Despite what we watch and read about on television and the movies, or romance novels, fairy tale love is more fantasy than reality. Love takes work and it’s rare for two people to fall completely in line with each other without a strategy and effort.
Most successful relationships start with a common interest or goal…
Consider “Couple A.” Two athletes who enjoy the same physical activities. Those activities become the cornerstone that helps to build and maintain a happy, lasting relationship. Without their sports and activities, they may well have never come together.
For “Couple B” it’s a love of contemporary art that helps to fuse them together as lovers and friend. Aside from going to the gym once in a while, they have no interest in sports or physical activities. They’re so deeply interested in the arts, spending so much time traveling to art galleries and special shows, there’s no way they’d be able to maintain a relationship with someone who wasn’t like-minded.
Both couples have a common interest that brought them together.
This doesn’t mean they can just coast – thinking their significant other will love them forever and never get bored with the relationship. Or that a fight won’t erupt where things that can’t be taken back will never get said. Or that selfishness won’t rear its ugly head in the relationship, erasing the good times and replacing them with dislike and regret.
What brought you together initially is usually the easiest part of the relationship.
Give before you take…
Before you try to force your spouse into doing something they would never do on their own, or otherwise agree to, consider offering something of value to them first.
Say Bob wants to buy season tickets to all the Chicago Bulls’ home games, many of which fall on Saturday evenings, a day he and Sally normally spend together. Buying the tickets will mean they’ll either be apart during that normal “us time,” or that Sally will have to tag along. Instead of assuming or insisting that Sally should accompany him to the game on every Saturday, Bob should do the smart thing and offer to sign up for the tango lessons on Sunday morning that Sally’s been asking him to take with her.
This is how give and take is done, and it’s very effective. No matter how much one spouse may dislike an activity or idea, getting something you like in return is a sure-fire way to maintain relationship balance and avoid resentment from cropping up in the future.
Fighting is unavoidable, bad fights often are…
Some bad fights are necessary, like when one spouse cheats, steals from you, or insults you or your friends or family. However, a simple debate or disagreement can quickly go south due to frustration from one or both parties. Heated arguments rarely ever result in a good outcome. You start to cut each other off and really listening to one another, and an unfavorable spotlight begins to shine on your entire relationship.
Instead of taking a break, one person calls the other a derogatory name and then its on – a no holds barred, knock down, drag out fight erupts. Before long, you’re bringing up past transgressions thought by your spouse to be totally forgotten and forgiven, telling them about all the little annoying habits they have, how much you hate their family, their job, their hobbies, etc.
Commit to each other that you’ll never allow a fight to get so intense you both lose focus. If you love each other, mutually agree that one or both of you will see the intensity rising and call a “time out.” A time out can be as simple as sitting in silence together and catching your breath, or walking to separate rooms until you gather your thoughts.
Don’t take them for granted…
We all inherently understand that taking your significant other for granted is a big relationship no-no. However, this is a crux that occurs eventually in every relationship at some point. Career stressors, new interests, becoming parents for the first time – all these and more can cause couples to assume everything will stay the same without any effort.
Worse, it usually takes a great deal of rejection, frustration, and arguing before the offending party even becomes aware of how they’re treating the other. It’s a strange phenomenon really. We know better, we’re constantly told we’ll have to work at it, yet it happens to the best of us. Kind of like how children will put their hands on a hot stove after being repeatedly being told they’ll get burned if they do!
Instead of becoming a relationship cliché, make a pact to always tell each other when one of you feels taken for granted, and refuse to be accepting of dismissive behavior if it happens more than once. Often, you’re both at fault, as the person who feels like they’re not special anymore or not getting enough attention will “take it for granted” that their spouse is having a bad day or just busy – this is where the downward spiral begins.
Last but not least, don’t smother each other…
Don’t incessantly spend time with each other. Never venturing out into the world to make your own friends, or finding special hobbies that are yours and yours alone will end in disaster, once you’ve watched a rerun of your favorite show for the umpteenth time.
This type of relationship pitfall is really quite destructive in most cases. Distance makes the heart grow fonder after all.
People who live on a desert island don’t fall in love forever like we often see in the movies!