The truth is, over time, our feelings in our relationships do change. The sparkly and exhilarating rush of falling in love is not permanent. But that does not mean that this feeling disappears; it simply evolves. The idea that the excitement of a relationship is sentenced to only the first months or even years a couple is together is completely false.
When it comes to a long-term relationship with a partner we ourselves chose, we can maintain the thrill of being in love, and deepen our feelings of passion and intimacy. However, to do this means avoiding certain behaviors, habits, and traps that couples commonly fall into the longer they stay together. Staying in love means taking the hard road and differentiating from negative past influences. It means challenging our own defenses and facing our, often subconscious, fears about intimacy. Fighting for a relationship means being stubborn about not getting in our own way of staying close to someone else. Here are six tips that I have found to help couples stand the test of time.
1) Make Sure to Have Joyful Time Together
The ability to laugh with one another is a true sign of vitality in a relationship. It’s important to be able to share in and experience joy together. A sense of humor helps smooth the waters when our interactions become stormy. Being able to laugh at our shortcomings and at our partner's idiosyncrasies can steer us away from unwarranted dramas and keep our relationship alive.
2) Be Open to New Experiences
When a relationship gets closer, couples often risk growing apart by closing off to new experiences or limiting each other in certain ways. Love doesn't exist in a vacuum. We have to share time and activities to keep it thriving. Pay attention to what makes our partners happy, their interests, and be careful not to take actions that will restrict that happiness.
3) Show Your Love, Don’t Hold Back
Love doesn't exist unless it is treated as a vital and living force between two people. Saying "I love you" holds far less meaning than showing our love to someone. Show excitement when you see each other, make time to just talk, and be sure to make spontaneous affection part of your everyday life. Small steps, like holding hands and making eye contact, are easy to overlook in the face of busy schedules and responsibilities, but they can be key to keeping love exciting.
4) Keep Your Identity as an Individual
Losing yourself in love is one of the biggest threats to maintaining intimacy. Getting close to someone shouldn't mean fusing our identity or losing respect for our innate separateness. Couples should try to complement and support each other in an effort to become their fullest selves instead of merging together to become something else. Appreciate your partner’s unique interests and enjoy them for the vital individuals they are.
5) Don’t be Defensive, Engage in Open Communication
Inviting open communication and being receptive to feedback can help us overcome the real obstacles in our relationships. Instead of making excuses or counterattacking when our partner gives us feedback, we should look for the kernel of truth in what they're saying. Think about what applies and be compassionate to how they feel. In this same manner, you should seek to be direct and honest with your own feelings.
6) Remember to be Generous
Being generous involves being giving of yourself, but it also means being accepting of what's given to you. Be sure to show appreciation, even when gifts and acknowledgment are hard for you to receive. When it comes to the natural give and take in a relationship, it's important not to keep score. Being generous will make you feel warmly toward your partner and good about yourself, two elements that keep the spark alive.
Read more from Lisa Firestone on Relationships at PsychAlive.org