Relationships aren’t easy. They require hard work, mutual respect, and open lines of communication (among other things) in order to prosper. But sometimes, regardless of how much you try and how much of yourself you give, relationships just don’t work out.
I recently walked away from a five-year-long relationship. As crushing and as daunting as this was for me, I definitely knew it was the right choice. And although my grandmother (who married at a *very* young age) views the demise of my relationship as a *major* failure (she legit paused for a solid 30 seconds after I told her the news), I’d like to view the past five years as a learning curve of sorts. After all, it’s okay if you fail as long as you learn something meaningful in the process.
So, whether you’re single, actively dating, or are in a long-term relationship, here are five things I’ve learned over the years that are essential for creating—and maintaining—a healthy, long-lasting relationship.
1. Love yourself first
We’ve all heard the saying, “If you don’t love yourself, you won’t know how to love others.” And while this is *incredibly* true, it is also virtually impossible for someone else to love you if you don’t love yourself first.
People that lack self-love may view their relationship in a negative light because they are constantly projecting their negative feelings onto their significant other. As a result, they may underestimate their partner’s love or find their partner’s expression of love to be inadequate.
Those that do not genuinely love themselves may also seek validation from their partners—affirmations that their significant other finds them attractive, or that they value what they bring to the table, or that they accept their flaws and quirks. Unfortunately, if someone doesn’t accept themselves—truly love themselves—they will forever be unhappy and discontent with their relationship.
2. Make time for romance
Busy work schedules, kids, and life’s many other responsibilities can leave a couple feeling like they have *zero* time—and energy—for one-on-one time spent in the bedroom. But the reality is that a robust sex life between two partners is imperative for a healthy relationship!
In 2017, a study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found a definite connection between frequent sexual activity and a relationship’s overall well-being. Keep in mind, romance isn’t just defined by sexual interactions. You can also increase intimacy and romantic feelings with your partner through affectionate touching (like holding hands, massages, or cuddling) and kissing! Moreover, you can spice up the romance within a relationship through increased emotional intimacy—e.g., by being vulnerable with your partner and by having open, honest conversations.
3. Enjoy time apart
While making time for each other—and romance!—is paramount to a successful and healthy relationship, the same goes for spending time apart. It’s crucial to balance out time spent with your partner and time spent with your friends and family. Too much time spent together can be problematic, especially where clingy, needy partners are concerned.
When you have “me” time or spend time with others outside of your romantic relationship, you are better able to establish and maintain your personal identity, allowing you to reset and recharge so that you are able to give your relationship 100 percent.
4. Be responsible for your own happiness
In relationships, many often look for happiness in their partners. Falling down the rabbit hole of expecting your significant other to provide you with eternal fulfillment is not only unrealistic but downright unhealthy.
Emotional dependence occurs when one person’s self-worth and feelings of happiness are contingent on the actions of their partner and the attention their partner gives them. Those that rely on their significant other for joy and happiness will most certainly be left feeling dissatisfied and unfulfilled in their relationship.
5. Never go to bed angry
One of the most significant lessons I have learned over the years is the importance of resolving conflict in a timely and healthy manner (i.e., sans screaming matches). Working through an argument can be tricky, especially because you can’t control how your partner will react—so learning how to handle disagreements in a constructive and civil manner is vital for a healthy, long-lasting relationship.
If this is something you and your partner find yourselves struggling with, don’t hesitate to seek outside mediation. Couple’s therapy can be incredibly helpful for ironing out the kinks in a relationship—granted both parties are open and willing to receive and accept the help.
What are some things you learned about relationships?
Photo: Pablo Heimplatz via Unsplash