Two Simple Secrets to Lasting Love

A dear friend is trudging through the perilous minefield that this mid-life dating and spills over with emotion every time we meet. The tears, laughter and longing are always followed by a smile and the phrase, “You two give me hope.”

After spending over 2,000 days attached at the hip, my boyfriend and I are the best of friends, sharing equal parts tenderness and playful teasing. We deeply cherish all the little idiosyncrasies of our love. And yet, to have someone else not only recognize, but aspire to what we have feels like the biggest and most sincere compliment in the world.

Lately, I’ve been prescribing my friend loads of advice: trust your heart, honor your boundaries, have fun, and stop overthinking things. Five and a half years ago, I hit the jackpot. I found “the one” and I knew it, instantly. While we’ve had our share of disagreements and life challenges, our confidence in the relationship hasn’t once wavered.

Recent conversations with that single friend have prompted me to truly consider what it is about my relationship that works so well. With so many struggling to find deep connection and long-term commitment, what insights and wisdom might offer to help bridge those gaps?

The simple and not-so-secret keys to a successful relationship are communication and respect. Communication includes honesty, depth of discussion, body language and more. Respect applies to values, beliefs, preferences and physicality. Both qualities are simple in theory, but often more difficult in practice. And yet, I would argue each is well-worth the effort.

Communication

When you first meet someone, open up and go deep. Share your big dreams and a few of your crushing insecurities; lay all the cards on the table, as if to say, “I’m real. I’m human, too.” If the person sitting across from you can’t reciprocate, don’t waste your time. Communicate early, often and especially when it’s hard. Vulnerability fosters trust, which clears space for deep connection. Your online façade isn’t going to cut it if your seeking out the real deal.

Let your partner know how you feel, openly share what it is you need and don’t be afraid to speak up when a certain behavior must stop. If the fears from past relationships are rising to the surface, talk about them so they can be permanently dismissed rather than continually pushed away. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask for some space and some time to process things. You don’t need to be at your best all of the time. If you partner is pressuring you to move in together or join bank account, it’s okay to shake your head and say, “not yet.” Despite knowing we would would be together indefinitely by the first date, I waited over two years to move in with him because my apartment was emblematic of my independence.

Listen to your partner, hanging on every word, to not only hear but also to understand. Ask questions and seek clarification. Pay attention to how your partner expresses affection and ask what makes them feel most loved. Do all you can to make them feel loved, even if their love language doesn’t come naturally to you. . Develop a joint dictionary of inside jokes and playful interactions. Learn to laugh at yourself and not take everything so seriously. Constantly recount the special memories and remember those moments that made you fall in love in the first place.

Respect

Treat yourself and your partner with respect. Be considerate of boundaries, feelings and personal opinions–both your own and those of your partner. Stay true to your values and honor your partner’s preferences. Notice what makes your partner laugh and pay attention to what causes them to recoil. Tread lightly, observe and base future interactions on lessons learned from the present. Express interest in their interests; even if your not inherently interested in football, ask questions that do interest you: “how did you become interested in football, and what gifts has it brought into you life?”

The old adage goes, “treat others as you wish to be treated.” Yet, if your partner has communicated what they want, why not treat your partner the way they wish to be treated? Understand that we are all different and that just because your partner can only meet up once per week or wants to take things slow, it doesn’t mean they’re not interested. Likewise, you must treat yourself with respect. If you’re still licking old wounds, it’s okay to set boundaries and to say, “no.” If you partner respect you, they will be understanding; if not, that’s a red flag.

Pay attention to body language–people will let you know, in no uncertain terms, when you’re disrespecting their values and personal space, even if they don’t say a word. If you partner is uncomfortable, yet too afraid to speak up, and you acknowledge their hesitation, you will earn their trust  and lay the foundation for a successful relationship.

Conclusion

It’s hard to see a dear friend suffer through the modern dating scene, and it’s hard to believe how much has changed in just six years. It’s disappointing to see the quality of partners that both women and men are settling for. Each of us is deserving of the undivided attention and unlimited affection of a doting life partner. Before meeting my boyfriend I thought love was a “pick two of the three,” where I could choose between looks, smarts and humor. I didn’t realize I was allowed to ask for all of the above, and more.

To any single and seeking: Be patient. Be picky. Set the bar higher than you ever have before. Walk away if skillful communication or unrelenting respect are not present. You, with your big heart and curious mind, are worthy of someone who can offer you the same in return. Dream big and keep seeking. You deserve more. You deserve better.

