When you’re caught up in the excitement of your wedding, it can be hard to imagine that you and your spouse might not live happily ever after. But sharing your life with another person can be a challenge, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience with relationships. Marriages take work, commitment, and love, but they also need respect to be truly happy and successful.
A marriage based on love and respect doesn’t just happen. Both spouses have to do their part. Below are some important keys to work on each day to make your marriage successful.
So, what are the topmost important things in a relationship you need to pay attention to so your relationship stays fresh, interesting and vibrant?
Accept your partner as they are, in all their spectacular humanness
There is a time in every relationship where all the quirks that you found so cute and adorable during your first year of courtship become annoying. The way they clear their throat or have to have their butter spread “just so” on their piece of toast, or how they must only have their dressing on the side, never directly on their salad.
Acceptance of these things is important for a long-term relationship. No one is perfect, but hopefully, all the wonderful things about your partner outweigh the less-wonderful. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be with them, right?
So when your partner starts showing you just how human they are, keep on loving them unconditionally.
Working On Your Overall Sense Of Happiness As A Couple
Everyone wants to be happy, and happiness is really important — even though you won’t be happy all the time. It’s normal to go long periods of time when you’re unhappy, especially if you’re dealing with a crisis. But when you add up the total happy times versus unhappy times, happy times should come out on top.
Even in the most loving, head-over-heels relationships, this takes work. It’s necessary, Klapow says, to continue learning about each other, including sharing your hopes, dreams and fears. “Understanding what is driving your partner in their life and how that may change over time is critical,” he says.
It not only helps you feel closer, but it can also mean giving each other a boost when times get tough. Love is one thing, but genuinely supporting each other will create the feeling that you’ve really got a partner. And what could be better than that?
Remember how you interacted the first year you were dating
Take a lesson from that and incorporate some of those seductive behaviours into your interactions with your partner. If you are now prone to slipping on the sweats and an old, stained university T-shirt the minute you get home from work, think twice about that.
Sure, it’s comfortable. But wouldn’t it be nice for your partner to come home to the person you were during the early months of the relationship?
A flattering outfit, pretty makeup, a spritz of lovely perfume? We aren’t saying you should become a Stepford Wife, but a little self-pampering will make you feel better about yourself and show your partner that you care about how he views you, too.
When was the last time you went on a special date-like evening? Book a nice restaurant, put on a little black dress, and meet your partner there, just like when you were first getting together.
Check out our post on When to have a honeymoon?
Take time each week to have a real discussion
Sure, you both talk about your day when you see each other each evening. The answer is, usually “Everything was fine.” That doesn’t help to connect you on a deep level, does it?
One of the keys to keeping a relationship great is a great conversation, the kind where you exchange ideas, or remake the world, or just listen to differing points of views, acknowledging the other’s way of seeing and understanding.
Having meaningful conversations—about politics, current events, or just the book you are reading—will reinforce your bond and remind you of how interesting and intelligent your partner is.
Genuinely Liking Each Other
It’s more common than you think for people to stay in relationships with people they don’t actually like because they love them. If you can’t wrap your brain around it, think about that family member who always judges you or isn’t so easy to get along with. You love them because they’re family, but you don’t actually like being around them.
The same thing can happen with a partner. You might love them so much, but not enjoy hanging out, not make each other laugh, and not have anything in common. So if things have grown stale, take note.
Having a Solid Respect
Have you ever had or witnessed this conversation? “My partner’s such a jerk.” “Then why do you stay with them?” “Because I love them.” This classic exchange shows how love can blind you to the reality of a bad situation, including being with someone who doesn’t show you respect.
Giving, even giving from the heart, doesn’t mean much if we don’t respect our partner. Respect comes from a deep understanding of our significant other, of their thoughts, reactions, opinions, values, and attitudes. Respect for who our partner is may cause us to look forward to their homecoming each night, make it unlikely we feel bored in their company. Our understanding of who our partner is as a person and our respect for the qualities that make up our partner often leads to the growth of admiration. This, in turn, may contribute to the feelings of pleasure we experience in our partner’s company.
