In light of it being Valentine’s Day tomorrow, I thought I would share the five most important things that every good relationship needs (in my opinion!). Whether you’re in a relationship, looking, or happily single, here are my thoughts on what makes a relationship work long-term…
This is the ultimate, 100% most important thing that every relationship needs. You are a unit, a force, a team and you should work together as such.
When you raise your family, do so as a team.
When you maintain the house, do so as a team.
When you make money for your household, do so as a team.
When you fight, do so as a team!
This last one is crucial because most people when they fight, they are fighting each other.
“No, I’m right!”
And you go round and round in circles, hurting one another and bringing up things that don’t matter just because of your Ego and your desire to win.
But who really wins if you’re hurting someone you’re supposed to love?
Instead, for those unavoidable fights that are actually worth having (not fights about whether a film was good or not, because that doesn’t matter at all), it’s important to work together.
Work together against the problem, not each other.
So, if you’re fighting about the best time to start a family or where to go to travel for a month, ask yourself what the argument is actually about. Sometimes, it’s not about what you think it’s about. Sometimes it’s about not feeling heard or worrying about something else.
Take a moment to think about the other person and how they might feel. Ask them, calmly, what they’re feeling and what they think the argument is about. Then, do the same for yourself. What do you feel? Why are you fighting?
Then, once you’ve voiced your true feelings, address them with love. And then together, find a solution to the issue at hand.
Be on each other’s side.
And this ties into the point above; in your relationship, are you or your partner communicating effectively?
Do you understand how one another communicates? How one another expresses their feelings? How one another reacts in an argument?
When you fall out or sense something is off with your partner, do you go quiet and punish them for it, or take a moment to gather yourself and then talk honestly and fairly?
It takes real emotional maturity to be in a lasting relationship because not only are you responsible for and susceptible to your own emotions, but the emotions of your partner, too. No, it is not your job to make them happy or fix them, but it is your job to have empathy for someone who you’ve chosen to spend your life with. Therefore, ask yourself why you can’t confront them about something or help them to carry some of the load in their lives.
Some things are hard to hear. Some things have nothing to do with you directly and you have no way of actually helping. But listening to your partner goes a long way in helping them feel better.
A problem shared is a problem halved.
And it’s important that in a relationship, both parties feel seen and heard. They feel respected, appreciated, and, most important of all, understood. You may not, as I say, directly understand something they’re going through, but an attempt to do so without brushing them off or pretending to understand goes a long, long way.
Many times my partner has told me that he doesn’t understand how I feel about some things, things he’s not really felt directly himself . But he listens, he tries to understand, and he supports me anyway with things like, “is there anything I can do?” or “I’m sorry you’re feeling this way” and giving a big embrace.
Plus, you need to be able to listen and pay attention because, with a longterm relationship, the two of you are growing and changing as you get older. This means you need to recognise that your partner won’t necessarily be the exact same person you got with years before. Always be curious about them. Learn who they are and take an interest as if you are still in the dating phase. Communicate your own growth and self, too.
A couple who can grow together and respect that goes further…
If you can’t trust your partner, this is not good. I believe people can change. Say someone was once a cheater, perhaps they won’t be a cheater forever, for example. But if someone has given you any reason to not trust them, ask yourself where that is coming from. Is it from an emotional wound from your own past, or something they’ve done? Is it something you could try to fix with a conversation, counselling, or boundaries?
A lack of trust doesn’t necessarily mean you should cut and run. I didn’t trust my partner at first, not because of him but because I didn’t trust that a man could love me as I am. But I had to realise that and confront that feeling myself, to then open myself up to him, thus building trust over time.
But an awareness of any trust issues is the key here. Tackling them, hopefully together as a team, is key, too.
Rules/ Boundaries/ Understandings
This means having unspoken (or perhaps formally agreed upon) rules that ensure you both understand and work well together. One person can’t be under the impression that you are allowed to sleep with other people while the other disagrees!
Do you have a rule about watching TV in bed?
A rule about your morning routine?
An understanding of your sexual needs?
Boundaries for needed space?
Patrick and I know that he has his hobbies and I have mine. We ask about and are interested in one another’s hobbies, but don’t expect the other to join in!
If I’m reading or writing, he won’t disturb me. If he wants to watch American Football or play a game or go to the gym, again, I won’t stop him; I’ll just do my own thing. We know this about one another; it’s an understanding we have, and therefore there is no awkwardness or resentment or confusion. Ergo, things work more smoothly…
This kind of ties in with the idea of a shared vision for the future, too. Do you both want kids, marriage, to own a home, to travel the world, to retire and live in a bus or what? If you have different ideas for the future, or want different things from the relationship, then I don’t believe it will work longterm. Of course, unless someone changes their mind in which case that’s fine and great if that person isn’t jeopardising their own happiness for someone else’s dream.
You don’t need a lot in common to fall in love. Sometimes when you’re too similar, it doesn’t work, either. I believe opposites attract and it kind of follows the ever-popular theory that couples “complete” one another by having strengths and weaknesses opposite to the other, thus needing one another to be balanced out. (I believe in this idea working well, like Extroverts and Introverts, for example, but I don’t really like the saying that someone “completes me” because I should feel whole and complete and independent all on my own, right?)
But being polar opposites doesn’t quite work, in my mind. Obviously, I’m no expert! In my opinion, relationships at least need some common ground. At least one thing or one area of your life where you share an interest.
Even if it’s as simple as liking to watch TV together, this can go a long way in lasting relationships. I mean, if you have zero in common, what are you to talk about for the next X amount of years?!
There you have it, my 5 most important things for a good, long-lasting relationship. I’m celebrating my 5th anniversary this year, and I learn about my partner as we grow together each year. We fight, we aren’t perfect, but we’re a bloody good team and that’s why I’m sure we will go the long haul!