When you’re dating, it’s easy to get caught up in the emotions and excitement of a new relationship. When we do that, we can often find ourselves pretending to like things to be polite, or maybe agreeing to stuff we normally would avoid to keep them interested. It can as simple as pretending to like the same beverage they do- or as serious as fabricating a whole fake life story to impress them. Whatever the level of seriousness, all it does it cause problems in the long run.
I don’t think I would rejoin the dating scene if anything were to ever happen between my husband and I, but being in a 12 year relationship DOES qualify me to know a little about what works. I’ve also had the benefit of watching my parents, who have been together forever. Experiencing both has taught me quite a bit, along with my first marriage and subsequent divorce. In my ongoing quest to help make the world a little better, I’m sharing my “rules” for relationships. If you want them to last and be fulfilling for both involved anyway.
- Be real. You absolutely cannot find a partner that you’ll be comfortable and happy with your whole life unless you are 100% yourself. Eventually it all comes out anyway, so being real from the beginning is the best way to go. Don’t pretend to like something or dress a certain way just to keep someone’s interest. You’ll get stuck doing something you hate for 40 years til you snap one day, then what? Just trust me- being real now saves you a world of heartache later.
- Be honest. You’d think this went along with the “Be real” rule, but for some- the need to be honest has to be clarified. Being real doesn’t mean to be a liar just because you are one. That’s a personal growth issue- not a relationship one- nor is it “finding someone to ‘accept’ you” as someone who can’t be honest. Being honest also doesn’t mean you need to be hateful or cruel. Tact can be used when being honest about sensitive issues.
- Communicate. Yes, it can be awkward. It can feel like “pulling teeth” to have an honest conversation about issues in your relationship, but it’s so very necessary if you want to grow together instead of having one resenting the other a couple of decades down the road. If you’re with the right person, these communications will work out. They may get a bit dramatic sometimes, but at least all issues will be out in the open instead of festering inside, causing infidelity or emotional abuse.
- Have balance. Neither person should feel like they are giving significantly more than they are getting out of the relationship. You should both feel fulfilled, BUT that’s with keeping in mind that your expectations have to be reasonable AND possible for the other to achieve. This brings us to the next rule:
- Be reasonable. Some of the views I see from people in the dating world concern me. They want people to love and accept them without trying to work on themselves. You can’t do that. You have to recognize your own faults, and do what you can to fix them. For example, if you have a mental illness that you know makes you unreasonably feel like people are leaving you out of things, you can’t expect someone to lavish attention on you 24/7 just to make you feel better. Instead, you have to start teaching yourself to recognize when someone is giving you an appropriate amount of attention. Another example- if you know you tend to act on impulse, you can’t just use that as an excuse to cheat, or say whatever, and not expect the other person to hold you accountable. You also can’t expect them to stick around and put up with it.
- Be respectful. No- one of you should not be worshipping the other. You should both be being respectful. If you are aware of something specific that really bothers your partner- you shouldn’t be doing it- unless it’s truly somehow suppressing or emotionally abusing you, and even then, you need to sit down, discuss it, and compromise.
- Be thoughtful and considerate. If you have extra time or energy to do something helpful for your partner-do it. If you know they like a specific food item or something- grab it for them. If they’ve had a particularly rough day and are being difficult- try to remember that it’s a bad day and react with love, instead of sarcasm or anger. Pick those flowers for them, or better yet- weed that garden and save them some work. There are a ton of ways to be thoughtful and considerate.
- Forgive. People mess up. They aren’t perfect. I’m not, you’re not- so how can you expect to be with someone for a lifetime without them making mistakes? Forgiving doesn’t make anyone weak. It means you are a decent person and realize that not everything is something you should stay mad about.
- If it isn’t significant, don’t make a thing out of it. If it’s not something that truly effects your psyche, endangers your safety, or that of your family, or is really going to matter 5 years down the road- let it go. Pointing out every little thing does nothing but belittle and create resentment. Also, be careful not to create problems where they aren’t by assuming something is wrong, or deciding that something is wrong without any indication it is. This is more common than you might think. Be careful to avoid these behaviors.
- Focus on what matters. Going out, gifts, extravagant vacations, and all that are nice, but they aren’t important. People are important. Being someone who is responsible, and can be relied, on is important. Money helps, but it should never be more important than people. Focus on being decent human beings.
- Adapt. It’s the only way to survive life, and relationships. I’ve mentioned in other writings about how they change and you have to learn how to change with each other, not grow apart. Don’t be so stuck in your habits that you aren’t able to be flexible to negotiate and compromise. It just ends up with everyone miserable.
- Appreciate each other. Not appreciating when we find that person we can count on, and spend our life with, can really create problems. It can be easy to take each other for granted and forget to acknowledge what the other is doing for us. It can also be easy to see ourselves as giving way more than we’re getting, even when that isn’t the case. Be grateful for the things that are done for you, even the little things– because it means they were thinking of you and trying.
One of the biggest events of our lives is finding someone to spend it with. Not creating a strong relationship that can withstand anything, and not appreciating our partner- can be two of the biggest mistakes we can make. Pretending to be something you’re not, and focusing only on your own feelings can also create many problems. Use these relationship rules to make sure you’re keeping yours strong, and that you’re both being the best significant other you can be.