“It is necessary, and even vital, to set standards for your life and the people you allow in it.”
~ Mandy Hale
If you’ve ever been in a relationship, you know how challenging it can be.
Given that partners bring their different personalities, needs and histories to the relationship, it is inevitable that you will not agree on everything.
It is very common for couples to argue over the same issues and get into a pattern about “how they fight.” This repetitive cycle can lead partners to feeling frustrated, overwhelmed and often helpless. How a couple handles issues can determine if a relationship can survive the long haul.
If you are in a long-term relationship or planning on entering one, there are ways to prepare yourself for success.
When keeping these tips in mind, you can enjoy the moments, be happier and deal with the obstacles that come your way.
1. Have realistic expectations.
Just like in life, there are no guarantees in relationships. Some relationships work out and others don’t. Some relationships last for months or even years, and lead to living together or marriage. Other relationships end after a few short weeks. When you look at relationships realistically, you can cope better with what happens next.
2. Get clear on your needs.
The better you understand your needs, the better off you will be in your relationship. If you’ve ever felt that a relationship isn’t meeting your needs, sometimes it has to do with whether you’re meeting your own needs.
Simply put, a relationship will not meet all your needs.
An easy exercise is to write down your needs in one column and your relationship needs in another. Keep it in a place that you can reflect on it from time to time.
3. Communicate your needs.
If you expect your partner to know what you need, you’re expecting him or her to be a “mind reader.” If you feel strongly about something, speak up and empower yourself.
Be open about what you need and prevent any undue stress and worry.
Do not let pent up emotions lead to resentment. Sometimes, telling your partner how you feel and what you need is the best way to get your needs met.
4. Let go of expectations.
When it comes to relationships, people have a lot of expectations of how it “should be.” Too many expectations can lead to continually disappointment. Recognize when you’re feeling disappointed and see if it’s tied to having an expectation.
5. Be patient.
If you’re becoming impatient because things aren’t going your way or the way you had planned, take a step back. Recognize that things happen when you least expect it. Forcing something doesn’t make it happen any faster.
6. Support your partner.
When individuals are free to be themselves and pursue their separate interests and goals, they are happier and more fulfilled. When you can support your partner, you will reap the benefits of a having a more authentic relationship. Couples that can be themselves tend to be happier couples.
7. Learn to compromise.
You may want things to go your way, but when a relationship is one-sided it tips the natural flow of the relationship. A lop-sided relationship is not healthy and “unequal power” between partners has long-term consequences. Put yourself in your partner’s shoes and see how he or she feels. Respect your partner’s needs and try to come to the middle of an issue.
8. Be present.
When you are present with yourself, it will help you be present in your relationship. Take 5-10 minutes daily and check-in with yourself. Ask yourself: “How do I feel?” and “What do I need?” Meeting your needs can be having a meal, taking a bath, getting
exercise or needing more rest. A simple exercise like this will help you center yourself and reduce stress. Centering yourself several times daily can allow you to be more present for your partner.
9. Avoid trying to “fix” problems.
If you find yourself focusing on what you can’t control (your partner’s behavior, attitude or decisions), switch your focus. Begin to focus on what you can control, which is your behavior and how you communicate your feelings and needs.
Start with “being aware” of the problem and your feelings associated with it.
A simple exercise is to just notice your feelings associated with the problem. Accept the feeling just as it is, acknowledge the feeling and allow it to pass. When you can begin to see the problem as it is, you can then begin to let go and not be compelled to fix it.
10. Enjoy the moment.
The simplest way to be happy is to enjoy the moment. Focus on what you appreciate about yourself, your partner and your relationship.
When you keep these tips in mind, you can enjoy your relationship more. You can be grateful that you have an authentic and open relationship, and free yourself from any unnecessary stress and conflict.
Kavita A. Hatten, MS, LPC, NCC- www.phoenixcounseling.net
As a marriage therapist and relationship expert, many people ask me professionally and personally “How do you create a healthy relationship from the get-go?’
My answer to them is always to first pace yourself!
Too many people fall too fast, too quick and get into a relationship that may not be best suited for them.
