HOW TO MAINTAIN A HAPPY AND HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP
Updated: Jun 29, 2020
Be together with someone because of the right reasons
Many times I come across couples who can’t really explain why they got together in the first place. While the answer should be pretty clear; Because you love, miss or enjoy being around one another. And not because society demands that you’d be married before your 25th. Or because your parents think it’s the right person for you. Or wanting to get married, so you can throw a big wedding. Or even worse, because you feel all your problems will be resolved once you have a partner. These are all typical reasons that are prone to a problematic relationship in the future. While this is very personal for me, I’d still like to share which values I hold important in my life partner. So Farhang and I met each other at a pretty young age (18-19 years old) and we were each others’ first actual boy-/girlfriend. While Farhang needed a bit more time (guys huh), I knew pretty quickly I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. His kind heart, loving/caring character, maturity, open-mindedness and sense of humor is what made me fall in love with him and it’s those qualities that are still present till this day. Sharing the same goals and core values are very important to make a relationship work. Your relationship needs to be fundamentally compatible on aspects such as wanting to have children, emotional and intellectual compatibility, ideologies surrounding religion and spirituality, etc. For me, it was similarity, shared goals and core values, my reasons to marry Farhang. What I’m trying to do here is pointing out the importance of prioritising the right reasons, not those influenced by irrelevant temporary factors, for deciding on life-changing matters as marrying someone.
Don’t try to change one another
You’ve probably heard someone in your surrounding saying: “I’ll change him/her once we’re engaged or married”. Or have experienced people who’d do anything in their power to change their partners according to their own standards. Well, they couldn’t be fooling themselves more… First of all, nobody is perfect and we all have our shortcomings. The art is to find a way to deal with each other despite the differences or shortcomings in personalities. My advise would be here: ‘Don’t get involved with someone who has a completely different personality, goals and values in life in the first place’. Second, why would you want to change the person you fell in love with or decided to be with if that personality is the reason you got together in the first place? I rather believe that change will come organically once you’ve spent enough time together. If you’d known me 12 years ago, you’d see a pretty different person today. I used to be more conservative, emotionally unstable, vulnerable and lacking initiatives and ambitions. I had a pretty small world; my (kind of strict) upbringing, my family, school and small group of friends were all I knew and that seemed like enough for me. And then Farhang came along, I went to the university, new friendships evolved, old friendships disappeared, traveling around the world, living and working abroad, good experiences, bad experiences, etc. all made me who I am today. So in the years that followed, we developed ourselves more as individuals, but also as a couple we grew more towards each other. We still have many differences as we’re two different individuals, but instead of wanting to change the other, we accept and embrace these differences. It’s just who we are. A fight once a while is okay, maybe essential to get things back straight again. To give you an example, I’m super impatient and stubborn compared to Farhang and Farhang can be very blunt or pushy, but we sort of work it out whenever we’re calmed back down. My point is, through the years you are already constantly changing, consciously and unconsciously, based on the experiences and people in your life. You don’t have to actively change your other half; it will naturally happen when needed. Just make sure to work on yourself and find out how to deal with ‘the shenanigans’ in the meanwhile.
Communication is key
Key to successful communication is being assertive in what you need (nobody has magic powers for guessing), but also be open to feedback from your partner about your own thoughts, expectations, shortcomings and behaviour. It takes two to tango, so always reflect and evaluate what your part in the wheel is. Get comfortable with ‘ I’m sorry ’ and ‘ You’re right, I was wrong’ . Oh man, back in the days I could be a real pain in the ass. When we fought, I automatically assumed it was Farhang’s fault. Why would he say things to hurt me? Why would he do what he did to make me mad? I had difficulty to see that it was always me that got hurt, disappointed or mad, etc. I slowly learned to be more conscious about my own faults. Somehow as women, we tend to be very ambiguous and complex for men to understand (Which doesn’t make sense. We are very sorry guys). Why say ‘No’ when we actually mean “Yes”? Why tell them to leave us alone, while we only want them to be there for us? Why do we say ‘ It’s nothing’ when they actively ask us what is going on? Guys just want clarity and we fail hard to just give them that! Please do yourselves and your partners a favour and talk clearly about your expectations.
Make sure you have your own life
Meaning not losing your own sense of individuality, autonomy and independency. This means having your own career, financial independency, hobbies, your own group of friends, social life, etc. Many times I see people transforming into this ‘couple that does everything together’. Give each other space to have a ‘guys’ or girls’ weekend or a holiday’ and don’t make your other half feel guilty for leaving you on your own. I have to agree that Farhang and I do a lot of things together, because we simply enjoy the same things in life. But there are enough times that Farhang takes off for a guys’ weekend or me being away several evenings in a week for stuff like hobbies. Having your own time and space to stay true to yourself will benefit your relationship in a great way. Once you’re back together, you automatically show more appreciation because you’ve (hopefully) missed each other in the meantime.
Don’t let the romance die for god’s sake
This one is for those who stop putting efforts in the way they look for each other or don’t spend romantic quality time anymore. Just think about how you behaved during the early days of your relationship. The “dressing fancy to impress each other” or “organising the most original dates”. You did all of this in the name of love. Now why would you let go of this? What I sometimes find funny is how couples can get so comfortable together, they openly “butt-sneeze” in front of each other or perform their number 2 while the other one is in the bathroom too. I mean you sure as hell didn’t do that on your first dates right? You would have found it disgusting and totally not sexy! So then why would all this change once you’re together? Sure, some things will change. For instance, I don’t look fabulous all day every day; you’ll either find me in my pyjamas roaming around like a homeless or totally extravagant as if I’m about to hit the red carpet. What I’m saying here is, just try to look nice for your loved one, once in a while. They’ll appreciate your effort. Also make sure to have enough romantic quality time together despite busy schedules. As we don’t have children yet, time isn’t something of an issue right now. But I think it’s essential especially after having children, as I can imagine everything in your life starts evolving around them and you can easily forget to put effort in yourself and your relationship. Have a weekly date, surprise each other with small gestures or just show appreciation and gratitude once in a while. For me it would be when Farhang surprises me with a brekkie in bed, when he buys me my favourite candy or when he takes me out on a special occasion.
When you are reading all of this, it might seem as if you have to invest lots of time and energy in your relationship. Ofcourse, relationships are something you have to maintain and surely will ask hard work every now and then. But in my opinion, it’s not something you must do, rather it should be something you want to do. It should arise from intrinsic motivations in wanting to be there for the other. This surely can be difficult when you have much going on or ‘you’re stuck in a rut’. But that’s also where the danger lies. Sometimes becoming aware of this can arrive too late, when you’ve already grown apart or don’t feel the same love for each other anymore. That’s when relationship problems escalate and therapy or worse break-ups and divorces come around the corner. Being aware of this danger and following the above advises could prevent this in some way, but the power always lies in your own hands. That is why I can’t stress out highly enough the importance on making the right choices, reflecting on them and working on your own development as a human being. Because then, the rest will come out easier and you’ll have less trouble in maintaining a happy and healthy relationship.
To those who have been with someone or married for 10+ years and are still happy, what lessons could you pass down to others if you could? What is it that you think is essential for a relationship to work?