Wedding season has me thinking about how people seem to think there are time limits and rules to relationships. They think you have to be married by a certain age, engaged after dating a certain amount of years, have kids before you’re thirty.
The truth of the matter is that there isn’t. Life has a way of being nonlinear. You don’t have to be married by 25. You don’t need to get engaged after dating for three years. You can move backwards, forwards, even side to side.
There are no steps. Nothing really comes first because each relationship is subjective to the individuals who are in it.
But there are some key aspects to a relationship that can make them last longer or make them feel more personal in my own personal observations. I feel that with a certain level of love and commitment, two people can truly have a healthy, loving, deep relationship.
Understand that not every relationship can nor should work. Some relationships are abusive and should end. Some people don’t change. There are facts of life that make things like this hard to put into a simple “5 Ways to Cheat Life and Happily Marry the First Guy You Meet for Forever.”
I have been in a relationship for seven years (and counting). I am not saying I know all the trade secrets. There are just some things I have noticed when thinking about my relationship and others.
Moving forward, know this is not the “secret to a fulfilling relationship.” But it may help you think about how your relationship is going and how it could potentially be better (if it even needs to be).
Do not compare
It’s easy to try and compare your relationship to others. We even hear it all the time: “Well Tammy and Tim have been dating for three years, and they’re engaged, so where’s your ring?” or “When were you guys planning on having kids? Janet and Jonathon had kids right after they got married.”
And the thing to say to that is: well good for them. Life is complicated and not everything can work out the same way for all couples. Not all couples want the same thing. So don’t think that you need to be moving in a certain direction if neither of you share those goals.
Respect each other’s space
Some couples are really in each other’s business. If you are scrolling through his phone that he isn’t allowed to keep a lock on, you seriously need to think about what you are doing here. Your actions are saying you don’t trust him.
If you are constantly texting her asking where she is, what she is doing, who she’s with, you don’t trust her. And trust is important. Step back. People need their space.
Some people need to be alone sometimes too. It’s not that they don’t like you enough to be around you all the time. They just need to recharge from being social. For example, when I hang out with people, I need a few hours either before or after to have completely to myself. It’s not that I don’t like the people I was with; I just need some alone time.
It is also important to have some separate friends. It’s definitely okay to be in each other’s friends groups. It is definitely okay to be friends with their friends. But sometimes, you need to be able to hang out without them. Be your own person.
If you tell them they can’t be friends with certain people that might be a problem too. Unless they have a strangely close relationship with an ex still, that might be concerning. But you can’t tell them they can’t be friends with people of the opposite sex or just because you don’t like them personally.
Unless you have a good reason, like that friend is toxic, a bad influence, too flirty, etc. your significant other can be friends with who they want. You can’t control them. That’s not a relationship then.
Help each other grow
As you grow older together, your goals and interests may change both as a couple and individually. It’s important to recognize these goals and encourage them to achieve those goals.
I’m not saying you can’t tell them when some of their goals may be bad ideas, like someone who wants to open a horse-breeding farm in the middle of Chicago. Be supportive, encouraging, even play devil’s advocate for them to help them make decisions.
The goal in a relationship is to build each other up. Your each other’s support system.
Say what you need
Some things in a relationship go unheard and that could really hurt it. If something is bothering you, say it. If you need something, say it. And make sure you are listening to them when they express their needs.
You don’t have to give them want they want. For instance, let’s say your partner wants sex every day. Well, that just isn’t doable for you and your full-time job and your sex drive just isn’t that strong. But the important thing is that you listen to their needs, and maybe agree to having sex more often.
You both should be comfortable in the decisions you are making. Just make sure what you are asking for is realistic.
Have similar interests (or support their interests)
Now you don’t have to do every thing together. You can have your own hobbies and interests. But there should always be some things you enjoy doing together, whether it’s watching movies or paint balling. The more things you can do together, the more you can spend time together doing those things that make both of you happy.
If they have a hobby, like working on project cars or making floral arrangements, you should support and encourage them. Listen when they talk about it whether you are interested or not helps too. You can talk about the carburetors and whether the azaleas look good with the baby’s breath for a few minutes.
People change. Goals change. Life changes. Sorry to use a cliché, but sometimes you have to roll with the punches. There are opportunities and challenges that may cause some friction, but learning how to accept these changes in a positive way because it makes either you or your partner happy can really go a long way.
Maybe they want to leave a job where they make good money for a job they love making decent money. Maybe they stopped wearing makeup because they are becoming really interested in their inner beauty and natural products. Maybe they want to be vegan. Whatever it is, learning to accept these changes will keep a relationship happy.
These are just some aspects of relationships I have noticed over the years that really seem to make them work.
But what really makes a relationship work are the two people in it. So make sure you are both communicating with each other about what you both need or want, and loving each other even through life challenges.
Anyone have anything they would like to add? What do you look for in a relationship? Share in the comments, I’d love to hear some different takes!