Some are so great that they blow our minds, yet others are so terribly miserable we wonder why we even put up with it. Some seem so great and effortless from the beginning while others take significant more work and trial and error to figure out.
That’s right, it’s relationships.
It’s difficult sometimes to determine if your love life is on solid ground or not when mixed with the euphoric or melancholy mood swings involved. While no one except you and your partner really know what is going on in your relationship, there are a number of behaviors that can indicate the health of a couple. While some feel great from the start, all relationships take a lot of work, commitment, compromise, forgiveness and effort from both parties.
What Makes a “Good” Relationship?
People often associate a good relationship with all the good feelings of love – the hearts, flowers, and butterfly feelings. While those parts are certainly enjoyable, they do not leave you with a solid foundation for building a lasting relationship.
Falling in Love
The truth is, yes, “falling in love” is relatively easy. People are generally easy to love! Whether it’s the dashing smile, the sparkling eyes, the charismatic laugh or the way your senses of humor just click. Yes, falling in love is so easy. The hard part… is staying in love.
We see the elderly couple strolling down the street, arm in arm and we often wonder how they’ve kept their romance alive. We also see that couple who seems to be so practical about their relationship, how can they possibly be in love?
Understanding Love is Key
Before you can truly fall in love, you must first understand both yours and your partner’s love style.
Are you more romantic, founded on mutual attraction and intense chemistry?
Maybe more logical, with feelings that developed based on shared values, financial vision, religion, etc.
Possibly there is some playfulness in your relationship. A good amount of flirtation, challenging one another, or even teasing that leads you to also see each other as best friends, not just romantic partners.
Are you possessive, jealous or obsessive?
Or are you nurturing, self-sacrificing and thoughtful.
Science and research have shown that our most committed relationships are founded on at least two of these characteristics, but two people can have two totally different views of love! Understanding how your partner translates love is even more important than understanding your own translation of love. When you have a good understanding of what it takes for your partner to feel loved, you’ll be much better equipped to navigate any conflicts between you two.
Maybe your partner doesn’t fully understand how you need to be loved, but is doing their best effort based on how they give love. For example, it’s been a long day and you want to just sit and cuddle while watching the latest Netflix series. But as soon as you turn on the TV your partner gets up to do clean the kitchen top to bottom after dinner. To you, it may seem that they do not want to spend time with you and are finding ways to avoid you. To them, however, they are blessing you by doing the dishes!
Once you learn how your lover gives love to you, it’s much easier to show appreciation. Communicate that you recognize their efforts, but also communicate what you need from them in that moment. Thank them for doing the dishes, and even acknowledge that you know they did it to help you; but then don’t be shy about asking them to come sit and relax with you.
What about Sex?
Yes, once again. Committed couples really do have more sex than anyone else. It is true that singles will have more crazy sex escapades, but they also can go very long dry spells as well. Based on a series of surveys by the Social Survey Programme, here are some basic things we know about sex:
- The average adult has sex 54 times every year
- The average sexual encounter lasts about 30 minutes
- Only about 5% of people have sex three times a week
- People in their 20s have sex more than 80 times a year, but drops to closer to 20 times a year by age 65.
- At least 20% of the American population have been celibate for over a year.
- A typical married couple has sex an average of 51 times a year, while “very happy” couples hit the sheets closer to 74 times a year.
- Physically active people have more sex.
- People who drink tend to have sex 20% more than their non-drinker peers.
- Those who have more sex during their first year of marriage, tend to keep having more sex as their marriage continues.
Why Does Sex Decline in Marriage?
There are a variety of factors that could contribute to whether or not a couple’s sex life dissipates the longer they are married.
- Health issues
- Presence of children
- Boredom or unhappiness in the relationship
- Extreme stress
It still remains a big question why some married couples maintain a healthy and consistent sex life, while others let it dwindle to nearly nonexistent. It is estimated that nearly 15% of married couples haven’t had sex with their spouse for six months or even a year.
While some marriages start out with very little sex, often there are external factors as well such as childbirth or an affair. People having less sex in their relationships are 10 times more likely to consider or follow through with divorce.
If you find that your sex drive is lacking, but you want to bring the spice back to your relationship and in the bedroom, it is perfectly legitimate to seek help. While discussing our sex lives (or lack thereof) with a doctor or a therapist can be uncomfortable, it may make a significant difference in the long run.
Once again, communication is key. Talk to your partner about your desires. Dr. Hatfield at the University of Hawaii suggest a simple exercise to get things rolling. Each of you sit down with a pen and paper; now write 5 things that you want more of during sex with your partner. You don’t have to get explicit or kinky if you don’t want to, but expressing your desires to your partner will open doors you didn’t know were possible.
Experiment with new things, positions, role playing, toys, or however you both mutually agree would be fun. Make time for alone time with your partner; don’t let the “too busy” or “too tired” excuse get in the way. Sex triggers “happy hormones” as a chemical response so even if you feel like you’re not in the mood, you’ll feel a lot better after you do! There is no statistic or rule for how much sex you ought to be having in order to be happy. The right amount of sex is… however much is enough for both of you.
Fight, Fight, Fight!
All couples go through conflicts, arguments, or even drag out fights. We are human. It is natural to disagree on things. Keep in mind, you are two different individuals, who grew up in radically different environments, who are trying to build a life together. Having a good strategy for conflict resolution is essential to maintaining a long term relationship. Here are a few tips to help you make it through an argument and still be in love at the end:
Identify the issue, not a personal attack. If something your partner says or does bothers you, learn how to identify the problem, not attack the person. Instead of saying “You never compliment me,” maybe instead say “It really does make me feel better if you tell me when you think I look nice.”
Avoid “you” phrases like “you always” or “you never.” Shift the blame to the actual problem and resolve the problem together.
Body language speaks volumes. Be mindful of every eye roll, agitated sigh, crossed arms or eye level with your partner. Going out of your way to deliberately show you are open to resolving the issue at hand will go a long way in peacekeeping in your home.
Learn to de-escalate when the argument is getting heated. Mentally take a step back, remove yourself from your own offenses and try to hear from your partner’s point of view. There is nothing wrong with having an argument with your significant other, but learning how to actively listen instead of being defensive, will diffuse the situation much faster with a positive result.
Make it Last
In the end, every relationship will go over bumps and humps. There will be struggles, there will be very hard times. You might not always like your partner, but it is possible to always actively love them and have a fulfilling and wonderful relationship.
Remember that your partner isn’t a mind reader. They can’t fix a problem if you haven’t told them what the problem is. They also don’t know if you’re happy with your relationship unless you communicate that as well! Learning how you express love, and how your partner expresses love back, will help you build a solid foundation for a love life that will stand the tests of time!