"Better to have loved and lost then to have never loved at all."
Ernest Miller Hemingway, American writer and journalist (1899-1961)
With all due respect to Mr Hemingway - and he may have been right to some extent - but especially with Valentine's Day around the corner we do not want to think about loosing love. We want to dream of falling in love with our soul mate and living happily ever after.
Falling in love seems to be the easiest part but how do we make our relationship work? How do we keep our love fresh as the morning dew and make it grow instead of evaporate while taking care of and entertaining the kids, making a living, preferably both following careers, pleasing our own parents and the in-laws, cleaning the house, etc.?
I wanted to know how it is that there are long lasting happy relationships and then there are some partnerships that fall to pieces after only a short period of happiness. I started doing some literary research and asked family, friends and their families, clients, etc. Here is what I figure are core points for a long lasting and happy relationship:
1. Love - starting with you
Love and appreciate yourself and be happy and content with yourself as you are right now. The more you love and accept yourself the more you can love and appreciate others. The more love you will bring into your relationship the more you will be loved back. A beautiful catch 22 - or what do you think of it!?
Always respect each other. Every human being is intelligent. Each and everyone acts and decides in their best possible way with their resources available at a given moment in time; with a positive intention in their hearts. When you are with your partner be completely present with them and give them your full attention. In a relationship it is not necessary to always agree with each other, just accept and respect your partner's opinion. Sometimes it is really refreshing and stimulating to have different opinions. Always take two minutes to say a proper ‘good bye' as well as an affectionate ‘hello'.
3. Honest communication
Tell your partner what you expect from them, what you would like and not like. Let them know what it is that makes you happy. This way they do not have to read your mind and you will not be disappointed by them. In return they can let you know what they are ready to do, how they can support you, what they can give you and what not and why not.
Tell your partner the truth and be honest, do not hold anything back and try hiding things. This will only build up barriers in your relationship. We all make mistakes; we are only human after all. As long as we learn from our Mistakes and try to adjust and improve everything is going to be alright. Truth and honesty can be quite liberating. Very often your partner knows "it" already anyway and is just waiting for you to tell them.
Take at least 30 minutes to communicate with each other daily, preferably in the evening to re-engage after the day and tell each other how your day was.
Appreciate your partner and what they do, how they support you and what they bring into the relationship to make it work. Also, express your appreciation verbally every day at least once. By doing so you focus on the positive, hence you are happy and you will treat them kindly. In return your partner will feel good doing you good and will do more off it. Isn't that just great?! :-)
Here is a small exercise for you and your partner from Virginia Satir, a noted American Psychotherapist best known for her approach to Family Therapy:
Every day sit down facing each other and express for one minute each admiration and appreciation for one another.
Also, remember the importance of physical affection in your relationship. Cuddle with your partner, hug, kiss, hold hands, etc. ;-) with them regularly.
Take responsibility for your actions and your relationship. Do not fall into the victim role, letting it happen and always blaming the others. Take responsibility, have an influence on the direction your partnership is going and take actions to be happy. Ask yourself how you contributed to a certain situation and how you can now contribute to improve it.
6. Space and support
A relationship itself is mostly very close; and nevertheless you and your partner are still two individuals with past and present experiences, as well as having dreams and passions. Allow your partner some space to be able to develop, to grow, to make their own decisions, to be creative and express themselves. Support them and let them know you are there for them and back them up. You should also be clear of who you are and what you want in your life and let your partner know. You might be surprised how close your relationship will become.
7. Dreams and goals; and reality
Share your dreams, set mutual goals, make plans and talk about them as often as you can. That gives you a common future and tightens the bond even further.
Just as important is your reality, your presence. Think about the here and now and start spending some alone time with your partner again. Take one evening every week and go out, only the two of you. Away from home, away from familiar anchors and distractions, and you will have wonderful and inspiring conversations. Your relationship will be the focus point again and everything else centres on it.
Nearly all of the above mentioned tips (you might think twice about the physical affection ;-)) can be used for nearly any kind of relationship and/or partnership. Be daring and try something new. Make change happen and don't let change surprise you.
Have a happy Valentine's Day and remember we all have loved ones, whether it is the soulmate, a close friend or family - go and celebrate life with them.
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