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The act of falling in love? That was easy for you and your girlfriend. In what felt like instant chemistry, from the moment you laid eyes on her, the gig was up. Even if your love story took many twists and turns before you updated your Facebook statuses to be ‘official’ - when it comes to imagining your life with anyone else? You simply can’t.
While you don’t doubt your connection, your ability to communicate or the love you share, the hard truth of being in a long-term, committed and monogamous relationship is that without rolling up your sleeves and putting in the hard work required to make it work, well, it just won’t.
Though there might be times when you coast through the niceties and co-exist pleasantly together, a long-term relationship must be given constant, thoughtful attention to make the years pass happily. Here, experts share their best advice on how to ensure your love doesn’t suffer because you shy away from prioritizing the woman you’re lucky to have:
1. The Benefits Of A Long-Term Relationship
Especially if you spent the vast majority of your 20s (and okay, maybe even part of your 30s) as a single man, you know how different it feels when you finally stumble into a woman who makes you want to focus all of your attention and energy on her.
From the way she holds herself in difficult discussions and how impressive her work ethic is to the effortless way she can rock both a little black dress and sweatpants, spending time with your girlfriend or wife is more fulfilling than any one night stand could ever be. In fact, according to couples therapists Sarah Schewitz, Psy.D., research indicates that men especially gain more from being in a long-term relationship than women gain from the same commitment.
“After a divorce or the end of a long-term relationship, men tend to get more depressed than women and get remarried faster because they experience so many benefits being in a relationship,” she explains. “Men in long-term relationships experience better physical health, more happiness, more emotional support and greater sexual satisfaction than those not in relationships.”
And apart from any research conducted by science, there’s an overall sense of fulfillment and happiness that derives from knowing you have a partner in crime. Not only does the stability inspire you to be bolder with your own choices outside of love and relationships, but it inspires you to dedicate yourself in a more selfless way than you would if you were a bachelor. Los Angeles-based psychologist Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D. says in general, it’s a better idea to be in a withstanding relationship than to be alone.
“The benefits of a long-term relationship are many. Feeling more happy and well-rounded; having a sense of emotional stability and security in which you know your partner's got your back and is there for you; experiencing a meaningful, deep connection in which each partner can feel known and understood by the other; sharing a unique history together; helping each other and being more motivated to stay physically and emotionally healthy and more,” she explains. As a bonus? She also adds you’ll live longer if you’re paired up than if you aren’t.
2. Why Long-Term Relationships Require Maintenance
Consider your closest friend. He’s the one who is there through the thick and the thin, for when you need to make a smart, calculated decision and for when you want to let loose and booze all night. Even with all of the good times and memories you share, he’s also the guy who can tick at your annoyance levels the fastest.
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Luckily, you can call each other out without missing a beat, but in a relationship, the ebbs and flows might be trickier to navigate. Schewitz says it’s a common misconception that ‘you shouldn’t have to try and make a relationship work’ - when in reality, without keeping up with your partner’s needs and the state of your personal union, you could lose her… fast.
The solution is wading through the changes together. “Relationships go through many phases and the longer you are together, the more changes you will experience together. There will be times when things are easy and just seem to flow but there will also be times when you wonder if you can or want to do this anymore. Both are normal feelings in a long-term relationship,” she adds.
Thomas says often times, a relationship will begin to lose its luster when one of the partners (or both of you) stop nurturing and attending to one another as much as needed to be happy and healthy.
“As with any living entity, a relationship needs to be fed with care and attention to keep it not only alive, but growing and thriving emotionally and physically. Without these elements, long-term relationships can become boring; one or both partners can take each other for granted and not appreciate the other; one or both partners can assume that one's significant other should know what he or she needs, thinks, and/or feels without communicating these things; sex can become stale and routine; unresolved issues between the couple can create problems such as build-up of walls, disconnection, grudges, resentment, upsetting feelings, acting out, withdrawing and more,” she says.
3. How To Invest In Your Relationship
If you’re reading this, you probably are worrying about how much effort you’re putting into your relationship and if you’re headed for an unhappy, unwelcomed end. To ease your anxieties and bring you closer, psychologists share recommended ways to maintain the quality (and the love!) of your long-term twosome:
Never Stop Pursuing Your Partner
Been dating for a year? Three years? Six? Married for ten? No matter how long you’ve been with your partner, Schewitz says it’s essential to always pursue them. While, sure, you might not have to go all out with courtship like you did when you first met, she does note that many people associate those initial butterflies with their contentment level throughout the duration of the relationship.