Here are some tips to help prevent that.
(Warning: these tips are not as “fun” and adrenaline rushing as jumping into things. But in the long run, they are better for a lasting relationship, which is what people usually want.)
1. Check your baggage
Prior to getting into any type of serious relationship, we really need to do a self check with what has happened in our previous relationships.
- Have there been any common themes? Examples would be getting involved with controlling or abusive people.
- Have you allowed people to walk all over you, feeling depleted rather than filled up when you are around them?
- Do people keep telling you that they feel controlled by you?
If you are hearing common themes, odds are you are the common denominator. If that is the case, work on that before you start the cycle again.
2. Actually “date” before getting too serious.
Ladies- allow a guy to whoo you before you give too much of your heart away.
Ultimately, we want to be pursued! Let him pursue you. I don’t mean play hard to get- that is game playing and not healthy. I mean, allow him to really get to know you, what you like, and “court” you (as it was called way back when). Let him ask you out on dates and open the car doors for you.
Guys- pursue her!
Find out about her- what does she like, not like? Ask her out on a date. And maybe open up about you, too. She wants to know what you like and don’t like as well. Many times because guys are pursuers, they forget we want to know about them, too.
3. Find out about personal goals and visions
Once you’ve dated and have found out more about them, ask questions to find out if they are a good fit for you. One common mistake I see is people try to make a relationship “fit”, when this particular relationship wasn’t really good for them.
The person may look good on paper (ie. have the physical attractions they desire, the money they hoped for etc.) but their goals and visions may not line up together.
- Do they want a family?
- Any particular religious affiliation they are dedicated to?
Be cautious with this.
Many people rush through this stage in hopes that one day they can change that person. That is dangerous.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked a client if they knew this information going into the marriage. Usually it is, “Yes, but I thought I could change them!” This isn’t healthy. Pace yourself.
4. Look for communication habits
While you are dating and talking about more personal things, observe how people communicate. It may be easy to listen and communicate with you because the adrenaline is rushing. But pay attention to how they speak with people they’ve known for awhile.
Do they yell at their mother or talk nasty to their BFF? That might be a sign to observe. Are they impatient at work? Might be a theme in their life. I’m not saying it’s a deal breaker but it is definitely something to observe and notice.
5. Watch for red flags
When I’m talking about the communication bit above, noting that someone does something you aren’t comfortable with is a red flag.
Many times, clients who are in trouble in a relationship saw red flags, they just ignored them.
They are just little warning signs that something is to be noted and paid attention to. Many times that adrenaline kicks in (there it is again!) and makes us rationalize or poo poo things away because we WANT the relationship to work. Pay attention!
6. Always pursue!
Once you realize you’ve worked on your own stuff, someone is a good fit, and you are comfortable, settle in!
I recommend people date for 2 years before they are engaged and are engaged for at least a year before they marry. (Actually I recommend being engaged for a year before planning the wedding and then be engaged a year, but everyone always rolls their eyes at me!)
This gives enough time for some conflict to roll in and you can see how each other deals with it. It also gives you time to identify your partners needs.
Once you are in a committed relationship, always pursue!
Continue studying your partner. We all change and it’s important to keep up with the changes. So many couples stop pursuing. They are the ones sitting on my couch.
Natalie Chandler, MA, LMHC, LCAC – www.imaginehopecounseling.com
Take your time
When beginning a new relationship, it is important to take your time. Initially, if you are very attracted to each other and seem to get along well, you may want to see each other multiple times per week. This fast track method could lead you to problems and moving your relationship along too quickly. When this happens a false sense of intimacy develops, and boundaries are blurred.
A healthy amount of time to see each other in the initial stages of a relationship is once per week.
Once the relationship progresses by getting to know each other slowly, you may add time naturally. Get to know your partner, this can only happen with time and getting to see how one another acts in different circumstances and experiences.
Give the relationship your attention but make time for your own life. Be sure to maintain your own sense of self including the elements of your own life that you love. Take time for your friends and family. The relationship should not become all encompassing, even at later stages including marriage.
