If You Want Your Relationship To Last, Do These 10 Things
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The effort doesn’t end after commitment, that’s when it begins.
Who even has the time? You mutter to yourself as you read an endless stream of headlines online about romance, dating, chivalry, courtship…many of which, probably written by me over the years.
Different types of advice applies to different people in different stages of life, but what about when you need some real, down-to-earth, practical tips on keeping the flame burning in your relationship or marriage over the long haul?
If that’s what you’re looking for, let’s begin.
1: Revisit your love languages together.
If you’re not familiar with Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages, here is the rundown:
- Physical touch
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Gift giving
- Quality time
We all give and receive love in our own unique ways that can often be fit into these categories. It’s always a good idea to talk about your love languages early into a relationship, but as time goes on, it’s easy to lose sight of what exactly your partner craves and desires on a daily basis.
For example, if your love language is quality time, but your partner’s is physical touch, you may think you’re showing an outpouring of love every time you sit down to watch a movie together.
But, if you’re not actually touching your partner, they might not feel the love you’re giving.
It’s easy to see how “speaking” two different languages can cause a divide within a couple that may not be obvious until far down the road when someone finally decides to speak up, potentially blindsiding their partner who didn’t know there was a problem to begin with.
If you’ve not touched on it for awhile (no pun intended), sit and chat about your love languages together. Then, most importantly, make a pledge to communicate your love in the way(s) your partner understands. It would be a useless exercise if you listened to their answers and then never changed anything. Taking action on this is the type of effort that shows real commitment.
2: Plan regular date nights.
This might sound obvious, but executing on it is a different story entirely.
Date nights don’t have to be fancy dinners or big outings, they can be a simple movie-and-takeout night at home together, or a walk to the local live music venue, or anything that you reserve time to do just the two of you.
“Dating” isn’t just for single people, it’s important that we continue to date and court our partner even after we’re already committed. This is the part where many people drop the ball in long term relationships, they assume that they can let off the throttle of effort after a certain amount of time. In reality, the exact opposite is true.
If we stop dating our partner, they can easily feel taken for granted or cast aside even if that’s not our intention. Dates are fun days or evenings that give you the gift of focused alone time together to reconnect, have fun, and remember why you fell in love in the first place.
Choose a time that works for you both and keep it open every week. Plan something new, revisit something old — whatever it is, give your partner the gift of your undivided attention during this time.
3: Spend time APART.
Didn’t see this one coming, did ya?
I have always fully believed in bonds being built through spending quality, focused time together. I also believe that your individual passions and interests are one of the things that drew your partner to you in the first place.
I’ve coached a variety of clients who’ve told me that people seem to lose interest in them after a few months of dating even though they’re devoting all of their time to the relationship…
Therein lies the problem.
When someone is drawn to you, they see the whole package. Your hobbies, your lifestyle, your passions, your side projects. These are the very things that spark attraction in the first place.
They are also the things that light your soul on fire and make you better in all other areas of life.
So — what happens if you actually stop doing these things in order to spend all of your time with your partner?
Both their attraction, and your passions, will fizzle.
Now, let’s say you’ve stayed together despite this. Maybe even for years. If you really take an honest inventory of your life, what are you still doing for yourself?
Are you still playing that guitar? Still painting in the garage? Still going to car shows? Still practicing yoga?
Taking time to do something that you enjoy is not neglecting your partner. In fact, if it will refresh and reignite your soul, it’s something that will benefit both of you and the relationship as a whole.
Plus, nothing is more attractive than seeing someone in their element, loving what they’re doing. Time for that is a win/win.
4: Put “it” in your calendar.
That’s right, I said it.
Schedule your physical intimacy together.
Before you X out of this article, hear me out for a minute. A wide variety of experts (not something I’m claiming to be) recommend that couples in long term relationships or marriages put their intimacy on the schedule. But, why?
If you’re reading this in the first place, you know that life gets busy and overwhelming. You’ve probably also experienced yourself or your partner being too tired, not really feeling like it, or going for stretches of time without getting a little hot-and-heavy. You also know the disconnect you can feel from your partner when this happens.
If there are days on the calendar every week when you know things will heat up, it helps to build anticipation and also to avoid disappointment on the days that it doesn’t happen.
It keeps you consistent and active together, and it also helps address issues if they arise. This way, if scheduled days are missed, it may be a sign that something is really wrong and you need to talk about it.
Find a balance that works for both of your “drives” and implement a schedule that proactively encourages physical connection together.
The longer your relationship, the more valuable this will become.
5: Hug and cuddle.
Physical intimacy has many different forms, and hugging and cuddling are scientifically proven to release oxytocin (otherwise known as the love hormone) in your brain.
The following is courtesy of MedicalNewsToday:
Delivering oxytocin through a nasal spray has allowed researchers to observe its effects on behavior.
In 2011, research published in Psychopharmacology foundTrusted Source that intranasal oxytocin improved self-perception in social situations and increased personality traits such as warmth, trust, altruism, and openness.
In 2013, a study published in PNAS suggested that oxytocin may help keep men faithful to their partners, by activating the reward centers in the brain.