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In other words, whatever you did to persuade her to fall in love with you when you weren’t officially a couple, you’ll need to keep on reminding her of those flutters to keep her connected to you. Maybe it’s through unexpected ‘Good morning beautiful’ text messages or picking up the kind of orange juice she prefers or surprising her with concert tickets to a group she admires. Whatever the case that’s specific and unique to your relationship, schedule the time in your calendar so you never forget to woo her.
Put Your Partner First
Your partner might naturally be more apt to refill the dog’s heartworm medication, to send your mother a birthday card or remind you to pick up dry cleaning. And while you value these qualities for sure, Schewitz says you might also take them for granted. That’s why it’s essential to turn your energy toward giving instead of getting, especially as a relationship matures and grows. “Focus more on what you can give versus what you can get from the relationship. If both partners put each other’s needs and happiness first, you both will be taken care of and you both will feel like a priority,” she says.
Try To Understand Before Responding
In her experience, Schewitz says one of the biggest rifts that pulls couples apart is their inability to communicate over time. Though disagreements are all part of the process of being with another person for an extended period of time, if you are merely bickering for the sake of it, without truly tuning in to your partner’s frustrations, you’re in trouble.
“This is usually because they aren't truly listening to each other and trying to put themselves in their partner’s shoes. They’re just waiting until their partner is done talking so they can deliver the response they’ve been thinking of while their partner was talking,” she says.
“Instead, get really present to what your partner is saying. Ask her questions like ‘how does that make you feel?’ and ‘what led to you thinking that?’ Then try to put yourself in your partner’s shoes and really understand and repeat back her point of view before sharing your own.”
Make Time Together A Priority
Here are some ground rules of this quality time, according to Schewitz: no kids, no family, no distractions but lovingly gazing into one another’s eyes. Or, laughing until you nearly fall off of your patio furniture. Schewitz suggests having a designated date night at least once every two weeks, if not weekly.
This is a time when you can let go of outside factors and truly focus on what’s happening individually and in your relationship. Regardless if you take a new class, make a reservation at your favorite restaurant, go for a run or steal away in a hotel room for uninterrupted sex, this is your time to reconnect.
Talk For At Least 30 Minutes Every Day
Though face-to-face is recommended by Thomas, if you can’t always swing that, she does say a phone call is essential. This is your time to hear their voice, understand the trembles or the peaks in their tone and zero-in on your partner. “This way, you can keep reinforcing the connection between the two of you and by doing so in these more personal ways than via e-mail, text or social media.
If it is hard to do this on some days, try to incorporate communicating with your significant other while making a meal together or doing the laundry or errands with each other,” she says. “When communicating, try to not focus on peripheral things like your cell phone, computer, or television. Instead, show your partner that you are interested in and attentive to what she is saying by focusing as much as possible on her and by responding with questions, thoughts or feelings you have related to what she has just told you so she truly feels heard and cared for.”
4. Recommended Tools
Sometimes, chit-chat, some adventures in the bedroom, surprise gift and small or grand gestures just aren’t enough to move the needle. Instead, you might need some help from pros on supercharging your relationship back to the splendor it once had:
You likely know which positions get her hot-and-heavy, but she’s also felt those positions more times than she can count. It’s not that practice doesn’t make perfect but to really pleasure her, you can fine-tune your skills. OMGYES is an instructional-site meets soft core porn that demonstrates ways to become a better, more engaged lover. Here, your subscription can include videos you watch together or ones you explore apart, all in an effort to build your steam.
Check out OMGYES
There’s never a bad time to remind her of how much you care - and how beautiful you think she is, each and every single day. With this set of sweet nothings, you have opportunities to surprise her with a token of appreciation on the reg.
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Listen, Learn, Love
Step one in improving your relationship? Honing in on your listening skills. With this book, you will learn how to focus more on the art of hearing your partner out, instead of jumping in and squashing or diminishing their feelings.
$12.40 at Amazon.com