“I like corny.” – Kate Winslet, The Holiday
I’ve been trying to pick up little habits from some of my favorite couples (real and fictional) on how to sustain a long term relationship, while maintaining that excitement that you feel at the start. I’ve boiled it down to a few pretty simple ideas. These ideas can work equally for monogamous or non-monogamous relationships.
1. Keep it corny – Being goofy is easy at the start of a relationship because you feel goofy. You’ve got those love chemicals impairing your normal mental functioning. But as you’re together that stuff evens out and you become, well, a little more even keel. Don’t forget to keep it corny. Write your partner love notes, run up to them and hug them like you haven’t seen them for days, make them cupcakes just because, wrap your hands around their eyes and surprise them. Don’t get too caught up in the seriousness of your relationship that you forget to be a little silly too.
2. Date and woo – It’s important to keep dating your partner, even if you’ve been together for years. Make regular dates to see a movie, get dinner, go mini-golfing, or break out for a weekend vacation. Make this time about the two of you. Leave work behind and let go, relearn one another, or spend some time tracing the lines you know so well.
3. Make your own traditions – This could be something you do every Sunday morning. Maybe it’s a Christmas tradition. Maybe it’s a holiday you make up in the middle of the summer. (There really aren’t enough holidays in June.) Your tradition could be doing something with one another before bed. Maybe it’s how you care for one another when you’re sick. What are those little things that you can look forward to together?
4. Snag something traditional – There are a lot of ideas people have about relationships that are built in. These traditional parts of relationships can be comforting to experience. The five love languages is a great source for this! Do you feel loved and appreciated when you get gifts? Maybe your partner should make a point in sending you love notes and flowers. Do you feel loved and appreciated when you spend time together? What about double dates with you and some friends?
5. Create your own boundaries – Remember that relationships aren’t one size fits all. As you and your partner grow together, allow your relationship to shift and grow with you. Create your own boundaries in ways that make you feel comfortable with one another. If you have wants and needs, make sure that they are heard.
6. Get older and wiser, but don’t grow up – With respect to being corny, remember to not take life too seriously. There’s time for being an adult, but there’s also time for being a goof. Remember to enjoy the little things around you. A carnival ride, an ice cream cone, or a bike ride. Doing these little things together can be rejuvenating.
7. Remember why you love them – Sometimes it’s not so easy when you’re angry at your partner to remember how lovey-dovey you feel about them. Different people handle anger in different ways, so learn what helps you the most. Sometimes taking a walk and letting yourself cool down is enough. Sometimes thinking about something good your partner did for you can be positive. I like the idea of keeping a journal of all the nice things that happen between you and your partner so you can read it and reflect. You can also have an emergency letter you write one another to read, should you ever find yourself in a real hot spot.
8. Try new things together – It’s easy to get caught in a rhythm that suits you. But it’s important to keep trying new things, and adding routine to your time together. It doesn’t have to be a class, or a new skill. You can visit the opera, see a live show, listen to a new album, visit a new part of town, drive to a different city and play tourists. Keep things fresh by getting out once and a while.
9. Try new things by yourself – Just as your relationship should grow, so should you. Don’t stop learning new things about yourself, don’t stop bettering yourself. This keeps you happy, and it gives your partner new things to love about you. Don’t use this as a distancing tool and be careful if it becomes a distancing tool.
10. Find beauty in the simple moments – Back to enjoying the little things around you, open your eyes, and take notice. How does your partner smile? Do the corners of their eyes crease when they see you? How does that hug feel? Why not hold it for just another minute.
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