In 2014, researchers published findings in the journal Emotion suggestingTrusted Source that people saw facial expression of emotions in others more intensely after receiving oxytocin through a nasal spray.
Less scientifically speaking, hugging and cuddling can make you feel closer to your partner both physically and emotionally.
Instead of sitting on opposite sides of the couch, try holding hands, or laying together, or squishing up close during your next movie night. Sometimes this is all you need to feel reconnected and rejuvenated.
6: Compliment each other more.
Every single day (literally) I do my best to give Rachel a compliment no matter what, even if it’s something as simple as “those pants look great on you.”
When we see someone every day from the groggy morning face to the work-ified professional to the sweatpants’d couch-sitter, it can all seem a bit…mundane.
But, only if we allow it to be.
There’s no reason why you can’t take a few seconds and compliment your partner every single day, even if it’s a text after they leave for work, or at a random time to let them know you’re thinking of them.
It is SO EASY to let the days pass by, or to fall into the trap of “oh, they already know how I feel” and to stop outwardly expressing our thoughts and feelings about each other, but we can’t let that happen.
This is how people begin feeling taken for granted, or unattractive, or unloved. We want (and need) to be told that the things that drew our partner to us in the first place are still working, as well as what else they’ve fallen in love with us for over the years.
Be flattering, be flirty, be open and honest. And, don’t forget #1 when implementing this.
7: Make the boring stuff fun.
I once heard a story about a couple who went on a date to a store. Each was given $3 to go through the store and buy something for the other person.
Random, cheesy, cute.
Whether it’s a trip to the grocery store, or Target, or the DMV, those are the realities that “real life” is made of. If we can’t find ways to enjoy these little things with the person we’ve chosen as our partner, then what ARE we doing?
Fun and enjoyment can’t be reserved for one or two days a week, or we’ll spend 80% of our life wishing we were doing something else.
Plus, if you can’t have fun with your partner, what’s the point of the relationship in the first place?
8: Set a new goal together.
I’ll be the first to admit that my fitness was badly affected by the pandemic. I stopped going to the gym when they closed, and ordered takeout far too often…
For the past couple of months, though, I’ve been back in the gym pushing harder than ever before, and it’s completely transformed me mentally and physically.
Part of this motivation came from Rachel implementing stricter nutrition and lifestyle choices for herself. Not to mention her six-pack abs next to my keg.
We both decided to embark on this journey together and, while we have different goals, it creates more cohesive lifestyle choices that we both share in.
Continuous self improvement is paramount in a relationship as we both work to get better mentally and physically — but if only one partner is on that journey, it can create a divide as they begin to outgrow the other.
Setting goals together, whatever they may be, gives you something new and exciting to look forward to as you challenge and inspire each other. It brings you both together as a team and creates a new energy and excitement.
Find something that is important to both of you and go after it relentlessly.
9: Show gratitude.
Maybe you’re the one who cooks in the relationship. Maybe you’re the one who cleans, or takes out the trash, or washes the cars, or takes the kids to soccer practice…
Maybe that’s the role that you’ve adopted over the years for one reason or another. You’re better at it, your schedule is more flexible, you offered to take on the responsibility.
Regardless of why, one thing remains certain: People appreciate being appreciated.
No matter how long our partner has been doing something, it’s important that we let them know how much we appreciate it.
Showing your gratitude can come in many different forms (see #1 again), but it must be present for your partner to know that you actually appreciate what they do. It’s easy to go through the motions of the day without acknowledging the little things, but the truth is that they take time and effort, and knowing that this effort is recognized makes people feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
10: Remember that you’re a TEAM.
Many of my opinions have changed over the 10+ years I’ve been writing and coaching on relationships, but one has always remained the same:
The happiest and healthiest couples approach their relationship as a team.
It’s not “me and me,” it’s “we.”
When you’re a “we,” you make decisions together. You have common goals and visions for the future. You support and encourage each other. You lend them your strength in their times of need. You celebrate alongside of them when they win, and comfort them when they lose.
This is how you create and sustain a bond over the long term, but committing to living your life in accordance with it.
The kids, the obligations, the bills, the work, the family life, all of it needs to be given attention, love, and priority. All areas of life are important in their own ways, and it’s also true that all areas of life are affected by the person you choose to spend it with.
Their positive or negative energy will impact your mood. What they say will linger in your mind. How they make you feel will affect your performance at work and at home.
Choosing the right partner is one of the most important things you’ll ever do.
But, you don’t just choose them one time.
You choose them every single day when you wake up in the morning and live within the reality of that relationship. That is the central foundation of everything else you will do and create.
Relationships are like a fire — you must stoke it consistently if you want it to keep burning. If you do it right, it’ll keep you warm forever.
I originally published this article on Medium.
Finding success in creating hundreds of viral articles and videos on building limitless confidence and healthier relationships, James has accumulated over 38 million visitors to his website and a collective social media following of over 400,000.
James speaks at live events and in the media across the U.S. and has become a go-to expert with outlets such as CNN, Bravo, The New York Post, The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, CNBC, The Boston Globe, CBS, and more.
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