While there are many factors that play into successful life-commitments, here are three key factors that will help create a firm foundation in your relationship:
- Learn to resolve conflict. One certainty to life is that there will always be conflict in one form or another. Perhaps the conflict will be with your life-partner, perhaps it will be something experienced on an individual basis. Whether conflict is experienced alone or with others, it is the ability to resolve the conflict that will either help or hinder the outcome of a relationship. Effective conflict resolution may come easy to some and may be difficult for others. The most important thing to remember when dealing with conflict is to stay calm and refrain from being emotionally reactive. While expression of emotion is a healthy part of being human, conflicts are more easily resolved and dealt with through calm and open communication. If calm and open communication is not possible at the time of conflict, sometimes it’s best to let the emotions run their course before attempting to resolve with your partner. Take a time-out, go for a walk, engage in breathing exercises, or simply cry alone in a safe place. Taking time to evaluate emotions before reacting them can prevent additional conflict, and suppressing negative emotions will only make the problem worse.
- Accept change and release expectations. It has often been said that the only constant is change. Change, like conflict, is another part of life and of intimate relationships. Physiological and emotional changes are unavoidable truths. It is important to realize that your partner will not always look the way they did when you first met and also that basic cognitive functions may decrease and deteriorate with age. Flexibility in regards to change will strengthen the relationship and cause growth instead of deterioration. Releasing expectations in relationships can also enhance the ability to be flexible to change. Often times we expect our partners to think as we do, act as we do, and respond as we do. We often forget that we’re dealing with a separate being, one entirely different from ourselves, and that being has valid emotions, actions, and feelings that are worthy of being acknowledged. Your partner will change and so will you. Your feelings for each other will change and grow into something stronger or something weaker; being able to realize this is an important step in having an honest, adult relationship.
- Learn to express needs and desires. One of the most important and helpful things you can do for your partner is to learn to express your needs and desires while being open to hearing theirs. Needs and desires – sexual, psychological, or physiological – change over time. There are many factors that may play into sexual arousal and maintenance of intimacy in relationships. Some of these factors include boredom, stress, perimenopause and menopause, and other hormonal changes attributed to aging (Cox, 2006). If communication flows freely within the relationship, it will be more likely that sexual needs and desires will be met and overall satisfaction will continue throughout the relationship. It is also important to realize that different people need different things in order to feel loved and cared for. While one person may simply need a hug to feel comforted, the other may have a desire to have a deep and meaningful conversation. There are numerous ways to show affection, care, compassion, comfort, and love. Learn what your partner needs by not being afraid to ask, and practice expressing your needs on a regular basis. Often times we expect our partners to know exactly what we want, but we must remember that neither person in the relationship has the ability to read the other person’s mind.
In sum, learning to resolve conflict, to accept change and release expectations, and communicating your needs and desires will help create a foundation in a relationship and will increase the chances of a lasting, life-commitment. Educate yourself on the art of communicating and expressing, realize that change is constant, and be flexible with yourself and your partner.