I have been together with my partner for close to 10 years. It has been a very good relationship so far. We are raising two beautiful children together and in general, we are happy together. I have noticed though that recently I’ve been longing the butterflies and the magic that is there at the beginning when you fall in love. What can I do to feel this way again? Is there a way to feel this way with the same partner? It’s not so easy to get the time together when you have two small kids and no families around. What is your advice for a happy long-lasting relationship?
Dear Ava, it’s not an easy task to have a long-lasting happy relationship, but it’s so much worth the effort (if that’s what you want of course :-)). In the modern world, it’s easier to walk out of a relationship that doesn’t work for us, than it is to try to make it work again. It’s great that we have the freedom to walk out of a bad relationship, but what if the relationship is good and the person is right for us, but we have allowed it to go bad for a while?
There’s never one solution that fits all, probably some people will never even want to try to have a life with one partner. However, if you feel that you have found a great person with whom you’d like to have a long-lasting happy union, it is possible. You only both need to want to make it work and don’t give up easily.
A long-lasting relationship is like a garden
I love comparing a relationship to a garden. If you want to have a beautiful garden all your life, you definitely can. But you have to be willing to continuously take care of it and not to give up on it at times where the things don’t look all that pretty, instead of quitting, double the efforts.
You need to dedicate your time and attention to water the plants when they are getting dry, to “remove weeds”. If you don’t want to get bored with it, you need to proactively go out and look for new seeds, to make it beautiful in a new way. And when the winter comes, you have to be ready to accept that it’s just a quiet period and that the garden will bloom again.
At times, you may need to face other external factors such as bad weather conditions or plaque, trying to destroy your garden and be ready to fight them and restore the beauty of your garden. If you are willing to prioritize your garden, provide it with the regular loving attention and double the efforts when it’s needed, you will continue seeing your plants bloom over and over again.
That’s how it pretty much works when it comes to the relationships. You and your partner have to become two awesome gardeners in the garden of your love. Having two gardeners in one garden has some disadvantages as you may disagree on the concept for the garden or may want to grow different plants. Yet, at other times, you’ll benefit from the fact that you bring two different sets of skills.
A bit of magic
If the “gardening” allegory doesn’t work for you, we have another one ready. When talking about relationships, you can discuss many practical aspects, but when it comes to love there’s always more to it than what can be described in words. There’s a bit of magic. So, we want to offer you the opportunity to look at your relationship as if you were a witch or wizard, who has some ingredients to work with to prepare the right potion for a long-lasting happy relationship. There are certainly many different elements that you can work with, we have prepared those five that we find crucial. We hope that you'll find it inspiring to go out and create your unique love potion.
5-Ingredients Potion for a Happy, Long-lasting Relationship
1. A Happy Relationship with Yourself
It’s quite a common phrase these days: if you want to have a happy relationship with your partner, you need to be happy with yourself. What does it even mean? And what if you are far from feeling content with you?
Well, the first thing is that the better relationship you have with yourself, the more you know about what you really want, the more likely it is that you’ll choose a fantastic partner. If you love yourself, you’ll be much more likely to find the partner that will love you too, simply because you know that you are worth the true love.
When you have a good relationship with yourself and pursue your passions you are also becoming a more interesting and therefore attractive partner. And that really helps to keep you both fascinated with each other.
Here, at You’ve got 5 options, we also believe that it’s important to embrace the fact that no-one else can take the responsibility for how you feel. If you assume that your partner will make you happy, you will for sure get disappointed. It is so, simply because he doesn’t control your thoughts and emotions, so it is an impossible task to expect him to take the responsibility for your feelings.
Embracing the fact that it’s your job to make you happy, is a true breakthrough when it comes to increasing your chances for a merry marriage. It is not to be misunderstood with not having any expectation in regards to basics such as love and respect. It’s more about managing your own thoughts, feelings, and reactions. We are a work in progress and we will have our ups & downs. You don’t have to get to the state where you deeply love yourself to be able to establish a fulfilling union with another human being. Establishing a good relationship with yourself is just greatly supportive of making a romantic relation last. We’ll touch upon expectations more in the next option.
