Ah, love. We all want it. We’re all confused as hell by it. Honestly, Disney really screwed us over in the love department. Prince Charming is kind of a loser and riding a horse into the sunset is easier said than done. If you want your happily-ever-after, these are the things you’ll actually need.
- ROOM FOR GROWTH Your S.O. doesn’t know it all, and surprise— you don’t know it all either. No matter your age, there are experiences you’ve yet to have and lessons you’ve yet to learn. You and your partner will face hurdles and challenges in your relationship that can only be conquered if you’re both willing to grow and change together. You won’t be the same person in 10 years that you are right now, and neither will your partner. However, if you’re growing and changing together, the people you’ll be 10 years from now will feel like old pals instead of strangers.
- SEPARATE IDENTITIES It’s easy to fall into the trap of slowly evolving into the person you’re dating, especially when you eat every meal together, spend all your spare time together, and sleep and wake next to each other. There’s an old saying: “If you feed something long enough, it starts to look like you.” While sharing friends and interests is a wonderful thing, it’s important to maintain a life and identity of your own. You were once a single person with your own ideas, hobbies, Friday nights, and friends—and you might very well find yourself as a single person again in the future! Plus, keeping your separate identities means you each bring something new to the relationship! Keep things spicy by being your nuts, sexy, cool self.
- THE ABILITY TO KEEP IT REAL Try to refrain from idealizing your S.O. Not only does this create impossible expectations for them to live up to, it paves the way for major disappointment when they fall short of said expectations. Your partner may be perfect to you, but remember that they’re just doing their best where they can— just like you, me, and everyone else in the world. Also, be aware of your partner idealizing you and be willing to have a conversation about it if you find you’ve been placed on an uncomfortable pedestal. We’re only human; mistakes will be made—and that’s okay.
- R-E-S-P-E-C-T I hope this song is stuck in your head now because it’s a good reminder! Respect is essential in any relationship, but it’s especially important in your long-term romantic relationships. As the months and years go by, you’ll find yourself becoming more and more comfortable around your partner. You may feel this gives you the authority to dictate what they do in their spare time, how much alone time they really need, how they should feel, what they should have done or said in a certain situation—the list goes on and on. Here’s the thing: no matter how long you’ve been with a person, you owe them the respect you gave when you were in the honeymoon stage of your relationship and still trying to impress them. Be an active listener to their wants, needs, and goals. Have a conversation if a disagreement arises—but do so respectfully. Respect the fact that your SO is their own person, and expect the same in return.
- EFFORT Years go by, and suddenly you’re peeing in front of each other. Personally, I strive for the level of security one must feel in order to pee in front of their S.O. However, remember to put in a little effort in the midst of settling in for the long haul. Leave little love notes around his apartment like you did when you first started this journey. Send sexy, discreet messages during the day to make your night that much more enjoyable. Compliment your S.O.’s bod as well as their brain. A little effort in making each other feel appreciated and desired goes a long way.
- WILLINGNESS TO TAKE THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED So, all your friends are getting married and having kids. Who cares? Honestly, different strokes for different folks—and kids are not your strokes right now. Instead of spending precious time and energy trying to keep up with your friends from college, go with the flow of your own relationship. Maybe you two will stay together forever and a day without even a mention of marriage—that’s completely okay! Taking the road less traveled is fun. It’s new, exciting, and you’ll come back with stories of your grand adventures to tell your married friends.
- WATERING YOUR OWN GRASS The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. In fact, it’s usually an optical illusion. If you’re unhappy with the grass in your own pasture, try watering it. Whack some weeds. Keep it trimmed and healthy and nourished. Don’t leave your pasture because you think the grass on the other side looks better. Look, I’m not actually talking about grass, but I think you know that. Tend to your relationship. Find places for improvement and work together to tackle those pesky relationship weeds that pop up out of nowhere. No relationship is perfect. Don’t be fooled by what you see from couple on social media who seem to have the picture-perfect relationship. You have a good thing going—you just need to water your grass.
- FORGIVENESS Remember earlier when I said your partner is going to make mistakes? Well, that means you’re going to have to forgive those mistakes—that is, of course, if you want your relationship to last. Holding tightly to grudges, misspoken words, and misunderstandings will only allow resentment to slowly build inside your brain until you eventually explode. If you truly love and respect your partner, you’ll realize the importance of letting the small stuff slide, having honest conversations about the stuff too heavy to slide, and forgiving mistakes and shortcomings so you both can move on to new heights in your relationship. A relationship can’t last if you’re stuck living in the past.
- AN OPEN MIND If you want your relationship to go the distance, you need to be willing to think in ways that maybe you’d never considered before. Be open to hearing your partner out on a new religion they think they’d like to try. Be willing to vacation in a place they love but you’ve never had a desire to visit. Try new restaurants. Open your mind to a brand new way of viewing the world around you. Relationships are the greatest teachers. You can learn a lot from your partner (and they can learn a lot from you) if you keep an open mind.