So as my 10thwedding- anniversary approaches (and my twenty-year anniversary of our first meeting is next year) I realise that this expanse of time may qualify me (us?) as possibly understanding the secret to a long-lasting relationship. Believe me, I know people that have been in longer ones that hate each other’s guts, but I would like to say that I am not one of those people, mostly because there is no way that I could share my life with someone that I don’t actually like, let alone someone I do not love anymore. I am not an expert in this but, I do feel I have some valid points based on my own experience and those of fellow relationship veterans that I know of. So here are my top tips to stay in a lasting relationship!:
Individualism: I think this is key and I have observed this in other couples as well as my own relationship. It seems to me that if, in your coupling, you can do your own thing (considerately may I add) and then come together as a two to do your thing and your families thing together, this makes for a healthy relationship. If only one person has a hobby or interest and the other person does not, the balance is not right. The person not doing anything with their time is going to build a quiet and slow resentment toward the other person who is doing their thing. It may even feel like they are selfish for having a hobby that takes up a few hours a week. But in my opinion, if you both have something of interest that you love and are passionate about, its something for you to talk about, gives you a sense of independence and also means you are not living in each other’s pockets. It doesn’t have to be a hobby; it can be your work. Whatever it is, I feel that still remaining authentically you as well as being in a strong partnership is so important for it to last.
Communication: Talking about things straight away, being honest, open and not holding on to things is so important. Passive aggression is a real pain in the butt. I’ve seen couples who project anger onto other elements of the relationship (or people in the family!) instead of hitting the issue direct and head-on. Passive aggression is cowardly and just a waste of energy. It festers and can lead to years of resentment, it’s just not worth it!
You will never change the person you are with: Well that’s a biggie but its so true. Never go into a relationship, seeing a load of faults in a person and thinking that you can change them. Like, that’s not your job…….if there are too many things about them that you don’t like, are you really suited? I’m guessing no. You can shape a person and help them evolve on different levels (and vice versa) but you can’t change their core character traits. I feel being honest with yourself from the start is important here, you can save a lot of heart-ache down the line.
Happiness comes from you and you alone: This is so huge! I cannot tell you how many people I know who are fundamentally unhappy because they wrongly think that it’s up to others to provide happiness in their lives. Other people making us happy is a total bonus in life, but if you expect to find your happiness from someone else then you might as well just forget it because that is not how it works. Of course, they shouldn’t make you unhappy but what I am trying to say here is that if you put EVERYTHING on one person then it is doomed to fail. Answer yourself this, if you had to live a year by yourself on a remote island, how would you find that? Would you be happy…………
Excepting the rough with the smooth: So many people think that because you have been in a long relationship that it hasn’t had its problems (normally younger people say this to me). The reality is that a marriage and partnership takes so much work. I know couples who have got over infidelity, addictions, financial ruin etc and still managed to hold it and glue it back together. That is the secret I think, taking the rough with the smooth and not bailing out at the first hurdle.
Emotional Intelligence– yes its true, if you get with an adult, chances are you have a shot of working out problems faster than if you are with someone that still lives constantly within their child state. Passive aggression, stubbornness, immaturity, jealously ect is not going to make for a happy life, let’s face it, who has time for that anyway? It’s fine to argue (obvs!!) but better to get it out there, say sorry and move the hell on. Which leads me too:
Forget the past: This doesn’t matter. If you bring old crap up from past difficult times, how the hell are you supposed to move forward? And don’t get me started on people who get jealous of their partner’s old ex-girlfriends and boyfriends. I cannot quite fathom how someone could feel jealous emotions toward someone before they even existed in their partner’s life? Why would you need to know about the relationship? Are you comparing yourself, them, the whole thing? If you do this, it’s a major insecurity on your part, and it’s not attractive. Jealousy guises itself in many ways in a relationship. It is controlling, it stifles creativity, it crushes people’s souls. If you are a jealous person, it means you have extreme insecurities. The type of jealousy and controlling behavior that is not acceptable (well none is to be fair) but is keeping tags on someone when they go out, hassling them with phone calls, putting limits on them, in other words, demonstrating how needy and potentially narcissistic the jealous person actually is. I hate this in a relationship and if you are in this type, I would run for the hills.
Another point to mention about emotional intelligence is having the same parenting style. Giving a united and supportive front, being a team, only demonstrates to a child what can be achieved in a good and strong relationship.
Changing together: It’s my opinion that if you don’t change as a person through each decade then you are not learning enough from life’s lessons. I remember being told this when I was 23. My colleague, who was almost 40 said to me “you do realise that at 33 you are going to be a totally different person?”. This is true. Not only do you mature (hopefully), but life’s experiences shape you. The key is to do this together and to not out run each other either. I see this a lot too, where one person strives for bigger and better and more life fulfilling quests whilst the other partner is firmly in the comfort zone. On breaking up “You’ve changed” is thrown in their face, but how about “You stayed safe and stagnated” being thrown back? If you are goal orientated, open minded and have a zest for life, then there is no way you want to be dragged down by someone that has no intention of grabbing life by the horns and riding it with you.
The two-door choice: this is one I’ve personally coined myself! I call it the two-door choice because I believe that as we hit 45 / 50 years old, we have a choice. Both doors are facing old age (eventually). One door is labeled “the negative road” and the other “the positive road”. If you choose the negative road you decide to give up on things. No more exercise as you are too old. You forget your dreams and goals (too old), you close your mind up completely (no new experiences or ideas), you get grumpy, miserable and the thought of death fills you with a dark gloom, you moan a lot and linger in a continual spiral of negative thought patterns ( know anyone like this?). Or you take the other door. You decide that getting old is a privilege denied to many, you don’t’ care about how you look because you know it’s a graceful experience. You embrace new things, experiences and new people. You continue to strive for your dreams, you teach and mentor the younger generation with all your amazing life experience. You know life is a gift and strive for more happiness as you grow with each year. I have seen couples where one has taken one door and the other, the other door. That is truly awful. Seeing a happy, optimistic soul being surrounded by a force of negativity is heartbreaking. So, choose wisely. And if it’s not working and you have tried your best, don’t be afraid to walk away. Remember, your happiness comes from your life choices and only we, as individuals are accountable for that.