Respect also might grow when the marriage, or either individual in it, faces a challenge. When a marriage is troubled, when one or both partners have lost their respect for the other due to mistakes, choices they’ve made, or other issues, watching a partner withstand trials, make different choices, and repair their share of the damage can lead to the growth of new respect. This newfound respect may become the soil in which the seeds of love are replanted, even when it seems marriage is over.
It’s tempting to look the other way, especially when the idea of breaking up — and losing the person you love so much — sounds positively miserable. Keep in mind, though, how much more important respect is when looking for a solid relationship, than simply being in love.
As therapist Nancy Kislin, LCSW, MFT says, respect is all about honouring each other’s differences. “A couple doesn’t need to have the same interests or even passions, but they do need to have the capacity to understand the other,” she tells Bustle. “One must be present with their partner — without judgement, demands, and unreachable expectations.”
The more a couple engages in these destructive activities, the more likely they are to divorce. His decades of research and of working with couples have shown that spouses who stay together know how to fight without being hostile and to take responsibility for their actions. They are also more likely to respond quickly to each other’s wishes to make up after fights and repair the relationship.
It doesn’t matter how much you love another person: If you can’t trust them, it isn’t going to work. Trust is essential to healthy relationships, which is why it’s always one of the first things experts look for when assessing a couple’s connection.
And we’re not just talking about cheating and infidelity, but “trust with intimate information, trust with being vulnerable, trust that they will come through in a challenging time,” and so on, Klapow says. It all means your partner has your back, and you have theirs.
Without trust, you’ll live a life of stress and hurt. So ask yourself, do you want to spend your days with the gut-twisting worry that comes with having a shady or unavailable partner? It’s no way to live, so make trust a goal.
If it doesn’t come right away, you can work on getting there over time, possibly with the help of a therapist. Talk about why you don’t currently feel secure or cared for, and come up with ways to build trust together.
Feeling Safe & Secure Around Each Other
Are you safe in your relationship? Do you feel secure? If the answer is “no,” then it doesn’t matter even a little bit how much you love the person, especially if it’s become an emotionally abusive relationship. A toxic situation is a toxic situation, no matter how you try to frame it. But it can be really tough to see that when all you’re focused on is love.
Of course, these types of relationships can get stickier than that. As therapist Rachel Dubrow, LCSW says, “if you are in a relationship for love, it’s likely that you will stay in it because one or more of your inherent needs are being met.” Love can meet many needs, like a need for validation, for support, or connection.
In the case of a toxic situation, it’s often best to look for a safe way out. Love is never going to be enough to fix an emotionally abusive partner, no matter how hard you try.
Keep things sexy
We aren’t talking bedroom antics here. (We will get to those shortly!). We are talking about all the little things you can do to keep things sexy (and stop doing unsexy things) in the relationship.
Take a tip from Frenchwomen, who never let their partner see them brushing their teeth. Unpleasant things that couples do because they have “passed the probation period’, like passing gas openly, or cutting their fingernails while watching TV? Unsexy.
It’s perfectly fine and good for a relationship for you to do certain things in private.
Keep sex on your radar
Most people immediately relate intimacy to sex, when actually, having sex can serve as a way of avoiding intimacy. The most important elements of intimacy are openness and honesty, both of which may require the sharing of things that one is ashamed of. Yet being able to be vulnerable to a partner is the very ingredient that makes the act of sex one of such supreme closeness and, well, intimacy.
The vulnerability of real intimacy can be compared to the thrill of roller coasters: We know we won’t die, but we feel, in the pit of our stomach, as if we might. We are about to give up our very selves, just for a moment, and we could lose everything in that moment. In terms of a partnership, it is at that moment that we are one.
