October 31st, 2015 7:12am
If you’re anything like me, you pause first before listening to advice you read online. What kind of experience does the advice-giver have? One focus in much online advice exists in the area of relationships. And this is an area filled with many “experts”. In my many years of practice as a medical doctor, I have found that relationship stresses are often behind many physical and mental illnesses. This is an area where I have special expertise. Not for being a doctor, but for being in a happily, committed marriage for 25-years.
There may be more, but here are my top 16.
1. Ditch the quest for perfection
Many men and women seek the “perfect” mate. Understand that since you are not perfect, finding it in someone else is impossible. Accept the fact that your mate will forever be perfectly imperfect. Ditch the preconditions your mate must satisfy, to be the perfect one.
2. Stop wondering if you’ve found your soulmate
If you continue to wonder, you may spend your entire relationship, or end it, not recognizing that the person capable of being the love of your life is right in front of you. Relationships take nurturing; be mindful that love at first site is more often lust at first sight. Relationships are real, in the flesh. Thus, your time will be better spent yearning for true love, not a concept.
3. Forget Prince and Princess fantasies
Prince Charming or Cinderella are characters in fairy tales and our desires for them are generally based on particular physical requirements and reside in a world of fantasy. Happily-ever-after is obtainable but don’t think it does not involve many bumps along the road. Holding on to these fantasies causes us to try to change our partner, which is a recipe for disaster.
4. The grass is not greener on the other side
Be honest to the fact that you will be attracted to others beside your mate. But I can assure you the grass is not greener on that other property. How can you expect to maintain a committed relationship if you always have one foot out the door looking for greener pastures? Take care of your own watch it grow.
5. Focus only on the positive
Remember when you first met? You mostly ignored the negative in your partner and focused only on the positive. If your relationship is struggling now, it is likely because you have flipped this and are now focusing on what isn’t right. If you focus only on the positive, the negative will have a way of becoming more tolerable, more easily worked on, and less detrimental to your happiness as a couple.
6. Be a team
Good teammates work together, don’t compete with one another, have mutual respect, and certainly don’t boss each other around. When you constantly feel as though you must win every difference of opinion, you are not being a good teammate. Compromise is the sign of being a good teammate and must be front and center in any relationship.
7. Share your money
Money has the power of destroying many, if not most, relationships. Often financial planners suggest keeping separate bank accounts to maintain independence in a relationship. In my professional experience, this bit of advice has sabotaged more relationships than any other behavior. Sharing money means that your money is my money—no strings attached. An open conversation about money is important.
8. Sex and intimacy
As humans, we require physical touch to maintain connection. Additionally, respectful and loving sex strengthens this bond. Often, the challenges of life interfere with desire. Yet, one should not lose sight of the importance of sex in a committed, monogamous relationship. It is what separates being lovers from being just friends. Work hard not to allow time go by without having sex. But also, don’t let a day go by without touching, kissing, and telling your mate that you love them. Call these your daily love habits. Make them a part of your bedtime routine or before leaving the house in the morning.
9. Let things go
Another way to say this is “don’t sweat the small stuff”. There may be occasions where you just have to suck it up, take some deep cleansing breaths, and move on. Most matters in life are not as important as maintaining your relationship. So just let it go.
When you are in conversation with your mate, make sure to establish eye contact, fully engage by being 100% present. Be aware that we often listen for the purpose of responding, countering, or thinking about other matters while someone is talking. When this happens in a relationship, it signals disrespect.
11. Take care of your body
Your body is your temple and your vehicle on earth. Nothing says that you care, more than taking care of that vehicle. Self-respect and self-care are essential to maintaining a happy relationship. Wanting to stay physically fit and attractive to your mate proclaims that you intend on this relationship lasting for a very long time and you are committed to being as healthy as possible “until death do us part”.
12. Be able to laugh at yourself
Not taking yourself too seriously allows humor to be part of your relationship. Think of comedians with whom you relate most. Most often they are the ones that can make jokes about themselves or their life situations. Incorporating this practice into your relationship, will strengthen, not weaken it. As long as the self-deprecating humor is respectful.
13. Consider this the most sacred of all your earthly relationships
Give it long enough, and circumstances or people, for many reasons, will come between you and your mate. It could be your job, family, business associates, or friends. Your relationship must always be your highest priority.
14. Be friends
Surely you want to love your mate, but you must never forget to like them, also. Treat your partner the way you might treat a dear friend, or even a house guest. Ask yourself if you would ever talk to a friend or a guest the way you might be speaking with your lover. With your lover, you must practice the same politeness, courtesy, and respect; that is, friendship.
15. Travel together
Some partners like to take separate vacations. Yet, choosing to take separate vacations will interfere with your ability to share special moments, which often happen when you travel together as you explore different places and meet different people.
16. Have common interests
Indeed, we are all different people and in a committed relationship it is important to give space to your partner so they can continue with pursuits in which you may have little interest. More importantly, though, it is important to develop your common interests and create new ones. In order for your relationship to survive the test of time, you must share common interests.
One of the most precious joys of life is to share it with the one you love. But to keep it going will take some work. However, before you know it, these sweet 16 will become part of your life and the key elements of a strong, lasting, and passionate relationship.
© Charles F. Glassman, MD