Maintaining a satisfying, supportive long-term relationship requires serious skills. And like any activity that requires serious skills, it can be serious hard work at times. It can get seriously frustrating. And it can take serious patience.
A dash of relationship reality
Of course, we don’t often think much about that side of things when we’re in the midst of the heady rush of the honeymoon phase with our partners. However, seasoning your perspective with a little dash of realism at the outset of a brand-spanking-new relationship can help to set you up for success in the long run, because starting to get into the habit of engaging in relationship maintenance activities while your relationship is still new will do wonders for preventing problems from arising down the road.
What we don’t learn in school
We’re required to learn what are considered the basic life skills in school growing up—reading and writing, math, science, and physical education. The typical American high school curriculum also includes a slew of electives such as band, orchestra, culinary arts, woodworking, auto shop, and the like. What’s glaringly missing from this curriculum, however, is Relationship Maintenance 101.
Great relationships are made, not born
Unfortunately, our high national divorce rate seems to reflect this, and it’s no wonder, really. If we aren’t taught early in life the basic skills required to maintain a successful long-term relationship, then we’re left to fumble in the dark when we find the one. Despite what many people seem to believe, a satisfying, supportive relationship is NOT something that most people fall into naturally, and it isn’t a function of whether or not one or both partners in the relationship are inherently “good” or “bad” people. Even the strongest relationship has the potential to go south if both partners aren’t doing their part to maintain it.
When things are new and sexy
Imagine that you’re the proud new owner of beautiful classic car, shiny and sexy and in peak condition. It’s a manual transmission, so it takes a little while for you to learn how to drive it, but the keys are in your hand, and the wind is in your hair, and everything is so exciting and novel that it feels like you’re floating on air every step of the way. Then once you’ve learned how to drive that car, you’re out there in the world with that beautiful, sexy car, going places, making things happen, still feeling good. It’s awesome!
This is what a new relationship is like. It’s awesome. You’re flying high on the sexy sensation of New Relationship Energy (NRE)!
Down the road with no maintenance
Now imagine that you’ve never learned about auto maintenance, and so you don’t take the necessary steps to take care of your shiny new car. After a while passes—with no oil changes, no tire rotations, no car washes or waxes or anything else—you realize that car isn’t so shiny anymore, and it’s making a funny noise that you don’t like, and it won’t drive as smoothly as it used to. Maybe one day you wake up, and the engine just flat-out refuses to start. Necessity demands that you finally have a mechanic take a look at it, and it turns out… that car isn’t going anywhere without a costly and complicated overhaul.
Forever is a long time
Don’t let your relationship suffer the same fate as that poor, neglected car! After all, your “forever love” with your partner is supposed to last exactly that long—forever. So make sure that you take care of your forever love with at LEAST ten times the amount of effort that you would put into maintaining your vehicle. Maybe a hundred times as much even. Or a thousand! Forever love is worth it, isn’t it?
Establish your relationship maintenance plan
If you don’t know where to start, check and see if there are any couples coaching workshops or self-improvement seminars in your area. These types of events can be great for gaining new perspective and picking up new communication and relationship enrichment tools.
In general, though, relationship maintenance should include (but is not limited to) activities like:
- Engaging in periodic check-in sessions with your partner to take the temperature of the relationship and talk about what can be improved;
- Brushing up on your communication skills every now and then;
- Actively managing the stresses of daily life so that they don’t undermine your relationship;
- Creating the time and space for regular connection and intimacy.
Talk to your partner and plan out what you each can do on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis to keep your relationship in top shape and running smoothly. With regular maintenance from the start, your forever love will be able to handle even the tightest curves on the road of life with grace and style.