For any in happy relationships, what advice would you add? What has been the crux of your relationship’s success?

13 thoughts on “Two Simple Secrets to Lasting Love

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    1. Yes, it’s so very important, and lack of talking is often the catalyst that splits couples apart.
      I completely agree with your point, as well–choosing to hold each other close through life’s trials inevitably results in an even strong bond between partners.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. 21 years and counting … but although I could make a long list of supplemental observations, both from my relationship and others’, I’d say that only two are really worth highlighting. ‘Cause it always comes down to those two:

    1) Deeply shared values and 2) Commitment to the relationship, esp. when the going gets tough.

    No. 1 should be self-evident but no. 2 might sound a bit trite or old-fashioned. It is anything but. It’s about getting up each day in times of stress and when you feel you drift apart and the sweetness has gone out of the relationship and then ask yourself: What can I do to make him/her happy today? Just one or two things, really.

    That’s the operational version of commitment, simple and yet really hard, esp. if grudges have been allowed to build up over time. I find, though, that if we choose to commit then it usually only takes a couple of days to ‘get back to the love’, even after a longer period of arguments and souring of relations (usually what comes around in times of stress). So it is very much a choice, a product of willpower.

    It is *not* about forcing yourself to love someone, if you truly don’t and all bridges have long since burned. It’s about not being lazy and waiting for the other to ‘do something’. Or your boss. Or fate. Or whomever. Something that will give you surplus so you can be a good man/woman again in the relationship. And not bicker or start fights or get caught in dramas.

    Thus, I have found that forcing myself to accept that responsibility has not only improved my relationship in general, it has also been a good test of its strength at any given time. Failing to make that choice – to ask yourself how you can improve the relationship every now and then – that is usually a recipe for complacency and, maybe, a split down the line. Because then you allow grudges to build up. Or take the other for granted. Or think the other owes you something when it is really the other way around (it could be that the other owes you, but most people start by assuming that without asking seriously if maybe they are the root of the problem).

    A wise man once said “the buck stops here” – that is true for relationships as well.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your insights, especially coming from 21 years of experience! I really appreciate your thoughts on commitment to the relationship, particularity in tough times, because love is so often (overly) romanticized; when the first stressful event arises, so many people throw up their hands and walk away… right into their next short-lived fling. Love is not always a walk in the park but, yes, if you take responsibility for tending to the relationship as you would a garden, it will flourish.

      And in response to the question, “What can I do to make him/her happy today?” the answer is often incredibly simple… an “I love you sticky note” tucked in their pocket, unloading the dishwasher after a long day, hitting snooze to snuggle for five more minutes. Roses, jewelry and electronic gadgets may be few and far between (and, in my option, often feel insincere) whereas the small everyday acts of kindness feel like a grand declaration: “right now, YOU matter more to me than anything else I could be doing.” Especially so when one party is grouchy, moody, tired or frustrated and it would be easier to walk away. To a degree, perhaps the strongest relationships are built on the accumulation of many small and intentional gestures, with each bid for attention and its respective response layering on another sturdy brick onto a couple’s shared existence.

      Thanks for your addition–I wholeheartedly agree. Commitment is powerful. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s exactly the ideal in practice – those “small acts of kindness” when the other is “grumpy” etc. Right to the point! That I even had trouble formulating examples like that just shows, I would say, how difficult it is. So thanks for reminding me as well, what this is all about. It is necessary because eventually you do get better but you also slip and fall very, very often. More so when the years wear on and circumstances change, health problems (yes, you would know!), career disappointments, etc. Points of no return on various issues are reached and then left behind. All of that is constantly affecting your ability to do those small random acts because – and this is the ugly truth of a close longterm relationship – your partner may be your best support, but he/she is also the closest when you need someone as a punching bag for your own gripes. Anyway thanks for a great response. I wish you relationship all the best in the next 5 years and beyond!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it’s really interesting how much dating has changed, even just over the last few years. And, from what I’ve observed, it seems that many people are focused on instant gratification, rather than the long-lasting benefits of a fruitful relationship. Crossing the (seemingly insurmountable) hurdles together has only made my relationship stronger, but it seems many in the dating arena don’t yet have the wisdom or maturity to recognize that the best things in life aren’t free–love requires time, effort and commitment.

      Liked by 1 person

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