Maintain open communication
As the relationship develops into a serious committed relationship, be sure to have meetings to discuss how the relationship is going. Honesty and candid talk is best.
Keep it interesting
As the relationship blossoms and matures, be sure to continue your date nights. Try new experiences and activities together. Plan day trips and vacations to keep it interesting. Discuss new topics of interest.
Listen to what is important to your partner even if you don’t find it interesting. Remember when you first met that you found even the most mundane interesting!
Learn each other’s love language
There is a wonderful book by Gary Chapman called The Five Love Languages. It is an excellent resource to keep your relationship moving in a positive direction for the long haul. Dr. Chapman states that we all feel loved different ways.
If your partner is showing you love in a way that doesn’t match your love language, you may feel unloved and therefore your “love tank” will be empty.
You will have a primary love language, perhaps a secondary and may have some elements of all of them, however they will not be as strong.
The five love languages are: Gifts, acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time and physical touch.
Gifts– you like to receive gifts and feel loved when you do.
Acts of service– You feel loved and appreciated when your partner does something for you. For example, getting the car serviced, fixing things around the house, running an errand.
Words of affirmation– You feel loved and appreciated when you are complimented and told that you are loved and appreciated.
Quality time– It is important for you to spend quality time with your partner and you feel fulfilled and loved when you do.
Physical touch– Hand holding, kissing, caressing and sex are in this category. You feel loved when you have physical touch.
The following is an example of a typical pitfall when unaware of love languages.
Jack worked a lot of overtime at his job for six months prior to Christmas. Sally missed him terribly and began to feel distant from Jack. When Christmas day came, Jack presented Sally with a brand-new car with a big red bow for a gift. Sally was furious as she could care less about the car or gifts for that matter.
All she wanted was to spend quality time with the man she loved. It is apparent from this example that Sally’s primary love language is quality time, while Jack’s may well be gifts.
As you can see, it is valuable to determine your partner’s love language and for them to do the same.
It is appropriate to do this even at the beginning of a committed relationship, however the knowledge of the love languages will also help a couple that has been together for many years.
One way to determine someone’s love language is to notice what they do for you.
Usually, we will express love and appreciation the way we want to be shown love and appreciation, however we might be missing our partner’s love language entirely.
Lisa Angelini, MAPC, LPC – www.lisaangelini.com
There is NO greater feeling than being ‘IN LOVE.’
We relish the emotional high and butterfly feelings love creates.
When you’re in love, you will ‘ignore’ the differences between you.
You will not see the potential long-term conflicts because you’re ‘In LOVE!’
Before you know it, you’re fantasizing about your life and future together. You may be thinking of where to get married, and even wondering what your children will look like!
You’re in the ‘rose-tinted glasses’ stage, or ‘honeymoon’ stage.
The ‘honeymoon’ stage is when your partner (the person you’re dating) can do no wrong. We’ve all heard that ‘love is blind,’ well, no more so than when you’re in this stage of your relationship, which can last anywhere between 2 months and two years. You just ‘DON’T SEE’ things in your partner that are not right for you.
Before you jump into bed with the guy you’ve had a couple of dates with, consider whether or not this person meets ALL of your Relationship Requirements and if you’re a good match.
Requirements are ‘deal breakers,’ and if they’re not all met, your relationship will not last.
A great example is children. If you want children and your partner doesn’t, that’s a ‘deal breaker;’ you can’t have half a child!
The last thing you want is to get emotionally involved and consider yourself in a ‘committed’ relationship only to find out, months later, that the guy you’re seeing doesn’t meet ALL of your Relationship Requirements.
When I say hold off before jumping into bed, it’s because sex increases the chemistry between the two of you, and that’s when you can fall into the ‘rose-tinted glasses’ stage and completely ignore all the Red Flags and warning signs.
You may also fall into the ‘sex trap,’ which is when you’ve decided that your relationship is compatibility based on your experience between the sheets and interpreted sexual chemistry as LOVE!
When it comes to relationships, how do you know if your partner meets ALL of your Requirements and you’re a good match?
