“Age does not protect you from love but love to some extent love protects you from age.” – Jeanne Moreau
We love to be in love. It’s a sensational feeling. It is an exhilarating experience. There is even scientific evidence that being in love is good for you! It can lengthen your life, ward off stress, lower your blood pressure, protect you from colds and the flu, and boost your immune system. But while most of us are experts at falling in love, keeping love alive in the long run can be a lot more challenging.
So here are some real-world tips for making love last.
1) COMMUNICATE CLEARLY
“To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow – this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.” -Elizabeth Gilbert
There is plenty of advice out there about how to communicate politely. I say, communicate clearly . Make sure your partner knows how you feel, knows what you want, and knows who you are. Also, make sure that you make it clear when something is particularly important. Saying “it’s important” is not always enough. Your body language and tone are a part of clear communication. While partners can sometimes appear to be able to read each other’s minds, we commonly overestimate this ability. Say it. Say it clearly. Say it even if it should be obvious. Sometimes you should even say it even if you know that it will hurt. Only when your partner has a clear idea of the problem, is there any hope of finding a mutually satisfactory solution. When you truly know and understand each other, there is a real chance for an honest, fulfilling relationship.
2) BE PATIENT
Just because your partner knows what you want and how you feel, it doesn’t mean that they are ready to comply. Give them time to think things through. Sometimes, it is worth letting go and seeing if they bring up the issue themselves after they have had a chance to reflect. Partners can make huge changes for each other, but if it’s going to be a healthy relationship, then change will have to happen at their pace. At other times we simply don’t get what we want, and we need to respect our partner’s right to their own opinions. Which brings me to my next point.
3) RESPECT YOUR PARTNER
Close relationships are sometimes the ones most lacking in respect. You don’t have to agree with your partner, but you should respect their right to disagree with you, their way of life, and who they are. It is a basic principle upon which many successful marriages are built.
4) PRACTICE SELF-SOOTHING
It feels good when our partner takes care of us. But we should not expect them to become part-time therapists. If you are both going through a stressful time, it is that much more important to practice self-soothing so that your partner can reserve their own energy to take care of themselves.
Self-soothing is actually a very simple concept. We all did it when we were single. If we were upset, we did something to try to make ourselves feel better – be it by having a nice cup of tea or a relaxing bath, or watching a funny show. Different things work for different people, and it’s important to find what works for you. Sometimes, all you need to do is to recall what you used to do to make yourself feel better before you got into a relationship. Continuing to practice self-soothing after we are in a relationship helps a lot. It relieves a heavy burden from the relationship, and sometimes it’s even more effective. This is not to say that you should never seek comfort from your partner. But do so in a thoughtful manner and only when your partner shows an interest in soothing you, and always in addition to comforting yourself.
5) STAND ON YOUR OWN TWO FEET
Love is union with somebody, or something, outside oneself, under the condition of retaining the separateness and integrity of one’s own self. -Erich Fromm
Even though you are in a relationship, you are still first and foremost an individual. The stronger and more capable you are, the more you will be able to give to the relationship. Some level of independence is key. Be it financial, social, or emotional, the less your partner has to take care of you, the more free they become to want and choose to be with you.
On the other hand, if you become overly dependent on your partner, in time, they may come to resent you for it. Moreover, one day you may find yourself unsure of whether you are with them because you want to, or because you need them. While complete independence is neither possible nor desirable, by standing on your own two feet you provide your relationship with a solid base.
6) NOURISH YOUR SELF-DEVELOPMENT
Most of us hope to spend most of our lives in a loving relationship with the same person. What a shame it would be if this would put an end or even slow down our own growth and development. Not only is it essential for us as individuals, but our development is actually healthy for our relationship. It makes you more interesting and exciting to your partner, and may also encourage them to pursue their own self-development.
7) MAKE TIME FOR QUALITY TIME
Your relationship is probably one of the most important things in your life. Make time for it. Somehow, find time to go out. Find time to be together, just the two of you. And make that time count. There is strong evidence that those to play together stay together. Make some of that togetherness time without any distractions (like the TV).
