Love – that all-encompassing, magnetic, passion filled word. So many of us believe that love will conquer all, that love is all you need to make your relationship last. I’m a romantic at heart, so I don’t want to diminish the power that love definitely has in our lives. But when it comes to long-lasting relationships and going the distance, is love REALLY enough? Falling in love can be easy, but staying in love requires more than a blissful, fleeting feeling. Love is mysterious, a yearning of the soul – but to have a truly successful relationship that lasts forever, you will need love as a foundation, but realistically…you need these things as well:
Love without trust is like having a phone with no service – it’s useless. There’s a quote that says “To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved” – because trusting someone wholeheartedly doesn’t come easy for everyone. There are plenty of couples out there who love each other, but don’t trust each other…and once trust is lost, it’s hard to gain it back. Knowing that someone is there for you, will not betray you and has your back goes a long way. It’s a comforting feeling knowing you can put your heart in someone else’s hands and they won’t drop it. Trust is one of the truest forms of intimacy, and without it, love doesn’t stand a chance.
Honesty inspires trust and should be practiced in your relationship at all times. Some feel that they can get away with being in a relationship without having to tell the truth or be open 100% of the time, but the longevity of your relationship depends on it. Telling lies, withholding information, omitting the truth – all of these things creates an environment of distrust that will crumble any romance in light of a crisis. Having doubts about your partner eats away at the foundation of the relationship, because trust is what love is built on. Being honest ensures that the person we choose to love can trust us, and vice versa, and leaves us feeling confident that our relationship is secure.
Similar to trust, respect evolves over the course of a relationship and should grow stronger as it progresses. Respect basically begins with how you feel about yourself, because it sets the standard for how you’d like to be treated. Once you respect yourself, the person you fall in love with will respect you as well, and you’ll be able to treat that person the way you want to be treated. It’s a reciprocal love, not just between lovers, but between friends. Once you start disrespecting your partner, or he disrespects you, you threaten your relationship, and love and trust cannot thrive. Couples will not always agree, and it’s healthy to debate or even argue – but one should always fight fair; and disrespecting and disparaging your partner should never be an option.
You have to know that you will not always get what you want in a relationship – it’s impossible. But learning how to pick your battles and give in once in a while is key in finding balance in your relationship. This is not to say that you should make ALL of the sacrifices in a relationship or that you should be a pushover, but blending lives together requires that you both find a healthy way to coexist, meshing core values that affirm the other person while not diminishing yourself. So if that means he gets the remote when your show is on, go read a book that night. Or maybe your movie choice trumps his. Compromise is necessary in small doses in an otherwise harmonious union. It’s an essential element in a relationship that ensures that both people have their needs met and grow together.
As I said before, couples will not always agree on everything, and conflict is inevitable. Conflict isn’t a threat to the relationship; it’s how you DEAL with conflict that determines the survival of your partnership. Poor communication skills can create distance in a relationship, or fuel anger or resentment. Communication means address the issue at hand, really LISTEN to your partner and respond to criticism with empathy and respect while not being defensive or on the attack. The goal is to find a mutual understanding or solution that satisfies you both, not to “win” the argument or “be right” all the time. Communication is not just verbal, it can be read in body language as well. Make sure to look your partner in the eye, smile and maybe even hold hands when dealing with a disagreement. Once you establish a pattern of effective communication skills, it’ll become easier and create a positive environment for your relationship to thrive.
One reason so many relationships fail is because couples fail to define what commitment is. Cheating, lying and secrets happen when the grey area is stretched to the point where boundaries are crossed…especially when those boundaries were never really set in the first place. Plenty of men and women fall in love, but are not ready to be in committed, monogamous relationships. Love does not always presume commitment, so people need to be clear on what their intentions are, and if their needs or desires can be met by the other person. It’s important to have “The Talk” if you feel that love is creeping into your relationship – so talk about feelings, expectations and consequences so you all can be on the same page. Don’t assume that your sweetheart’s idea of commitment is the same as yours, because you could be in for a heartbreaking surprise if you don’t discuss it openly and honestly. Be brave. Be specific with your needs and honest about what you can give and what you expect in order to build a deeper connection. You can love and cherish your partner all you want, but it’s the commitment that will make your relationship last a lifetime.