It takes time to know if he is a good match and meets ALL your requirements, which you can find out through testing. Yes, I’m advocating testing the person you’re dating. It’s okay that he says he loves children, but how do you know? The best way to know is through watching his behavior around children.
Here are a few suggestions to test your date around meeting your Relationship Requirements and whether or not you’re a good match:
- Do you feel energized or drained when you’re in his company?
- Observe your date in different situations, for example, at the park where children are playing. How does he react? Is he annoyed with the noise?
- Does his life vision (goals for his future) match yours? There’s no point falling for a guy who wants to sail around the world when you want to live on a farm. Ask him what his life vision is. Tell him your life vision and watch his response.
- Introduce him to 2 or 3 of your close friends. How does he fit in with your friends? What are your friends’ opinions of him?
- Introduce your date to family members – what are their opinions of him?
- Can you see him fitting in with your family and friends?
- Meet his friends and family members. Can you see yourself fitting in with them?
- Are you authentic when you’re with your date or do you change to ‘impress’ him?
- What are your reasons for wanting to be in a relationship with this guy?
There is no rush, or first prize, for getting into a relationship with a dud.
Take your time and remember that chemistry in a relationship can influence your opinions and decision, which can last between 2 months and two years.
Before you consider saying ‘I Do,’ or moving your relationship to the next level, ask: “Is this love or chemistry?”
Sharon Craig, Relationship Coach – www.coach2connect.co
You’re in this for the long haul and your partner is committed too. Still, it’s only natural that you think and wonder about what you need to do to keep making this work so well.
Check out my recommendations:
1. Keep getting to know each other.
Be curious about one another. Even when we know someone really well, there are still surprises. Ask what your partner thinks about all sorts of things.
Talk about both of your values and how you want to live your lives.
If you think you already know the answer, ask anyway. We can be really good at thinking we know exactly how our partner thinks and feels, but we can often be wrong, believe it or not.
Also, allow for some flexibility. We can all shift our thoughts and preferences over time—it’s part of growing and changing as human beings. So, make some room for that growth in your relationship.
2. Know that all couples have some differences in their values and opinions, and that’s okay.
Long term relationships are really about respecting each other and allowing your partner to be who they are, even if they sometimes drive you batty! It’d probably be really boring (and kinda creepy) if you both thought exactly the same about everything.
Allow space for each of you to be your own person, even if you sometimes really, really, really wanna convince your partner that you’re right, and they’re wrong.
3. Most of the time, being in a committed relationships ISN’T about who’s right and who’s wrong. Shocker, right?
A really key element in healthy relationships is mutual respect and caring, and respect isn’t usually about winning. It’s about hearing another person out, being kind, sharing your point of view and seeing if there can be a compromise.
Sometimes that’s possible, sometimes not, but either way, the important part is how you go about disagreeing. The “how” can make or break relationships.
4. Keep investing in one another.
It sounds obvious, but so often we can get worn down with the day-to-day tasks that we forget to really focus on our partner. This kind of emotional “investment” looks different for different couples.
For some, it’s spending real, quality time together—maybe chatting at your fav coffee shop or going for walks.
For others, it may mean physical touch, anything from kisses and hugs to a healthy sex life. Still for other couples, it can be verbally validating the other person and telling them what you appreciate about them or even using thoughtful gifts to express caring.
There’s no one formula here, and for many couples, using a variety of these approaches is helpful. Really, the key is to find out what makes your partner feel loved and keep doing those things, and vice versa.
5. Remember that feelings ebb and flow over time.
In long-term relationships, we may sometimes feel head-over-heels in love with our partner, and there may even be times we could kinda take them or leave them. We don’t talk too much about this latter part in our society, but it’s really important to know.
Just because a feeling fades, as it’s wont to do over time, doesn’t have to mean that our relationship is over.
This can be just the time to do some inner inquiry about what’s missing and what might need tweaking.
Asking these kinds of questions can help shift the focus back to investing in each other, which tends to improve all kinds of things, from having great sex to feeling emotionally closer to just being happier overall in your relationship.
Of course, there’s no one-size-fits all strategy for relationships, but if you focus on being respectful and caring and investing in one another, these strategies will go a long way toward helping you be in this partnership for the long haul.
