My 5 Secrets for a Happy Long Lasting Relationship
This month is very special to me because I am celebrating 20 wonderful years of being with my husband. Even after 20 years together, I treasure every one of those years, every month, and every day of our relationship together. I am often asked: What is the secret of keeping a lasting relationship strong, and how do you stay in love?
When I was earning my Masters in Interpersonal Communication, one of the subjects I was passionate about was this exact one: “Communication in a Relationship”. I often interviewed couples and studied what were the specific traits, the specific signs, of a healthy nurturing union, and how these consistently created strong, long, and happy relationships.
While I am writing these lines, my mind goes back to the moments that made us stronger together, the ones that can define any partnership and help the union grow stronger as the years go by. Here, I will share with you 5 secrets to follow, especially for women, when you want a strong and meaningful relationship:
You are in charge of your own happiness. I believe you cannot force a relationship. Relationships should flow and evolve naturally because both of you allow that to happen and want to develop your relationship. Your own happiness does not depend on your partner’s: you cannot base your own happiness on what your partner brings to the relationship.
True happiness and self-love comes from within and is the foundation of a happy relationship. You want to have high respect for your own well-being and happiness; your self-love and self-respect must be clear to you so that you know exactly where you stand when it comes to your feelings so that you are not settling for less than you deserve.
Your inner happiness and self-love are a state of your internal fulfillment and should be the solid foundation of your accepting who you are with confidence. The happiness and love that your partner brings is like the sweet extra filling in the cake. So, you are not basing your inner happiness on an external stimulus. Do you see the distinction?
Be careful if you think: “He makes me a better person”. Do not allow someone to make you a “better” person, because then you are allowing them to make you a “worse” person as well. You are putting your self-worth in someone else’s hands, and therefore you are giving power to someone that you and only you should have.
Personal Tip: You don’t own your partner’s time and vice versa. We know we don’t own each other’s time, but we choose, most of the time, to be together, and we have the best time when we are together, even if we do nothing. There is value in every moment together regardless of what we do or where we are. Enjoy every moment together!
Think of a relationship as a team of 2. Either you both win or you both lose. Whether either of you are accomplishing a task, making a decision, or working on a project, help each other grow by cheering each other on during the process so that when the assignment is completed, both of you get joy from it, as opposed to having individual rewards and goals.
I learned this first hand during my time living in South East Asia. People in collectivistic cultures tend to work together since creating harmony and group connection is extremely valued. In collectivistic cultures, it is shameful for a single person to receive a compliment. If you wish to praise someone for completing a task, you must give credit to the entire group. They prioritize the needs of their community and families over their individual needs.
If you start thinking of your relationship as a team from a collectivistic perspective, you will find that by working together, no one gets ahead or behind; you are with each other every step of the way – a team.
I am not saying that you must do everything together; I am saying that if you think you are a team, you can benefit as a couple overall, and you will build a stronger, more meaningful relationship as an added benefit. And, what a great feeling you have when someone has your back!
Personal Tip: In a relationship, focus on what is good for your team as opposed to what is good for you. If you win, your partner wins with you, and together, you are both stronger.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” In a committed relationship you want to go far, NOT fast.
Believe in your marriage; believe in your partner. Believe in your partner as if he were your best friend, or the person you trust the most, or someone you admire. Value your partner’s passions, goals, and interests and believe in him and that he can accomplish anything.
When you took a vow or when you decided to be in a loving, healthy, committed relationship, you probably didn’t think that at the first disagreement, you would quit and go off into the next relationship. You were in love and believed that your love would make anything possible and would last forever. You were ready to fight for your love because failing at love didn’t even cross your mind. You believed in your relationship, and you believed in your partner.
Personal Tip: Don’t assume your partner knows how much you appreciate them. Tell your partner “thank you” when they do something nice. Tell them “you are awesome” when they do a great job (or even if they try to do something, even if it’s not quite right). Tell your partner “I believe in you”. And if you don’t know how they feel, ask them and talk with them, always with an open mind. This could do wonders in a relationship.
NOTE: There are two people in a relationship, so this works both ways. In a committed loving relationship, the more you do for your partner, the more you will get in return.
Keep the magic alive! Little things build a stronger lasting bond in a relationship, especially if you add a touch of magic to them!
This is the part where you forget (or try to forget at least for a minute!) about the routine; here is when you spice things up and share special moments with your partner. This can be as simple as sending a loving text message in the middle of the day, an unexpected hug when the embrace lasts for at least a minute (even better if there is soft music in the background), or a flower to remind your partner how meaningful and beautiful he is to you. Imagination is key here; be creative!
You may be thinking, “How can I do any of these when we are so busy with work, kids, preparing meals, house chores, etc.?” Well, let’s see… both of you have a phone and can text; someone has to go to the grocery store and there are flowers there (and candles). When there is no time during the day, and you are both exhausted in bed, instead of looking at your phones, light a candle, play some music and hold each other. At night, place a sticky note with a loving message on the bathroom mirror; it will make his day in the morning! There are ways to show your love and caring; the possibilities are endless, and the magic will unfold. Trust me!
Little things can enlighten intimacy and develop a solid bond in a relationship; don’t ignore these opportunities, and don’t give up.
Don’t expect your partner to read your mind. If you want something, you can hint at what you want, and if that doesn’t work, you can simply tell him what you want.
And if you want flowers, you can buy flowers and give them to him. They will be in your house anyway for you to enjoy them: People tend to replicate behaviors.
Also, you can ask your partner: “Is there anything that you would like for me to do?” It is great to know what your partner’s desires are, and who doesn’t like to hear that question, right?! Your intimacy with your partner is your power and your magic! Keep it alive!
I Respect you, and therefore I love you. You Respect me, and therefore you love me.
I believe that in a loving relationship, respect comes before Love. “Don’t tell me you love me if you don’t respect me”. Respect is essential in any type of relationship. From a new to a committed relationship, respect is a fundamental component to developing a strong bond and to growing that bond so that it lasts over the years.
Respect starts with respecting yourself, all of yourself: body, mind and spirit. When there is a personal level of self-respect in any relationship, this sets the standard from the beginning; you show your partner how you want to be treated to what is and what is not acceptable. I believe this is essential for any type of relationship, and especially for a lasting relationship, this is it.
I left respect as my last point here, but in reality, it is the beginning of ANY healthy relationship. Why is this so important? Because when someone respects you, you develop trust, safety, and wellbeing. And that is where love begins, nurtures, and grows.
Personal Tip: For young women and young couples of any age, if respect is not present from the beginning, maybe that is not the right relationship for you. The truth is that without self-respect and without respect from your partner, there is no safe place for love to grow.
In movies (and in social media), the perfect husband brings the perfect wife flowers every day when he comes from work; they cook together in their perfect outfits; they drink wine and cut the vegetables holding hands while they laugh and look at each other’s eyes, completely in love. Well, my friends… that is a beautiful scene from a movie, and YES, it can happen in real life too. For most of us, life is far from perfect, but within those imperfections is where you can create the most meaningful moments that will strengthen your relationship and that will last in your heart forever.
Life is what you make of it. Don’t expect your partner to do what you want (especially, if he doesn’t know what it is!). Identify each other’s strengths and work together as a team to live a happy, beautiful life that both of you love and choose to be in. You decide how you want to live. Don’t expect or more importantly let anyone decide that for you.
I believe in love; I believe in the power of a strong relationship; I believe in true happiness; I believe in laughing ‘til your belly hurts; I believe that anything is possible when you are determined; and I believe that with a touch of magic, you can and will live the life that you desire!