2. Interdependent relationship with your partner
In an immature, dependent (or even codependent) relationship, partners are likely to have communication problems, get involved in drama, blame each other when there are problems. In an interdependent relationship, each of the partners takes responsibility for their own journeys, and they embark on a common journey because it makes them better. They learn and grow together. It's kind of a "value-added" concept.
Here is a great article explaining dependency, codependency, and interdependence in relationships: Codependent or Simply Dependent: What’s the Big Difference?
The absolutely inter-dependent union of two mature souls is an idealistic model that we can choose to strive for on our journey of maturing the relationship.
The first step is, of course, to take your own power back and stop expecting your partner to make you happy. Expectations are what brings our relationship down the dependency lane (as we've explained in the podcast/ radio show: "they are the silent killers of any relationship").
When you start understanding how illogical it is to relay your own happiness to your partner, you’ll be amazed that you were ever thinking that it was even possible to expect that. As we have mentioned above, your partner has no control over your mind, so he can’t possibly make you think and feel in a way that is needed to experience the emotions of joy, gratitude, love, passion.
We get into this trap because of the way we feel at the beginning when we’ve just fallen in love. We feel fantastic, just because we’re about to see the object of our infatuation. In reality, it’s a hormonal reaction, produced by our brains, needed to establish the connection and start the relationship, but it is impossible to sustain forever. It would, in fact, be unhealthy for us to keep such a high level of chemical reactions all the time. If you expect to feel the same butterflies every day for the next 50 or 60 years, you will most likely be disappointed (but who knows what is and isn't possible). It doesn’t mean though, that it is gone forever. You can re-create those feelings, even in a long-lasting relationship. You are also able to build another type of a very deep and meaningful connection (read more about that in the following options).
It’s extremely difficult to completely quit having expectations, but the more you get rid of them, the more joyful you’ll become and so will your relationship too. The magic happens when you embrace the concept of taking care of your own happiness and you start taking responsibility for getting your own needs satisfied. One thing that will most likely happen is that you won’t be getting mad at your partner when he doesn’t fulfill your expectations. Another beautiful thing that will happen is that you will be happy and grateful when he does. And slowly but surely, your relationship will start evolving over to being more and more inter-dependent.
Another beautiful component of mature relationships is, that you both value the fact that each one of you has a separate journey to go through. You, therefore, respect the reality where you need space to fulfill your individual potentials. You, of course, don’t forget that there is a need to create a common space, where you meet and celebrate your love. After all, you have created the union to learn and grow beside each other.
3. Intimacy and Connection
Creating that special intimate connection at the beginning of the relationship, when you are both freshly and deeply in love is easy. But over time, when we’ve been living together and having children, it is something that may be overlooked or even forgotten.
In order to sustain a long-lasting happy relationship, we simply need to keep that special loving space alive. Intimacy can be built on many different levels, e.g. physical, intellectual, spiritual, emotional. The beauty of intimacy and connection is that it can be created and kept up through very simple activities, such as conversation, holding each other's hands, looking into each other’s eyes.
The trick is, that just as any other activity in the garden, it needs regular attention.
4. Loving communication
Communication is a big topic. In general, we human beings are not great communicators. It is a paradox really because many of us truly want to be good at it, and most of us have an opportunity to practice almost every day with so many different people. I guess it has something to do with the fact that first, it’s not really something that many of us learn at school and we may not have been lucky to have the parents that would be skilled enough to teach us communications skills of such standards.
Another fact is that we do have different communication preferences based on our personalities, and what may have worked with one person, might be a complete disaster with someone else. Yet another paradox is that many of us will also max out our patience and kindness for example at work, or with friends, but with our partners, we are more likely to involve ourselves in awful dramas. But not to worry… if you do have issues with communication in your relationship, there is a wonderful book “The five love languages”.
We’ll share with you just a few basics to help you embark on the "improve your communication skills" journey.
The first step is to develop your listening skills. It is truly amazing how poor listeners we often are. When your partner talks, do you truly and neutrally listen, or do you engage in an internal dialogue, forming your responses and waiting for an opportunity to jump in with your opinions?
The good news is that it’s actually quite easy to improve your listening skills. You can practice it with anyone, every day. Next time someone starts telling you a story, let go of your own internal chatter and try to concentrate on what they are saying. You can tell yourself something like: “It’s X’s time to talk, I am listening now”, and when your own thoughts start popping up, imagine that you are storing them in a drawer. You’ll be amazed how that simple exercise will change your ability to hear what others are saying.
