There's this myth about finding your soul mate that I want to clear up. The myth promises that you're going to go through all of these terrible relationships to find that knight in shining amour who is going to be the person of your dreams. They are going to wipe your soul clean of all the hurt that you once had, and most importantly, you're going to be madly in love with them for the rest of your days... because that's what happens when you find your soul mate, right? Cuddles every night, surprise flowers just because, warm baths ready for you when you get home from work because your soul mate ALWAYS knows when you had a long day at the office. Although this sounds romantic and awesome, and I truly hope that someone on this planet has a love like this for their whole life.
I know from experience that long term relationships take work… for me it's been nearly 7 years of work! Those rose tinted glasses you wear in the beginning of your relationship start fading to clear, and you quickly start to see your soul mate for who they are: messy, broken, imperfect, quirky, funny, and completely human. I’m here to tell you that the completely human part of your soul mate is the most amazing part of them. All those things that our first date selves try to hide are the most amazing parts of who we are. I’ve never felt so in love with someone until the butterflies have died down and that romance that we used to feel every day came once a week, or once a month, or came not by candlelit dinner but by my best friend waking me up at 3AM telling me we should go downstairs and make chocolate chip pancakes. I’m not saying that you can’t be madly in love with someone for your whole life. I am here to tell you that in a world of breakups, divorces, and simply “falling out of love” with someone, that deep and meaningful love can last. You just have to commit to keeping your relationship healthy and learning to keep loving someone despite all the flaws you both have. Here are a few tips I have found to be helpful throughout my long term relationship.
1. Understand who you are
I mentioned above the false idea that your soul mate is going to make all the hurt you experienced in the past be forgotten. Our personalities, and hearts, and brains are all shaped by the experiences of our past. One key to a healthy long term relationship is being at peace with your past, not just wishing it away. Understanding who you are and knowing that your partner isn't there to complete you, and isn't there to make your whole life history seem irrelevant is going to keep your relationship stronger. One thing I've found is that I can love my husband the most genuinely when I am completely confident in who I am.
2. Open your heart
I know communication always makes the list when it comes to healthy relationships. Although I agree communication is one of the most important parts of a relationship, I would take it a step further and say completely opening your heart up to each other is even more crucial It's even more than just letting your partner know if you are upset, or if you feel slightly confused about a situation, it's letting them into the parts of your heart that are completely dark. This isn't a once and done deal. Because we are human, we are constantly changing, and our hearts are always being shaped by situations that we step into. Being able to continually open up to each other and let each other into the places of your heart that you don't want to show is going to be one amazing crucial step to a healthy long term relationship.
3. Habits of love
We all know how fast bad habits form. It takes me three days of sleeping in past 9 to make that a routine. You want to grow your relationship with habits of love and make sure you're watering your relationship with kindness, humility, and care. Make a conscious effort to refrain from getting upset. I find that if I get upset about something small one day, it's gong to be that much easier for me to get upset again the next time that situation comes up. Instead, practice love. Do small but nice things for each other often, always think of each other first, and live a life of love. You'll find that it's way more healthy to develop these good habits then it is to live in a nightmare of bad habits.
4. Surround yourself with love
Whether you are surrounding yourself with friends, family, or friends that have become family, you want to make sure you have love all around you. One of the biggest things that I love about my life with my husband is the amount of time we dedicate to loving our friends and family. When you have an amazing support system around you, the rocky parts of your relationship seem easier. Not many people can keep their relationship healthy without being part of a larger community. Make it routine to see friends each week, invite them to dinner or grab some food out in town. If you're religious, join a small group where you can make friends of the same belief system. If you like sports, join a team together.
5. Living in the present
We are living in a time where we get more satisfaction from the likes we get on Instagram and Facebook then we get actually spending time together taking the photo we had posted there. We need to relearn how to live in the present moment when technology and busy days have taken away a large part of enjoying our lives to the fullest. Try putting your cell phones in the living room at night and getting an old school alarm clock. Leave your phones at home when you go on a date and try to remember the date without having to look back at the Instagram post you put up. For goodness sakes, tell your partner how much you love them in a handwritten letter or with a whisper in their ear, not just on your Facebook status! I'm not saying I don't struggle with this myself, as I do also live in the technological year of 2016. If we don't start talking about this more there are going to be way more unhealthy, unhappy relationships with a lot of likes on Facebook in the next few years.
6. Check yourself before you blame them
I find myself getting upset and often putting the blame for my emotions on my spouse. He left the sink running, he didn't even notice I seemed upset today, he didn't respond when I tried to show him physical affection. It's only human to blame the other person before we look at our own flaws. Throughout my long term relationship, I've found that I need to start my thought process with "I" when it comes to negative emotions. Before I blame the other person, I need to check myself. Have I forgotten to turn the sink all the way off too lately? Probably more often then I'd like to admit. Maybe I was too focused on myself that I didn't realize he did notice I was upset today. Maybe that was why he made dinner, fed the cats, and put on my favorite movie. Maybe he was just waiting for me to talk about what happened, letting me have some quiet time first. Maybe he had a really long day too and something didn't go as planned, so to be honest he really didn't notice I was upset. Switching your perspective to taking the blame off each other is gong to be important to keeping your long term relationship healthy. Of course, there are going to be times when you both mess up, and you can blame each other all you want, but showing compassion is the only thing that is going to actually mend the situation and grow you both closer.
How do you keep your long term relationship healthy?