Love can be hard especially for your first long-term relationship. There are many things that are important in a relationship that I feel just aren’t talked about enough! Here are some of the lessons that my partner and I have learned and grown from that I think can help everyone.
1. Love is Not Just a Feeling
Contrary to how media, movies, and TV shows portrays love and relationships, love isn’t just a feeling. There are many stages in a relationship. Most couples go through what is commonly known as the “Honeymoon” phase. Often, this phase is exciting, fun, happy, passionate; everything is going smoothly. You have intense feelings for your partner and you are very much in love. Media often portrays this kind of love and relationship. Once you and your partner grow out of this stage, you begin to see more flaws in your relationship or your partner. You start to find things that bother you more. Things are becoming difficult and you just don’t feel like you can do it anymore. Usually, many couples end their relationship here.
Why do I say love isn’t just a feeling?
I am a hopeless romantic. I love watching or reading about cliché love stories. For the longest time, I had always thought, “If two people have love for each other then they will make it through anything.” What I didn’t realize back then was: Yes, love is a feeling, but it is so much more than that. Love is a commitment. Love is choosing to love someone even when life isn’t the best. Love is having trust, respect, communication, and the willingness to fix and become better for you and your partner.
I had to break free from this image I had of love from movies and media. The truth is, relationships are hard. They take effort, compromise, communication, kindness, and compassion. Some days are harder than the rest and the feeling of love can never be enough. Just because two people love each other does not mean that they will be happy in the end. You can have so much love for someone, yet things may never work out between the two of you. Some times, nothing works and you might feel hopeless.
What do you do when things haven’t been good for a while?
You sit down with your person. You guys make a choice to keep loving each other and you trust that the other will continue to do the same. You look at the obstacle in front of you together and ask is it worth it? Are you willing to work things out together? Are you willing to compromise for each other? It is the two of you against this obstacle, not the two of you against each other. If you are willing and committed, then great! Let’s start on this journey to understand each other and face the problem together as a team. It may be hard, but you won’t be doing it alone. If you aren’t willing to fix things and compromise for each other then maybe it is time to take a look at your relationship and see where things are headed.
2. Communication is Essential.
You have probably heard the sentence, “Communication is key,” a hundred times before. This is the advice anyone in a relationship will give you, but it is completely true.
Many times when there is a problem in a relationship or there is a fight, couples may ignore each other or do something to get back at each other. Although, this is one way to do things, having good communication is a more effective way of solving things.
Remember that you guys are on the same team. Never dismiss your partner’s feelings because all feelings are valid and if you do dismiss what they are trying to tell you, then you are ultimately pushing them away from you and making yourself unavailable to meet their needs. Sentences like, “You’re just sensitive,” “It’s not a big deal,” or, “You’re making it more complicated than it should be,” are NOT helpful and will get you nowhere. It will only make your partner feel unheard and horrible about bringing something up.
What can you do instead?
If your partner is trying to communicate something to you, listen. As someone studying to become a Psychology major, there is a little trick that will help you become better at listening and make your partner feel understood. Repeat what they say to you and ask them if that is what they are trying to say and if you understood them correctly. An example of a conversation with communication and understanding may look something like this:
Person 1: “George, I don’t like that you are always playing video games.”
Person 2: “Why is that, honey?”
Person 1: “It makes me feel like you don’t want to spend time with me and would rather play video games. I feel like I am not as important and makes me feel not special and sad sometimes.”
Person 2: “I understand. So when I play video games instead of spending time with you, it makes you feel sad and not as important?”
Person 1: “Yes.”
Person 2: “Alright, I hear you. For me, video games are a way for me to release my stress and it has always been my way of winding down after a long day.”
Person 1: “I did not know that, but I see what you are saying.”
Person 2: “Maybe we can both compromise. I will spend less time playing video games and spend some more time with you and you can watch me play video games sometimes too. I would love you share with you what I play and I want to impress you with my skills.”
Person 1: “I am good with that. How about tomorrow we get some take out and I’ll watch you play while we snack on food?”
Person 2: “Sounds good.”
Now, it may not always go this smoothly as this is merely an example, but you should try to aim for a conversation where both parties are heard and understood and you are both willing to change something for the other person to come to a solution both of you are satisfied with.
3. Know Your Boundaries.
When you are in a relationship, you should respect each others boundaries. This was one thing that I did not know I needed in my relationship until two years in. If there is something that is making you uncomfortable or you find disrespectful for your partner to do, you need to address it.
A common example would be if your boyfriend looks at or likes an Instagram model’s picture where she may be wearing some revealing clothes or he is teasing and joking around with another female. Another could be that your girlfriend is texting a male friend that you know likes her. Some may say that it is perfectly fine for their partner to do these things and others may see things differently. Ultimately, these things are all up to you and your boundaries. If you don’t like it when your partner does these things and it makes you feel uncomfortable, then you need to communicate it to them. On the other hand, if your significant other comes up to you and tells you something you do bothers them, then you need to be willing to stop it. Again, good communication is essential!
Nowadays, a lot of people like to say this is “toxic,” “controlling,” or someone is “insecure,” but I think that these words are often misused. If you don’t want your significant other looking at pictures of other males or females wearing revealing clothing or texting a male that likes them, it does not mean that you are insecure about your body. And it is certainly not toxic or controlling for wanting your significant other to respect you and your boundaries.
If you have repeatedly brought a situation up with your partner and they have not changed anything, then they do not respect what you are comfortable with. Remember actions speak louder than words! In the end, their actions will show you if they really respect you and care about how their actions make you feel.
Side note: There are times when people can really be controlling and toxic, but there is a distinction between that and basic respect so make sure you know the difference!
4. Love One Another in Each Other’s Love Languages
In total, there are five love languages: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. Everyone has a different love language. You and your partner may be lucky and have the same love language, but for a lot of us, this is not the case.
Some people feel loved through quality time so spending a day with your significant other and giving them your time and attention may be a great thing to do! You may show love differently though! Let’s say the way you show love is through acts of service. So maybe you decide to plan a picnic with your partner so you can make them feel love through their love language and then you drive to pick them up knowing they always take the bus as your way of showing your love.
I think that it is important to find a balance where you can show your partner love through your love language while also making them feel loved through theirs!
5. Never Stop Putting in the Effort You Did in the Beginning of the Relationship
Do you remember what it was like before you started dating your partner? There is a sort of exciting “chase” that happened where you wanted to date them so you put in more time and effort to get them to like you. It is almost a primal thing that happens. It is common that once you do start dating, this “chase” ends and many couples stop putting in the effort.
I believe that even if you have been dating for over 10 years, you should never stop putting in that same effort you did before you were dating. That effort should not be lost just because you guys are dating. If it is lost, you may get too comfortable, take your partner for granted, and is it possible that they will feel this lack of effort. Life is very unpredictable and if you get too comfortable with your partner, it is likely that your love will sizzle out.
How to keep the effort?
Plan dates! Buy your partner a surprise gift not for a special occasion! Get them flowers! A hand-written letter! Anything to show them that you still love them and are still trying to date them. I say this again, actions speak louder than words!
I’ve been in a relationship for almost 3 years now and till this day, my boyfriend and I still flirt with each other constantly as if we aren’t together. We never stop putting in that effort! My partner and I have gone through the thick and thin and we have grown so much together. He has always been my rock and we are there for each other when we need it. Every problem only makes us stronger. Relationships are hard work and some days are rough. But we continue choosing each other over anything that comes our way. He is my person and I am his. In the end, we know it is worth it.
I am no expert on relationships, but take what you please with this article and apply it to your next or current relationship. I hope that all goes well for you!