One thing that we know for sure is that, somewhere in between the honeymoon stage and the firmly committed, settled-down stage of a relationship, are a number of potential issues for couples. In fact, it is often this adjustment and power struggle that results in relationships ending during this time – since, after all, it is not an easy thing to learn to live with another person and manage another person’s moods, habits and values.
The good news is that there is decades of research into relationships – at any stage – that helps us to understand how to best manage this adjustment – as well as to keep our relationships positive and harmonious. We’ve selected three key pointers that will be useful for you in your committed relationship – and will allow you and your partner to focus on the good things in your relationship, and pursue friendship, closeness and fun.
- Self Growth – At times, we might find ourselves feeling somewhat….stagnant…..in a long term relationship. Why go out and seek out new friendships or interests, if home is so nice and welcoming? Netflix, comfy couch, loving partner….sounds great, right? Unfortunately, there is a fine line between comfort and stagnation, and research tells us that, as humans, we are at our happiest and most fulfilled when we are learning and growing. This doesn’t mean you need to abandon your happy home life and go out into the world looking for adventure -but it does mean that you will do well to invest in personal growth and development, particularly if you’re in a long term relationship. This might be something you pursue with your partner (eg. a fitness practice or learning a language together), some kind of hobby or interest (bonus points if it is social and something that allows you to connect with others or give back to the community), or even something as simple as listening to self improvement podcasts or audiobooks on a topic of interest.
- Communication – Yes, we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – a relationship is only as good as the communication between both individuals! Committed relationships with poor communication are hard to look at – there is either intense, high conflict which creates a kind of living hell, or a sense of disconnection and loneliness since both people have stopped trying to get through to each other. One way of approaching communication with your long term partner is to accept that conflict is inevitable – and in fact, healthy! Nobody agrees with their partner about everything – and learning how to negotiate and manage conflict can be life-changing. A good place to start is to try a relationship coaching app such as Relish, which offers exercises for communication and one-on one coaching designed to help with common communication and conflict resolution issues.
- Boundaries – As much as we’d love to not ever have to worry about enforcing boundaries with those around us (especially our loved ones), the reality is that this is something that just needs to happen – as close as we might be to someone, they’re not mind readers. Our boundaries are based on our individual personalities, our past experiences, and our values – and setting expectations early on with your partner is going to go a long way. It also matters how you respond when your boundaries are breached, or when you feel like your partner is not respecting them – and, of course, being able to respect your partner’s boundaries and limits, even if you don’t understand them. Just like with conflict, we can accept that every relationship will have some boundary disputes that require negotiation (anything from trust issues, to time alone, to financial decisions). Speaking to a Relationship Coach about how to manage some of these issues can help, especially if you have not had the opportunity to learn these skills growing up.
If there is one thing you take from this article, hopefully it is this – a good relationship doesn’t just happen by itself! The long term relationships that we look at and admire have, most likely, had their ups and downs, and have required negotiation, communication, compromise and a commitment to growth. Addressing issues early on, before they become actual problems, is a great approach, and can save you a lot of heartache and pain. After all, most people simply want to be happy and loved – so why not be proactive about resolving potential issues?
If you’re interested in taking some action towards this, Relish has a free 7-day trial where you can read more about communication and boundaries, as well as speak to a trained Relationship Coach who can offer support and advice about how to get the most out of your relationship.