There comes a time in every relationship when you think about your partner and ask yourself, “Is this the one?”. And, yes, things seem to be going well: you enjoy each other’s company, you share similar tastes in movies, and you both agree pineapple doesn’t belong on pizza, for example. But are those solid foundations for a commitment that will stand the test of time; and if not, what exactly are the signs you are in a lasting relationship?
Things seem to get a little trickier when you consider that not all relationships look the same, i.e. comprising two people who follow the “traditional” route of meeting, building a relationship, getting engaged and walking down the aisle. Nowadays, relationships can involve multiple partners and no religious or formal commitment ceremonies (we will delve a little deeper into this later in the piece).
The common denominator, of course, is that a romantic relationship of any kind involves people, and how they relate to and treat each other can make or break it. And while no one can look into a crystal ball and see what the future holds, there are tell-tale signs that you and your significant other(s) are going to make it!
Trust (no surprises here)
Yes, the t-word is and always will be an essential cornerstone for any relationship. Regardless of whether it is a monogamous or polygamous agreement, all parties must be confident that what was discussed and agreed upon will be upheld and honoured. Without trust, partners will struggle to open up to each other, which can be very emotionally stunting. As therapist Kimberly Hershenson said in an article for INSIDER, “It is difficult to be vulnerable and share problems with others. When a partner is able to open up to you, it is important to not break their trust.” Ultimately, you want to feel secure and know that your partner has your best interests at heart. Trust is definitely one of the most important signs you are in a lasting relationship.
Constructive Problem-Solving and No Name-Calling
Once the seeds of resentment are sown, a lasting relationship can’t grow. There will come a time when your significant other does something or acts in a way that doesn’t entirely rub you the right way. How you raise an issue and the way you talk it through is vital; do you solve the problem maturely and respectfully? LifeHack highlights a sign of a healthy rapport between couples: “You speak to each other in the language of love. Name calling, sneering, eye-rolling and hurtful comments are not a part of your daily conversations. You understand that the words you do not like to hear from your partner, you should also not say to them”.
Mutual Appreciation and Gratitude
“Thank you”: these two words should always be present in your relationship. No one should ever feel as though they are being taken for granted, even once you’ve “sealed the deal” with marriage. In a feature for HealthyWay.com, Dr Tina B. Tessina, a psychotherapist and author of many relationship-focussed books, says, “Lasting couples show their appreciation — so let your partner know you appreciate what he or she does, their personality traits like sense of humour or hard work, and companionship. The more you praise what you like, the more you’ll get of it. We all want to be appreciated.”
Forgive, Forget and Move On
Dr Tessina also adds that holding a grudge will only fester and create an irreparable void between couples in the long haul. No one’s perfect, and people make mistakes, so tackling an issue or grievance head-on is essential. “Successful couples know how to talk about what’s bothering them in a rational way,” says Tessina. “Ask clearly for what you want, and let your partner know why it’s important to you. If you can’t find a way to agree, go for a counselling session.
Let’s Get Physical (it’s not just about sex)
Yes, when speaking about physical intimacy in a relationship, it’s easy for most to think it’s just about sex. But, while that is, of course, an essential part of a relationship, physical affections, such as cuddling, hand-holding, are also crucial. And, sure, keeping the flame of passion and intimacy alive in the beginning stages of a relationship is usually easy, it’s all about working on it being consistent over time. “Most couples have developed intimacy by the time they actually commit to a long-term relationship or marry, but what most don’t realise is that it’s essential to your relationship to continue to build that intimacy. Everyone wants to be accepted and loved for who they are, regardless of what they might do,” says psychotherapist Keeley Townsend.
Spending Time Apart (wait, what?)
Yes, words like “couple” and “relationship” do give the impression that people are joined at the hip and spend most of their time together, but spending some time apart can actually strengthen a relationship. It’s all about personal fulfilment. Psychologist Eli Finkel states, “it’s best not to look to your partner for all your existential needs. [Find] yourself in hobbies, friends, and work.” Basically, be your own person first; no one is the “other half” that is going to make you whole.
Keeping it real: things don’t always work out
Relationships are a lot of work, and successful, long-term relationships require quite a bit of nurturing. This means there is still a chance of things not quite going according to plan, and people parting ways might be the best solution. For example, in South Africa, it’s reported that over 40% of marriages result in divorce. Because of this, it’s always important to have your legal ducks in a row. Whether it’s making sure, there is an ante-nuptial agreement or a co-habitation agreement in place. What’s more, because committed relationships come in many shapes and forms, it’s advisable to speak to a lawyer who can guide you in the right direction.
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