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How to Make a Relationship Work Without "Work"

1. Love someone in ways that make them feel loved.

Key points

  • Most people can't imagine their relationship will hit a problem—until they are face-to-face with one.
  • It's wise to make a continual effort to love someone in a way that has meaning for them.
  • Paying attention to a partner's needs is a way to keep a relationship strong.

Somewhere online I recently read an excellent article by Kelly Gonsalves on the ideas of a licensed marriage and family therapist named Beverly Andre. Andre wrote about being “intentional” in your relationship; meaning always being aware and thinking about what your relationship needs to function better and ultimately to grow—not waiting until there is a problem to try to figure out a solution. It’s an excellent idea, but I find that most people can’t imagine there can be a problem until there is one, particularly in the throes of first love.

Watching a recent series on Netflix called Love Is Blind in which couples fall in love after a series of conversations behind a wall, never having seen each other until they become engaged, it’s very evident to see couples ignoring major warning signs, such as a great difference in income, religion, or desires for the future. There seems to be a pervasive belief that love will conquer all until smacked in the face with lifestyle differences, such as messy vs. compulsively neat or conservative vs. risk taking. Many couples seem baffled by encountering such differences—problem solving being a skill none have obviously yet learned.

Andre suggests as means of preventing them:

Making a conscious effort to love someone in ways that make them feel loved. Love languages seem to have been incorporated into the ideas of many who study relationships. This is the concept that some show love through giving gifts while others feel loved by having displays of attentiveness and sought-after togetherness. If a couple's “languages” differ, each partner may feel unloved although the other is trying mightily, but in their own style.

Putting purposeful effort into the relationship. After the first rush of falling in love, most people settle into a comfortable pattern until they become aware that something is not working or their partner expresses discontent. Don’t settle into comfort for too long without making a constant appraisal of what is needed to keep it fresh and alive.

Prioritizing your significant other. Taking the relationship or the partner for granted is the kiss of death. Think of your partner and his/her needs at all times. “What do they need, what would please them, how to make them happy" must be on the mind of older couples, not just new ones.

Protecting your relationship. Yes, sometimes life gets in the way. Work gets crazy, issues arise with a family of origin or old friendships. Even health issues can take priority. However if you love your partner, his or her needs and the needs of the couple must always be kept in mind—needs such as privacy or some time spent together. If your partnership is important to you, it must be given importance no matter what else is going on.

So, whether you are in the first dizzy whirl of falling or being in love or whether you can remember when you were, hold onto that feeling of putting your new partner first in your thoughts and the delight of being a new couple and preserve it. Act always as if this is a new and exciting coupling so that there will be no nasty surprises in the future. Preserve what comes naturally in a new relationship for its duration.

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