1) An attitude of "It's you and me against the world."
This is created by talking about beliefs and how much you are alike on certain things, and even how different you are from others. Don't keep secrets or stay politically correct when speaking with your mate, as you should be able to say anything to your partner. Share things you love or can't stand, as this intensifies the bond. Even if you have huge differences, talking about them often helps you find certain areas you agree on. Keep a sense of humor when dealing with each other. To deepen the bond, reminisce about the good times you've had together. Keep reminding each other why you chose to be together. Remind your mate what it is you love and admire about him or her on a regular basis.
2) Be a partner to your mate, not a parent.
No one wants to be told what to do or what they did wrong. Couples like to fight about who is right and wrong and hold it over the other's head when they are right. Don't get on a high horse about anything, whether it's smoking or exercising or what someone eats. No criticizing, scolding, or talking bad about him or her. Never say something to others about your mate that you haven't said to him/her and tried to work through. Instead, focus on how much you are alike. Regularly say things like, "It's amazing that we both think that way."
3) Treat your partner with respect and humanness.
Each person is different from others and makes mistakes because of their own humanness. You know this about your friends, but need to also accept this about your mate. We think of our mates as a reflection of ourselves and want them to be perfect like we want ourselves to be. But it's not fair. Give each other a break. Don't assume that your mate is trying to hurt you when he or she makes a simple mistake. Give your mate the benefit of the doubt, the way you would a friend. Don't make him or her feel like they're a bad person because they are different than you. Overlook little things that bug you, and in fact embrace and accept their quirks. Don't try to change your mate, but on important issues, let them know what serious behaviors they need to change when they are around you. Work with your mate, not against them.
4) Resolve issues as quickly as possible.
Nothing tears a relationship apart more than a recurring unresolved issue. If you have an issue you can't get resolved, go see a therapist so you can move on and stop building resentment. Sometimes it's difficult for one or both of you to bring up issues. It's important that both of you communicate and be emotionally honest about what's going on. If you are the more outspoken one in the relationship, your mate probably feels controlled and is afraid to speak up. To change this dynamic, regularly ask him or her, "Are there any issues or problems in the relationship that you haven't told me?" Then be ready to hear their answer without getting defensive. To resolve issues, think as if you are two businesses that have to compromise to be able to move on and both succeed. Most issues can be resolved if both people say what they feel and want, listen to their mate's wants, and agree to compromise. Then make win/win deals with consequences. And after a fight, be sure to make repair statements like, "Sorry about this morning. I know we see it differently, but I really love you and am sure we can get this worked out. I feel like we're okay now, are we okay?"
5) Make romance a priority.
In a recent article in Closer Weekly (2/17/14, pp 23), Julia Roberts talks about her relationship with Danny Moder, saying, "Eleven years feels like 11 minutes. It's really only all these kids in our house that shows a lot of time has gone by. Otherwise it feels like...me buckling and swooning still." Many couples focus on the children and work, thinking they can pick the romance back up when there is time. And it's not true. Usually once the romance is gone, it's gone. It's not that you have to work at romance so much as you have to schedule in time for it. Make having fun together a priority as this and sex are the glue that hold together the relationship. In that same issue of Closer Weekly (pp 22), Felicity Huffman says that what she and William H. Macy do to keep their relationship fresh is, "We have frequent date nights and we find a hotel and we just get away for a weekend." Also in that issue of Closer Weekly (pp 30) a friend of James Brolin and Barbra Streisand says, "She's always the center of his attention and that makes her feel beautiful." And of course when a woman or a man feels loved, the relationship stays stronger.
6) Stay in control of your own life and happiness.
Couples often still believe that it's your mate's job to make you happy, that if each person focuses on the happiness of the other instead of themselves, that's the key to a good relationship. But it's not true. Instead, this belief only causes blame. When couples "sacrifice" for the other in the name of making their mate happy, they end up resenting and feeling ripped off by each other. And yes, couples need to coordinate with each other and agree on the rules of the relationship (like each has a night out with their friends once a week, we try to go to bed together 3 nights a week, etc.), but each person needs to be able to have their own space and own friends and hobbies and not feel pressured -- whether it's nights out taking a class or drinking with friends or it's having alone time in the same house, or both. Barbra Streisand says (Closer Weekly, pp 30) that while she's singing in her home studio, he's on his computer, and that's perfectly fine. "It's like we're in the same house or in the same room, and he does his thing and I do my thing." There still needs to be quality time together of course, as well as alone time. If each of you focus on making yourself happy, then there should be two non-resentful, happy people living in the house, honoring each other's dreams and aspirations.
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