There are different studies providing us with different percentage split of information coming from verbal and nonverbal communication. Dr. A. Mahrabian created a 7% (words)/55 % (body language)/38 % tone of voice rule which has been quoted and criticised (read here). Regardless of what the actual percentage split is, it is now clearly confirmed that we should not only listen but also look at our partners, in order to augment our ability to really understand what we're being told.
So, as you become better at listening, start observing the person; you'll be amazed how much invaluable information can be read from the simple mimics of their face, from how they use their body. Just try to do it in a subtle way, so that they don’t find you creepy. You want to become a great listener and observer, not a stalker.
Using your “neutral observer” proactively and not taking things personally, will have a great impact on your communication quality. Instead of getting angry/ offended/ frustrated, try to ask yourself:
- What would I say if I wasn’t involved in the story?
- How would I feel if another person (not my partner) told me that story?
- What else could have happened to make my partner say that/ act this way?
When you start listening and hearing what your partner is telling, you will surely see a remarkable improvement. When you additionally upgrade your active communication skills, you will experience a true transformation. It’s all about saying things in a loving, compassionate and respectful way. You need to learn how to tell your “truth”, your side of the story in a clear and respectful way. This part may be more challenging than developing your listening skills, but it’s like with any other exercise, “practice makes perfect”.
The final touch would be to learn to forgive, both yourself and your partner. Holding grudges doesn’t serve anyone, it just makes you feel worse over a longer period of time. So instead of beating yourself or your partner up, practice how to forgive and forget!
5. Sex & spontaneity
I am quite sure that there are some relationships that are happy without sex or ones that don’t enjoy spontaneity. If you’re in such a relationship, you should definitely skip this ingredient.
However, if you do belong to the group that considers good sex as a necessary or important ingredient of a happy relationship, we hope that we’ll inspire you to take some actions. We, humans, get turned on by different factors, so of course, not every tip here will be interesting for everyone. It’s really all about finding out what works for you and taking care of it.
I guess it has a lot to do with re-discovering your partner and this can be done in many different ways.
If you take care of the previously mentioned ingredients, especially the “intimacy and connection” one, you'll be on a good way to having a fruitful sex life. Yet, when you’ve been with the same partner for many years, you may need to spice things up a little bit every now & again.
Some people believe that they are no longer attracted to their partner because they got bored; it’s the same guy/ gal over and over and in many years. We have highlighted the importance of having a great relationship with yourself and following your passions, as it makes you an attractive person. If you and your partner are continually learning and growing, it’s basically impossible to get bored. You may need to help that process, though. To continue discovering your partner, you need to switch on your curiosity and create opportunities for seeing him with “new glasses” on. Being an attractive intellectual, spiritual and (whatever is key to you) partner is of great importance. For some of us that includes the physical part too. Making an effort to look attractive should not be therefore underestimated.
Sometimes something as simple as changing the scenery can work wonders. If you are a couple with small children and you haven’t been out on a weekend just the two of you in years, it may be so much worthwhile prioritizing.
If and when you don’t have the opportunity to leave the kids with someone, switch on your creativity. You may consider making it your hobby or challenge to find creative ways to turn up the volume in your sex life.
Every now and then, prioritizing sex over other activities is enough.
But it’s not only about sex, it is also about spontaneity in itself. We may get bored when we repeat the same activity in the same scenery over and over again. Breaking the routine, doing something extraordinary for your partner, will help you get out of that grey-everyday-life-zone and move into the romantic zone.
In a nutshell: have fun with your love life and look for the opportunities to turn up the creativity and spontaneity.
The way your relationship works depends on the efforts you and your partner put into it. We hope that you found the five ingredients inspiring enough, to go out and search for the right mix of your own. We believe that people can have a long-lasting happy relationship, fall in love over and over again with each other, as long as they both want that, believe in that and work on making it happen. We hope that you will go out to the garden of your love and switch on your creativity to ensure that you build something beautiful that doesn’t get destroyed easily. And that you will work on it together when a storm comes. Because as long as you do that, you have a chance of seeing your love bloom again.