Ivy Griffin, MA., LMFT – www.thrivetherapyandcounseling.com
The pacing of a relationship can be very confusing.
It seems that this is the time in which relationships easily fall apart in inexplicable ways often leaving one or both parties hurt and disappointed.
It is said that an airplane uses 80% of its fuel getting off the ground. Once it is in the air it flies with ease. Relationships can be the same.
They can start out with fun and excitement. There may be frequent text messages, phone calls and dates. Yet, the pace at which these points of contact occur can vary depending on an infinite number of factors. When two people have different expectations of the frequency of contact, stress and tension can ensue.
Here are some general recommendations on how to deal with pacing.
1. Let him take the lead
Let the man take the lead. I have seen many women take over the pacing and make suggestions about next dates, initiate phone calls and multiple text messages only to be surprised when he loses interest and disappears.
In general, men like to do the pursuing and enjoy the chase.
They like to feel that they are in charge and they have a job to accomplish. I am not suggesting you play hard to get, but that you lean back and receive the attention at the pace in which he provides it. Go about your life as usual and be open to his advances when he is ready to make them.
2. Relax and receive
One of the problems that I frequently see today with women is that they are often in masculine dominant energy. The world is so fast paced and demanding that women need to be very active and focused on constant obligations and responsibilities. They don’t know how to shut this energy off when entering the home environment and allow themselves to relax.
Feminine energy is more about receiving, yielding, responding, nurturing and slowing down.
When was the last time you did any of this? Feminine energy and masculine energy are polarities that need to blend to create attraction and synergy. Slow down and let yourself receive.
3. Watch the story in your head
Invariably women get nervous and insecure when the pacing of a relationship is not going the way they expect. I have seen this lead to all kinds of neurotic behavior such as checking his Facebook page, driving by his house, sneaking a peek at his emails and text messages, etc.
Don’t let your imagination run wild and create all kinds of far-fetched stories. There are a million variations on what your mind may think is happening…most of them are simply not true. Maybe he is just busy…
Learn to observe your fearful mind when it is getting the better of you.
Choose to not buy into it and decide instead to simply be curious. Stay neutral and get out of the story.
4. Communicate with compassion
When in doubt about the pacing and what is going on, learn to communicate with kindness and compassion. You never know what is happening in a person’s life and why they may be doing what they are doing. It’s ok to ask.
You could say something like, “I haven’t heard from you in a while. How are things going? Are you OK? “
Keep it light, nonjudgmental and express sincere interest.
Be an easy sounding board that he will feel safe to open up to if he is having a hard time. Let him know you are still interested without pressure.
Pacing can be tough, but once you get past the initial stage of getting to know each other, and the tempo at which you are both comfortable, things will flow with greater ease.
Nancy Harris, LCSW, LICSW – www.nancyharriscoaching.com
So often we try to control our lives instead of going with the flow of living. Relationships and money are both situations that may incite our control issues to really hit the fan.
My boyfriend and I have a saying at our house: “this isn’t a fly-by-night romance”.
We often say it when things feel a bit tough or when either of us are concerned that the other might be upset about what’s happening in our lives.
We don’t use it as a substitute for conversations or instead of working something out together. It’s simply a sign of our commitment to each other.
If you believe that a relationship is destined to be long term, trying to control anything won’t serve you or your relationship.
My suggestion is to set the intention or mission statement of the relationship. When I identify the Sacred Partnership Soul Languages of a relationship, the couple instantly knows why they are brought together and can use that to support their relationship for the long haul.
Your relationship’s intention or mission statement will keep you focused on where you are going and what to move towards.
It allows you to set up the structure each you of you need so you aren’t ready to just “give-up” when things get challenging, and so you don’t get “lost” in the romance or passion of the relationship.
Here are some questions for a long-haul relationship:
- What are you each willing to put into the relationship?
- What do each one of you need in the relationship?
- What do you love about being with each other?
- What annoys you about the other person and how can you accept this about them?
- What reminders are you going to give each other to support this long-term relationship?
I recall hearing a story about a couple who had been married for over 60 years.
