I’d had serious relationships before meeting my fiance, with a couple lasting for years. I thought I was an adult; I thought I knew how to be a great girlfriend. Meeting someone I had a serious connection with taught me that nothing I had experienced before was real. True love feels different than casual relationships – even if those relationships lasted for years (often well past their expiration date!). When you’re in a good relationship, you learn things. You act differently; you think as part of a team, not as an individual making your way through the world. You’ll be more understanding and accepting of your partner, instead of just getting frustrated with them like you may have with past relationships.
1. Misunderstandings are inevitable.
Misunderstandings are going to happen. If you take your partner’s words one way, then learn they meant something totally different, don’t punish them. Let it go. Bringing it up all the time is only going to bruise the relationship and cause communication problems later. Sometimes what you say or do will be taken the wrong way, and you’ll get frustrated that your partner doesn’t understand. Take a step back and realize it’s not a big deal. Misunderstandings are made to be swept under the rug because they’re so minor. They only become problems if you let them grow bigger and mean more in the scope of your relationship. Be laid back and forgive misunderstandings.
2. Learn to trust them.
You have to trust your partner. Why would you share your life with someone when you think they’re doing something wrong every time you turn your back? If you don’t trust your partner to be faithful, honest, caring, or anything else, then you’re not in a good relationship. The best relationships begin with a deep trust, and even if problems come up (and they will!), the trust is strong enough to keep you together.
3. Let yourselves miss each other.
You’re in love, so you want to be together all the time! It’s so fun to cuddle all night and be together all day, but when will you have time to experience different things? When you go to separate workplaces or schools, you experience things that will give you something to talk about later. When you go out with your friends and your partner spends time with theirs, you have time and space to yourself and come back to each other refreshed. You have a chance to miss each other, and it helps you really understand the value of your relationship. Missing someone is great because getting to see them after that period will make you so happy and so sure of your relationship.
4. Encourage growth and change.
In a good relationship, both partners are encouraged to grow and change. You have one life to live – you should explore it to the fullest! If you want to quit your job and go back to school, your partner should support you. If you want to try something new or go back to something old, you should find support in your relationship. And you should give this support in return. Encourage your partner to explore hobbies and interests and meet new people. If you want your partner to stay the same, you’re going to have a very boring life together.
5. Compromising doesn’t mean you’re weak.
Compromising doesn’t mean “giving in.” It doesn’t mean that you’ve lost the fight. In fact, it’s the opposite. Do you know how hard it is to compromise sometimes? You want your way because it sounds right and makes sense to you. Your partner is way off base with their suggestions. Take a step back and look at the argument diplomatically. What’s the logical conclusion? If your partner is right, don’t be afraid to say so. Accept their way, or modify both of your solutions to be half and half. The important thing is not getting your way, it’s staying in your relationship and helping it grow. Compromising will definitely help your relationship grow.
6. Admit your weaknesses.
Your partner doesn’t expect you to be a superhero, and hopefully you don’t expect that of them! We’re all human; we all have flaws. It’s ok to let these show. In fact, to have a stable, serious relationship, you need to let your weaknesses be known. Your partner will be more sensitive to things that bother you, and can help build you up in areas where you need some help.
7. Sometimes you can only accept things, not fix them.
People have baggage. You have some. Your partner has some. Can you go back and erase all of this? Nope! You’re stuck with it, and have to learn to deal with it. Some things are easier to get over than others, but the reality is that sometimes, you can’t fix things. You can’t make problems go away. You have to accept them and get over them and move on, or else your relationship will crumble.
8. Forgive quickly and truly.
Whenever you have a fight, don’t worry about who wins or who loses. Learn from the fight – from what was said as much as from how it was resolved. Once you learn from a fight, you can apply that lesson to your relationship to avoid trouble later. That’s all well and good, but you’re not done! Forgive your partner! Forgive yourself. The fight is over, you’re past it, now let it go. Never hold anything against your partner because the resentment will build until you don’t want to be with them.
9. Never expect anything.
Don’t expect your partner to read your mind, or to bring you breakfast in bed, or to offer to wash the dishes. It’s not going to happen. You can’t expect anything from anyone – you have to make it known. Communicate. Make sure your partner knows what you expect from the relationship, as well as your opinions on a wide variety of issues. This will help them act considerate towards you, but still – don’t expect anything!
10. Show your feelings.
The worst thing you can do in a relationship is play games. Don’t tease your partner; don’t “reward” good deeds with love and affection. You have to make sure your partner always feels loved. You can be happy with them or be mad at them – it doesn’t matter – they just need to feel loved. They need to know your feelings in the moment as well, don’t get me wrong. But make sure you’re showing your feelings in a way that they won’t be misunderstood (back to #1!). /Allison Renner