Relationships aren’t easy and everyone knows it. Unfortunately, having chemistry with someone doesn’t automatically equal the “happily ever after” you might be hoping for.
Here are some bits of wisdom I’ve gathered over the years from a series of relationships.
1. Time Alone is as Important as Togetherness
There’s a clichéd idea that you need to be happy and healthy on your own before you can have a healthy relationship. Well, some ideas are cliché because they’re true. When you first meet someone you’re attracted to, it’s tempting to spend as much time together as possible.
In fact, it can feel extremely difficult to resist doing this. But you’re doing both yourself and your partner a disservice when you’re around them too often.
Being around someone constantly is bound to create a co-dependent dynamic, regardless of whether you try to be conscious of it or not. When you stop spending enough time alone, you’ll slowly but surely lose touch with what your values are. How can you have a good relationship if you don’t reconnect with yourself regularly to assess your needs and preferences?
2. Vulnerability is a Strength, Not a Weakness
We live in a society that tells us to “chin up” or “stop crying” when we express sadness. By the time we reach adulthood, a lot of us are so used to holding back tears that we can’t cry, even when we want to!
Suppressing emotion is harmful in a number of ways and won’t do you any favors in your relationship. Next time you’re feeling hurt, vulnerable, scared, or sad, open up to your partner. The reaction we fear receiving is almost never aligned with reality.
3. It’s Good to Have Different Interests
I’ve stopped listening to a band because a boyfriend disapproved of them. I once started reading news every day even though I hated it because my partner at the time was interested in politics.
What I didn’t realize back then was that it’s positive and healthy to have separate tastes and interests than your partner. How else will you learn from each
4. Unresolved Fights Don’t Disappear
When you live with someone, it can be tempting to sweep an argument under the rug for the sake of creating a comfortable environment. No one enjoys being mad. But I implore you to dig deeper and have a thorough discussion with your partner each time you get into a disagreement.
Explore what made you feel angry and how you can each deal with a similar disagreement better in the future. Otherwise, the old buried resentment you thought you got over will continue popping up.
5. It’s Important to Share a Similar Vision for the Future
I’ve always had a strong itch to travel the world (or, at least, the country), but I also had a strong habit of stifling myself in favor of keeping relationships going. Instead of recognizing immediately that one of my exes was incompatible with me when he said that he’d never want to give up the security of a home to lead a semi-nomadic lifestyle, I continued the relationship and tried to ignore my dream instead.
That didn’t work out so well and the relationship dragged on much longer than it should’ve, hurting us both more in the process.
6. A Great Connection Doesn’t Guarantee Great Results
A lot of us mistakenly assume that if we get along well with someone and share a mutual attraction with them, a relationship should unfold naturally and easily.
In most cases, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Each member of a partnership is a person with baggage, assumptions, expectations, hopes, and complexes. Without clear communication and effort, a relationship isn’t going to last, regardless of the initial spark.
7. Long-term Chemistry Requires Effort
With most new relationships, it isn’t hard to muster the will or energy to have sex with your partner. A few years down the road, this often changes. People give all sorts of excuses for why this happens, but I think the main contributing factor is people assuming that a sexual spark should always be there and when it’s gone, there’s something wrong.
The truth is that maintaining a regular sex life with your partner requires effort. Regardless of whether you already have a good foundation or propensity for intimacy, the spark will probably fade if you aren’t continuously lighting it again.
Specific exercises for increasing intimacy can help keep this alive. Another idea is to schedule sex, which sounds the opposite of romantic but can actually be a huge game-changer. Instead of hoping that one of you will be in the mood to initiate sex and potentially falling into a passion-less rut, scheduling sex shows you both want it and gives you something to look forward to. It might even become the highlight of your week (or day).
8. Jealousy is Normal, but Your Partner Shouldn’t Pay for Yours
We live in an insecure world. We’re taught that precious resources are scarce and this carries over into our personal relationships. When our partner is attracted to another person it can cause anxiety or even panic.
We might lash out at our partners when we notice they have chemistry with another person because, deep down, we’re scared they might find something better than us. In order to have a truly healthy partnership, you’ll have to decide that jealousy will happen but that you won’t take it out on your significant other. Whether you’re in a monogamous or polyamorous arrangement, jealousy can kill your connection quickly if you aren’t careful.
9. You Might be Carrying Over Assumptions from Another Relationship
Have you ever noticed yourself getting way madder at your partner than their actions warranted? Since your partner is triggering the emotions, it’s easy to assume that they are responsible for your anger or insecurity.
But the fact is that you might be carrying baggage and wounds over from a previous relationship. A good example of this is a person who was cheated on by their partner and mistrusts lovers by default after that.
Try to be mindful of the ways you might be doing this. Your partner doesn’t deserve to pay for your past traumas.
10. A Relationship Should Facilitate the Best Version of You
People get into relationships for all sorts of reasons. But if you’re on the fence about whether yours is right for you, asking yourself whether your partner (or potential mate) helps you feel more yourself and more capable of achieving your goals. Needless to say, if your significant other is shooting down your dreams, it’s not healthy, but figuring this out is not always that obvious.
Even passive disinterest in your passions from your partner can lead to serious doubts and damage. You might end up setting aside your dreams or minimizing yourself if you stay in this type of partnership, and that won’t lead to a happy ending for anyone.
Lastly, I’d like to emphasize (again) the importance of open communication.
Our minds like to try to fool us into thinking that speaking our most vulnerable truths is a scary thing that will end up getting us hurt. But reality can surprise you when you take a chance. If something is bothering you, tell them. If you’re unclear about something they did or said, just ask.
This will get easier the more you practice.