They believed that having sex each day was the reason their relationship lasted so long. What will you choose to be the structure and reason for your relationship lasting?
Jennifer Urezzio, Master Intuitive – www.soullanguage.us
Follow these tips if you think you’ve met a keeper
#1: Keep a light foot on the gas pedal
Ever wonder why those relationships that start out as a whirlwind romance, end in total and complete destruction, which afterwards you are left cleaning up the debris for a very long time. Well, that’s because most people confuse lust for love.
Many people THINK they are in love, but in fact they are in lust.
Lust is an immediate feeling. When in lust, you feel strong passion and desire for one another and a longing to always be in each other’s company. So as a result, you think you’re in love. Everything feels “just right”.
Love takes time to grow.
Love is a bond that requires nurturance and lots of care. Love is a verb full of actions that show you have the ability to nurture and care for each other and as a result, these actions help that bond to develop and grow stronger.
You need to trust the person you love, right? So how can you trust someone you just recently met? Does that make any sense? Has there been enough time for him to earn your trust and for you to earn his trust?
So how do you make sure to take your relationship slow enough so that you don’t confuse lust for love?
Well, first you need to understand that we love with our brain not with our heart. Our hearts don’t contain any emotions or feelings. The heart functions only to pump blood throughout the body. The heart doesn’t love. It’s the brain that loves. And guess what?
We can control whom we love and don’t love.
Yes, that’s right. With enough discipline, we can control whom our brain falls in love with. Don’t believe that nonsense about love at first sight or when someone tells you “it just happened”.
Lust at first sight is more realistic than love at first sight.
Can you trust a person you literally just laid your eyes on for the first time in your life? Get my point, yet?
So once you understand that you love with your brain, then the second step is learning how to control your mind in regards to whom you fall in love with and when.
I know this isn’t as exciting as a fairytale love story but would you rather have a broken heart after finding out the hard way that romantic chick flicks are just that? Chick flicks. Real life doesn’t end like a romantic comedy ends. Real life is real life. In movies and Disney cartoons, lust is love. In real life, lust is lust and love is love.
Alright, so how do you control whom you fall in love with? Well, here’s what you do.
Every time you think you love him, ask yourself,
- Do I trust him?
- Has he earned my trust?
- How long have I known him?
- Does he make me a priority in his life?
- Has he shown me that he cares about my well-being?
- Does he tell me or show me through his actions that he cares about me?
- Is he an action guy or a sweet talker?
- Does he back up his sweet talk with actions?
- Does he show me that he has my best interests in mind?
This is called reality testing.
Based on your answers to these questions, you’ll be able to slow your emotions down and realize that so far you like him and are lusting over him.
Keep reality testing every so often and especially whenever you feel your emotions are overwhelmingly excited.
You want to make sure that excited feeling is really love and not lust. You will keep yourself in check with reality testing.
#2: Don’t focus on the speed of your relationship
You want to fall in love, get married and have babies as soon as possible, right? Well, not so fast. Better be careful what you wish for because you wouldn’t want to take things so fast and get carried away with your emotions, confusing lust for love, only to find out after you’ve been married that you married the wrong man.
So stop trying to push the relationship to the next level as soon as possible. Let the relationship evolve slowly and naturally.
So instead of focusing on taking your relationship to the next level and making plans into the far future, try focusing instead on what is happening RIGHT NOW in your relationship. How do you do this? Well, that takes us to the next tip.
#3: Be mindful about the current stage of your relationship.
Enjoy whatever stage you are currently in. Take your time getting to know each other’s personalities, interests, likes, dislikes, hobbies, aspirations, life goals, careers, families, bad habits and good habits.
Get to know each other inside out before you decide you are in love with this person.
Yes, that’s right. You get to decide whom you love. Love doesn’t just happen.
Following these tips will help you to take your new relationship slowly.
This will help you figure out with a level head whether or not this man is worth your time and your love and if he is worthy of being your partner for the rest of your life. Don’t rush into anything because you might regret it later. As the saying goes…
Take your time!
Jackie Krol, LCSW – www.psychotherapistjackie.com
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