we had a stressful day, are feeling unappreciated at work, or have some exciting news to share -- being able to open up to your significant other about the details is comforting, and openly welcoming the discussion shows him or her that you are genuinely interested in their day.
Just because you have been together for awhile doesn't mean you should care any less about seemingly routine things -- just the opposite.
Most importantly, do not ask out of obligation, ask out of genuine interest. Really listen, absorb and respond.
11. Understand the value of compromise.
You may not always want to do what your partner wants. That work party is pretty lame every year. You really don't care for the band you just got concert tickets for. You'd rather be doing anything else besides this double date with their rowdy friends -- but, you do it with a smile on your face anyway, because it is important to your partner, and you know they would do it for you in return.
Plus, isn't who you're with more important than what you're doing?
12. Know when to let things slide.
Before you bring up something small that bothers you, ask yourself if the potential argument that could arise is really worth eliminating something that is nothing more than a nuisance.
13. Do not let the intimacy fade.
Romance should not fade after the honeymoon phase of a relationship, it should increase over time as your partner becomes a bigger, more important part of your life.
Both physical and emotional intimacy are cornerstones of a strong relationship. These are things we can't lose sight of.
14. Give your partner your undivided attention.
This is a new problem facing our generation. Our parents and grandparents didn't sit on the couch in silence on their smartphones, they interacted with each other. They spent quality time together. They really absorbed each other's presence. Technology is a highly effective tool for streamlining our life and staying in touch when we are not together, but if we want to build a deep connection with someone, we need to unplug when we are with them.
15. Share new experiences together.
Whether it be something as simple as watching a movie neither of you has seen, or something as extreme as skydiving for the first time together (not that I have ever done that), I have always found value in sharing new experiences with someone. Particularly in a relationship, this is something that your girlfriend or boyfriend has never seen, heard, or felt before. Both of your minds are being opened to something new and unique for the very first time -- together.
16. Value your alone time.
Even when you have jobs, friends, families, obligations, children, in-laws, and all of the busyness that comes along with a full life, one thing will always remain true: Your relationship is at the epicenter of this rotating universe you have created.
To lose sight of the two people who make it all tick in the first place is to lose sight of your foundation, your reason, your "why" that you are together. It is to sacrifice the quality of your relationship to keep the well-oiled machine that is the rest of your life working. The problem here is that when you do slow down, you are too exhausted to really enjoy each other's presence.
This is why it is important to make time for each other. Really connect. Don't lose sight of what matters. You are two individuals with individual lives, but you have also made the commitment to be a single unit that takes on the world together. To be a team. To be partners in crime.
Value the commitments you have made above all else, and the rest will come together and stay together -- just like the two of you will.
This article originally appeared on JamesMSama.com.
You can follow James on Twitter at @JamesMSama.
James Michael Sama is an award winning Boston based blogger on the topics of dating and relationships, having amassed over 30 million readers in just a year and a half. He writes and speaks on the topics of chivalry, romance, and happiness throughout the country and has been featured repeatedly in news segments, talk shows, and mainstream radio.
James' mission is to bring dignity back to dating and relationships by reinstilling these values that are sorely lacking in modern times. James is also currently working on his first book.
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