I totally got the idea for this post from Mary’s 3 Ways to Recommit to Your Career piece a while back. That piece was about re-invigorating your enthusiasm for your career and finding your focus again. I think we can all agree the same can apply to long-term relationships.
Please excuse me for oversharing (yet again), but allow me to explain that I’m in the longest relationship of my life. This is also the longest relationship in my partner’s life. We’ve been dating almost exactly 5 1/2 years–meaning about 1/5 of my entire life. Sometimes we look at each other in disbelief and say how we’ve shared one out of every five minutes of our lives. (Let that really sink in! Try not to freak out.)
If I said that all that time has been one smooth ride getting better and better, I would be totally lying. Of course, every relationship is different, but I find that most couples who do stay together end up having more of a roller coaster ride. No matter how much you love one another, there will always be things to contend with: moving, job gains and losses, health issues, money troubles, family issues… And then there is the fact that no matter how passionately you feel at the beginning, there will eventually be settling down.
Listing all these things make it seem like staying in a long-term relationship is one hell of a job, and it is, but it is also worth it. Not just because you have a best friend who shares your life with you, but also because this is how you discover just how much you can love another human being. So before Valentine’s Day, let’s check out some ways to recommit to your relationship.
1. Love is looking at one another.
There is a quote by Antoine St. Exupery: “Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” And as much as I love The Little Prince, I have to fervently disagree with this one. The longer your relationship lasts, the more you grow accustomed to assuming your partner is on the same page with you in goals and wishes. You end up assuming that you are partners without trying to truly understand one another. The truth is, you each have different thoughts, beliefs, and dreams–that are constantly shifting, no less. Appreciate and love your partner for who s/he is, not just how s/he shares your perspective. And the more you share yourselves, the closer you will feel.
A little exercise: Take some time over dinner to actually gaze at each other in the eyes, quietly, for a few minutes. Apparently this leads even strangers to fall in love–but that feeling of really seeing each other again is essential to long-term couples.
2. Embrace romantic gestures.
There is a reason for some couples renewing their vows every 10 years. It’s not just a frivolous wish to relive the best day of your life and play dress-up (though, why not?). It’s also that rituals and symbols do play a huge role in our lives in general, and also in love. After years together, it’s helpful to remind one another of the love that you share through something that feels larger-than-(everyday)-life.
For some, that might mean having some sort of commitment ceremony (if married) or even an anniversary party with your family and friends, celebrating your time together. For others, it might be something much more intimate and personal like flying to Paris and adding a lock to Pont des Arts and tossing the key to the Seine. (Although this might now be banned due to er, safety reasons.) Or maybe even, writing a heart-felt love letter to one another and reading it aloud to each other (actually my preferred method–please wait while I wipe away this smudge in my eye).
3. Take things one day at a time.
This might sound counter-intuitive: shouldn’t recommitting to your relationship be like, talking about your future, your children’s names, how many dogs/cats you’ll have? But there is no lack of future planning in committed relationships. On the other hand, what is often missing is the appreciation for each day spent together. This is natural, since you have known that this person is going to be around in the morning, for quite some time.
But think about how important it was to cook a single dinner together at the beginning, or to get a chance to spend one whole Sunday together. If your partner cooked dinner, it was “oh how marvelous! he’s gone out of his way to cook us a meal,” rather than “weird–he never cooks, and now he’s going to expect me to clean up after.” Before you had a set narrative of your relationship, you took each day as it came–and appreciated your partner without any sense of baggage or disclaimer. So take things one day at a time with your partner without letting your past–or the thoughts of future–get in the way of your present.
Do you have any tips on recommitting to your relationship?
More in love and relationships: 16 Most Moving Quotes About Love
Photo: philippe leroyer via Flickr