We as a society are inundated with messages and expectations about love and marriage. Disney shows us that love is perfect; Prince Charming is real and that women only need a simple slipper fitting to make it magical. Romantic comedies showcase how love might have its challenges, but with the tiniest bit of effort, it's easy to make it work. Unfortunately, none of this is true.
The unfortunate reality is that relationships might start strong, but many times people lose their passion, their connection, and their way. The realization that love isn't like The Notebook all the time, every day can be startling or sad for many people... which often causes them to drop back even further from their partner.
There's no manual for love, marriage, and romance. But it's not really needed. Sometimes, all you need is just a nudge in the right direction. Here are eight proven ways to make your relationship fantastic starting right now:
So many people claim "Communication is the cornerstone of a relationship." I don't agree. Not because communication isn't valuable... but because for so many people, "communication" usually means to speak -- to share their view/opinion/why they are right. In truth, the best way to appreciate and understand where someone else is coming from is through active listening and empathy.
What to do: You don't have to agree with them... just hear their view without adding in your need to be right. Listening is how problems can get worked through.
Acceptance is critical... not only of each other, but also of ourselves and our individual circumstances. You can improve your relationship instantly when you both love and accept your similarities, and respect and appreciate your differences.
What to do: Don't wish they were different. Accept them for who they are. If who they are (or how they act) doesn't work for you -- or deal breakers have come to light -- discuss it.
#3 SUPPORT AND REINFORCEMENT
In any healthy relationship there are joint interests as a couple, and individual interests for each person. Things that are important to them should be important to both, as getting support from the person you love most is really important. And letting them know that you care about them and their interests regularly counts.
What to do: You don't have to join them in all their activities/passions, but paying attention to what matters to them -- and being genuinely interested in it -- will make all the difference. Carve out some time to talk about what they are up to, without the need to share your stuff at that time. By allowing them to have center stage, they will feel the value you are giving them. Then -- have them reciprocate.
Trust, loyalty, being straight up -- whatever you want to call it, being honest is crucial for a relationship to work. No one wants to hear things that aren't good... but they definitely would rather have the ugly truth instead of a beautiful lie.
What to do: Yes, there are people who lie to portray themselves better to others. But too often in established relationship, people aren't honest because they: 1) Don't want to disappoint the other person; 2) Don't want to be judged for their choices; or 3) Don't feel that their truth will be accepted. For honesty to exist, it needs to be safe to tell the truth. Make it safe and don't judge. If they lie, that has nothing to do with you. And by always telling them the truth, you are not only keeping your integrity, you also allow them their dignity.
#5 STAY INDEPENDENT
Doing things as a couple is the unspoken must of successful relationships. However, too often, people give up their sense of individuality once the relationships has grown -- instead only speaking with "we" and "us", and giving up things that matter to them personally.
What to do: Just because someone is in a relationship doesn't mean they give up (or worse, sacrifice) their personal wants, aspirations, and dreams. Life, bills, kids and many other things can delay or alter life plans. But individuality -- including interests, growth, financial independence (even if it's just a separate account) -- keeps people feeling good and secure about themselves outside the relationship... which plays a part in feeling good and secure in the relationship.
#6 LAUGHTER AND PLAYFULNESS
All relationships have their ups and downs, and life can certainly deal out its share of challenges. But keeping things fun--and having fun together -- is what keeps couples strong through good and bad times... and the effects are instant and obvious.
What to do: Watching a comedy, playing practical jokes, or just keeping things playful between the two of you will make all the difference. Every time you do something that makes you or your partner smile, it drives a physical change and allows your body to release chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin (sometimes called the "cuddle hormone") in both of your brains. You'll feel happier and closer.
Everyone likes to be acknowledged for the things they do. In established relationships, sometimes people take things for granted. No matter how much someone loves you, everyone has a point where they get tired of waiting to feel appreciated.
What to do: As simples as it sounds, please and thank you does a long way to showing someone that you value what they do. On a deeper level, tell them regularly that you are grateful for their efforts and actions. Support their efforts, and look for ways and opportunities to show them that you are appreciative of not only what they do, but also for who they are.
#8 BE AFFECTIONATE
Infatuation is what's present at the beginning of relationships. But without continuous effort by both people, the initial excitement can fade and warm feelings can disappear over time. Unless both partners make a conscious effort to renew their feelings for one another -- every day -- you risk not only a physical disconnection, but an emotional one, as well.
What to do: The secret is always in the little things. Hold their hand. Sit next to them on the couch. Kiss them hello when you get home, and goodbye when you leave. Walk next to them. Send them a text in the middle of the day -- just to tell them you're thinking about them.
Bottom line: To build and maintain a long-lasting, successful relationship, you need to commit to your partner's emotional well-being. And when things are challenging or times are hard, that's when it's even more important to show them and put in effort.