But how do we get there? How do we overcome the shyness, the shame of discussing a father who abandoned the family or a mother who berated us and made us feel small?
If sex is dwindling or non-existent, ask yourselves why? There may be a perfectly legitimate reason for the absence of lovemaking.
But if there isn’t a specific reason as to why it has been ages since you two did the horizontal boogie, pay attention. Happy couples report that they make sex a priority. Even if one or the other is not in the mood, they still make it a point to cuddle and touch—and it often results in lovemaking.
The intimate connection afforded by lovemaking is vital to the health of your relationship, so don’t go too long without it. If you have to schedule sex on the calendar, so be it.
Great couples fight, but they fight fair. What does that mean? It means that they give air time to both parties, allowing each person to express their opinions and views. They don’t interrupt, and they listen attentively, showing this by nodding or saying ‘I understand what you are saying’. Their goal is to find an agreeable compromise or resolution, one that is acceptable to both parties.
Their goal is not to denigrate the other person, or bring up past grievances, or speak disrespectfully to them. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that fights do not belong in a great relationship.
If you never fight, you aren’t communicating enough.
Understand that it’s OK to disagree
You won’t agree on everything, but it is important to be fair and respectful during disagreements. Listen to your spouse’s point of view. Try not to get angry and don’t let yourself become too frustrated. Walk away and calm down if you need to, then discuss the problem again when you’re both in a better frame of mind. Compromise on problems so that you both give a little.
Do you know the power of the two words “I’m sorry” is one of the most healing in the world? Be generous with your multiple “I’m sorry”. It is often just what it takes to stop a heated argument from escalating. It also has the power to bring you closer together.
Don’t follow it with a “but…..” I’m sorry is enough, all on its own.
Learn to forgive
Everyone makes mistakes. Your spouse may hurt your feelings or do something that upsets you, and that may make you angry, even furious. But it’s important to deal with your feelings, let them go, and move on, don’t keep bringing up the past.
Remember to remain committed to your spouse, your family, and the life that you have built together. Support each other emotionally and in everyday ways. You, your spouse, and your relationship may grow and change with time, but these ideas can help your marriage stay successful over the years.
Small gestures of love reap big rewards
Even if you have been together for 25 years, small tokens of your gratitude towards your partner are important.
Some flowers, favourite candies, a pretty bracelet you saw at the Farmer’s market all of these offerings tell your partner they were on your mind at that moment and you are grateful for their presence in your life.
No relationship is 100% loving and passionate all the time
It is important to be realistic about the ebbs and flows in a relationship and not jump ship the first (or the 50th) time you are in one of the low periods. It is here where the real work of reinforcing your love is done.
Retaining Your Sense Of Self
You were a “you” before you were a “we,” and you should continue to be a “you” when you get in a relationship. There’s no amount of love that’s worth giving up the essence of who you are. If you get into a relationship and you ultimately lose yourself, forget your own interests, and give up on your goals, that’s a problem.
It’s not necessarily a dealbreaker, and it’s not the relationship (or your partner’s) fault. But you’ll want to make an effort to hang onto the fundamental truths of who you are. You can work with your partner to get back to yourself by creating time for things that are important to you, and encouraging your partner to do the same.
Were you in the middle of writing a book? Were they training for a half marathon? Encouraging each other to go back to your own hobbies and interests result in a greater sense of love, as well as a more meaningful relationship.
Healthy relationships do not start from the standpoint of “scarcity,” “shortage,” or “something missing.” Contrary to popular cliches, they are not about finding our “other half,” or someone to “complete” us. Healthy relationships are built only with people who are already complete going in.
And even the other biggies — communication, trust, respect, etc. — will come along afterwards, fluidly and organically, if emotional stability is well-nurtured and in place by each individual (regarding their own, not each others’) going in. You will foster good values — and find partners who mirror them — if you have emotional self-sufficiency and solid self-respect.