It may not have all the sparks and butterflies of a new flame, but long-term love has always been the ultimate romantic’s dream.
So, with Valentine’s Day fast approaching, we thought we’d look into the top habits, or rules if you like, that people in happy, long-term relationships live by.
Author and self-development speaker Dr Dain Heer, believes relationships are far simpler than most people realise, and that the real secret to enduring love lies in being free to be who you are, and encouraging your partner to do the same.
Here’s how he advises we do that:
Have fun together
No matter how many years go by, don’t forget to have fun. Love is fun.
Between work, and the house, and kids, and whatever else is on your endless list of obligations, it’s vitally important to make time to have a little fun.
It’s good for your soul and it’s good for your relationship, so make time to enjoy each other’s company.
Be grateful (and tell them you are)
It’s such a simple thing, but expressing gratitude can bring so much happiness, and it’s a common factor in many long-lived relationships. After all, no one loves being taken for granted.
Dain recommends expressing your gratitude, out loud and on a daily basis.
“Every day, tell your partner ‘I am so grateful for you in my life’, or, ‘my life is greater because you are in it’, or ‘your presence makes everything in my life [or something specific] so much greater’,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Arguments usually come about when both of you think your own way is right and the other person’s is wrong. But Dain doesn’t believe in right or wrong, just different points of view.
“When you judge, the only options you can see are right or wrong,” he says.
“The walls of separation created by judgment can’t exist if you remember that everything you or your partner chooses is just a different point of view. It’s ok to have differing points of view.”
Never go to bed angry
Now this is one we’ve heard time and time again. Stewing on issues overnight can be toxic for even the shiniest of relationships, so don’t let your head hit that pillow if you’re upset with your partner.
Get it figured out – and you can use the last two points to help do that.
“If you don’t judge, you very seldom have upsets that last longer than a few moments,” Dain says. “When you judge, you are destroying your relationship and the closeness between you and your partner.”
“Realise this and make the choice to stop. Take a cold shower. Call a good friend and vent. Do whatever it takes to stop the monkey mind of judgment.”
“Another great way is to write a list of everything you are grateful for about your partner,” he adds.
These techniques can help you find your peace after an argument, but what about your partner?
“Unfortunately, our partners will not always want to resolve the issue, especially if we have touched on a sensitive subject, and we can’t expect them to,” says Dain.
He suggests asking questions, rather than going over the same points again and again, as questions open up possibilities.
If your partner doesn’t want to talk, Dain recommends telling them you are grateful for them and giving them space. But if your partner wants to nut it out, be there to listen – and really listen, without offering advice unless asked.
Honour yourself and your partner
Before you were a couple, you were an individual – and so was your partner. It’s important to remember that, and to make time to indulge in the things that make you individual.
If your partner likes salsa dancing, or fishing and you aren’t interested in the same activity – don’t try to stop them from doing it, Dain says, encourage it.
“Often relationships fall apart because neither you nor your partner are the person you were when you started the relationship,” Dain explains.
“People tend to eliminate anything we believe our partner won’t like, and this applies to activities, personal characteristics, points of view, etc,” he adds, but this takes away from who are you.
Of course, change is natural and inevitable, but honouring yourself and your partner at all stages through life is so important.
Start each day anew
Finally, Dain advises that every day, you mentally ‘destroy and uncreate’ every wall that has come up between yourself and your partner the day before.
When you consciously destroy and uncreate obstacles in your relationship, every single day, things don’t have the opportunity to build up and steadily (and stealthily) create an insurmountable divide, he says.