In “The Art of Loving,” Erich Fromm wrote, “Love is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever.”
There’s a reason wedding ceremonies include vows. It’s because those who have successfully done it know that a lifelong commitment to love is less about feelings and more about choices and decisions. That’s why promises are made. They serve as a baseline of what we will strive to be and do for our partner — even when things are difficult or feel impossible.
You can’t control what life may throw at your relationship, but you can control how you respond and how determined you are to keep each other as a top priority!
We know it’s easier said than done, but there are a few principles that make a huge difference. Here are eight of our best tips for establishing a lasting, flourishing relationship!
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1. Cultivate compassionate love.
There is a difference between an “I love you in spite of…” relationship and a generous, compassionate one. No matter how long you’ve been together, your partner still deserves to be treated with care.
Continue to respond with a listening ear before snapping and respect before criticizing. Try to understand what struggles your significant other is battling before demanding that they acknowledge yours. Protect your union and your intimacy, and let your relationship be both of your safe places.
2. Work on yourself.
As Phyllis Koss once said, “We are a work in progress with a lifetime contract.”
We sometimes hear that once we find our “other half,” we will finally be “whole.” But as most long-term couples know, that’s a common misconception. While the greatest loves push us to be better versions of ourselves, neither party is suddenly made perfect just because they’re together.
We also can’t assume that we can simply change the other person’s imperfections. This approach trains us to remove responsibility from ourselves. Both partners need to commit to growing as individuals so that when there is dissonance in the relationship, they are each willing to acknowledge their responsibility in it and work to be a better companion.
3. Be a team.
Approach challenges as a team. If finances are tense or a big promotion requires a big move, don’t let these issues become the source of a grudge. Fully consider the other person and reach a fair consensus.
Don’t use these same challenges or moments of frustration as opportunities to attack your partner. Be quick to apologize, quick to forgive, quick to work together, and quick to discuss small conflicts before they become weeds in your foundation.
4. Look out for each other.
Continue searching for ways to serve your SO, or go the extra mile by consistently asking them what you can do to support them or help them flourish. This road goes both ways. If a generous give-and-take dynamic is established, it allows you to feel safe asking for what you need, too.
5. Be OK with not getting the last word.
Create a habit of not overreacting. Pause before lashing out, take time away from each other before continuing a heated conversation, and try to return to the issue calmly, hearing each other out respectfully instead of as combatants.
Taking this space will give you both time to realize if there are other factors in your life that are affecting your emotions… which may actually have nothing to do with your partner.
6. Focus on their strengths.
Sometimes there are days (or months) when we can only seem to find what frustrates us in our significant other. It’s in these moments that we need to actively remind ourselves what we love about them.
Remember all the reasons you fell in love in the first place. Whether it’s their spontaneity, their bravery, their gentleness, or their optimism, focus on those things and play into those strengths. Forgive their weaknesses and keep reminding them what you love about them.
7. Protect your mental health.
The healthier you are mentally, the healthier your relationship will be. Continue working on yourself, becoming more secure in who you are, forgiving your own mistakes, and addressing your weaknesses in a productive way.
Do whatever it takes to be healthy individually so you can be a healthy teammate as well.
8. Fall in love again and again.
Set aside time to challenge and have fun with each other! Make it a point to engage in growth-oriented conversations, laugh together, and simply be together just the two of you.
Try to empty your mind of outside stressors and give your partner your undivided attention. Take a road trip, jump into a new hobby together, or try out a new restaurant. Tap into your playful side, and keep that romance growing!
No relationship is perfect, and love takes work — but there’s no doubt that it’s worth it! It’s an opportunity to learn more about ourselves, showcase our strengths, and grow in our weaknesses. Most of all, it’s a chance to experience one of life’s greatest gifts.
Put these tips into action in your own relationship, and share them with a friend.
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