8) PRACTICE SELF-VALIDATION
Self-validation goes hand in hand with self-soothing, but it is not the same thing. While self-soothing is about calming and comforting yourself, self-validation is about reassuring yourself of the validity of your ideas, views, and beliefs. It’s about believing that you look good even if your partner forgot to compliment you on your date. It is about believing that you are smart even if he or she didn’t get excited about your latest idea. It’s about trusting your own judgement when you partner sees things differently.
Say you and your partner are having an argument. Your partner totally disagrees with you. Moreover, you are discussing something that means a lot to you. Here is a great opportunity to practice self-validation. Tell yourself that your perspective is valid. Tell yourself that you are a reasonable person with justified beliefs. It’s ok if your partner can’t see your perspective. But it quickly becomes not OK if their lack of validation makes you feel hurt and unloved. Validate yourself. It takes practice to get good at it, but it’s well worth the effort.
9) TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF FIRST
This may sound counter-intuitive, but bear with me because this is a very important one. When you are on an airplane, they tell you that in case of an emergency, tighten your own mask before helping anyone else. Helping yourself first doesn’t only apply in an aircraft emergency. It is a principle that we should all practice on a daily basis.
Not only does taking care of yourself first allows your needs to be met, but it gives your relationship a fighting chance. Nobody understands you like you . No matter how much your partner loves you, in the long run, you are still better at taking care of yourself than they are.
If you don’t take care of yourself and become a wreck, your relationship is bound to suffer. On the other hand, if you make it a priority to take care of yourself, if your physical, emotional, and intellectual needs are met, then you become a lot more capable of contributing and supporting your relationship.
So take care of yourself first, and urge your partner to do the same. Then, when you do take care of each other, it is a lot easier and more enjoyable.
10) SHOW APPRECIATION
The longer the relationship, the easier it is to start taking each other for granted. Once in a while, pause to think of all that your partner does for you. Usually, our partner does more for us on a daily basis than anyone else in the world. It is important, but not enough, to feel the appreciation. We need to let our partner know that we appreciate them. Tell them, but just as importantly, show them that you appreciate them in how you treat your partner in your daily life.
11) DO YOUR SHARE OF THE HOUSEWORK
This one may seem dull compared to the other tips, but I chose to include it anyways because it is often neglected. Don’t leave your partner with all the boring work. Do your share. Wash the dishes, mop the floor, and take out the garbage – whatever it may be. Every family has its own way of splitting the housework, make sure to do your share.
12) GIVE THEM SPACE
Give your partner space. There are many reasons for this. It gives them time to grow and develop as individuals and associate with other important people in their lives. It gives you time to do the same. And it gives both of you time to miss each other. Space is as important in intimate relationships as closeness. If closeness is all there is, it eventually loses all its meaning.
13) RECOGNIZE THAT RELATIONSHIPS GO THROUGH CHANGE
Change is basic fact of life. Relationships go through change. Sometimes change is fun and exciting, but at other times it hurts like nothing else. Whatever phase your relationship is in now, it will change. And then, it will change again. So don’t be terrified if you have hit a low point. This too shall pass. For some help, read our article on embracing change .
14) HAVE FAITH IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP
Love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little faith is also of little love. -Erich Fromm
Believing in your relationship is the first step to having a long, loving relationship. Sometimes, you may hit a bump in the road. Sometimes, it is not clear how things will work out. You two may want different things, and it may look like it is not possible for both of you to get what you want. Have faith. Things have a way of working out for those who believe.
If this sounds too abstract, consider the following: Faith is also the first step to just about anything else. A baby believes that he can walk, so he tries and consequently succeeds. A child believes that she will be able to play the piano, so she practices every day and eventually becomes a great pianist. A businessman believes in his idea, so he works tirelessly with no profit for years until his business finally starts paying off in six figures. Believe in your love, and it will stand the test of time.
15) FORGIVE THE PAST, FORGET THE FUTURE, AND LOVE NOW!
Forgiveness is the final form of love. – Reinhold Niebuhr
I have saved the best for last. Forgive the past, don’t dwell on it. Don’t worry about the future. The past is done, nothing can be done about it any longer. Worrying about the future can only strain an otherwise great relationship. Live now, and love now. Today, take care of yourself, and take care of your relationship. If you do that every day, then years down the road you will still be living in the now, with the same person that you love so much today.