How to make relationships last

When I first started out in my marriage, 25 years ago, I have to admit with my hand on my heart that yes, I thought it would all be so easy. There were so many moments that it was. I was in a blur of happiness for many months, so happy to have flown from the nest and set up home in a distant land away from my domineering mother and adoring father. I was deeply in love, but now looking back I realise I was very much into the receiving end of it. My happiness was very much wrapped up with the amount of loving attention I received from my adoring, young, and handsome husband.

Unfortunately before long I found myself replaying the roles I had seen between my own parents which were hot-wired into my deep subconscious mind as the rules of love. These were based around the idea that someone else must ‘make you happy’, by being there for you all the time, by fulfilling you, by giving you all of the attention. I had a poem I had cut out of a magazine that began: “Give me the quiet steady man, whose home by six at night, Who’s there each time I need him, Who makes my cares seem light” Of course I showed this cut-out to my man to ensure he knew that was what I wanted. But life has a way of teaching you exactly what it is you need to change because if you don’t, rather than love, it can send you grief.

There are a lot of advantages to growing older (and a little wiser, I hope) because not only have I mellowed with age but I have learnt a lot of great lessons from life and from my own personal development that I hope might help some of you who may be starting out in a new relationship. Thank goodness I have changed from a girl who wants to domineer her man, to a young woman (aren’t I nice to myself!) who just wants to love her man! Our relationship now is much more equal in the sense that we don’t smother one another, we allow each other to live our own lives and give each other huge moral support. I never feel that I have to be ‘perfect’ in any way for him though I have to admit that in never taking my man for granted I always make an effort to show him that I appreciate him.

We’ve a few rules which we stick to that I think have helped us through some tough times:

The Weekly Lodgement

We make sure to set one evening aside for a ‘date’ (though this is often extended to a second and sometimes even a third evening). We meet after work in town every Friday, come rain, hail or storm! I ashamedly have to admit that many a Friday evening I would have rather curled up in front of telly than to have to put on my heels and make-up but mostly I am happy to say that it has been worth the effort. It is a time for listening and sharing and connection that has been invaluable.

Active Listening

Another rule is, as often as possible, to truly listen to and try to understand your partner and how they are feeling without trying to second guess them all the time.

Learning our own Triggers

This means finding ways to let go of ‘knee jerk reactions’ to something your partner might say, e.g. he says something that you want to bitch back at (excuse the lingo) but instead you button your mouth and realise that if he has pressed a button in you … its your stuff… deal with it.

Allow yourself to be fallible

We strive to let go of the need to be right all of the time. I remember one evening out while trying to decide what restaurant to go to we started a small argument and my whole form changed to the extent that I almost wanted to go back home… I wondered if I pretended to feel good again, would it be possible for me to let go of this negative feeling, and then maybe enjoy the evening. I tried and that’s what happened. I asked my partner could we start again, and we changed the conversation. It was like magic, we drove off and yes we actually had a really lovely evening.

Everyone has difficulties within a relationship, and one possible reason why someone falls in love outside of their relationship is because of what they are not getting from their partner and so I think it’s very important to:

• Not focus on the little things that annoy you about your partner, but instead focus on the things that you love about them and let them know this by telling them. “One thing I really love about you is…” or “thank you for…”. In other words seeing the best in them, and letting them know it. It can be a lovely game to play when you are out with them and the conversation dwindles. I remember playing this game with my partner once, I said we should name ten things we love about the other person. At the start he resisted, saying it was silly, but when I went on to tell him my ten things he couldn’t resist playing the game.

• Never let a day go past without a hug or a kiss and always have eye contact. Let them know you really see them and if they are upset let them know you really hear them.

• I believe that sexual contact is a very import part of a relationship but as is often the case life, tiredness, children and illness can sometimes get in the way. Sometimes if you are in a long term relationship it’s easier to not make the effort… very short term this is ok but be careful not to let it get out hand. If this happens make a promise to connect in that way every day to change the pattern and rediscover each other again. It’s important to keep the fun element in this part of your relationship to keep it fresh and exciting.

I know that some of you reading the above may be noticing that it is all about the partner and not about what you yourself deserve. Well it’s been my experience that the more loving and appreciative I am of my partner, the more he is with me also. It is the law of karma and cause and effect. What you give out comes back to you. And there is nothing more wonderful that bearing witness to the result of seeing someone you love happy and knowing that they are loved and appreciated and wanted. So is there really such a thing as a perfect partner? Nobody can be everything we want them to be but we can choose to have a lot of fun trying.

About the author: 

Carolyn Curtis is a Life and Relationship Coach

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