Long-term relationship advice from someone who has yet to mess it up

Making a relationship last is built on a lot of different coinciding principles. First and foremost, like everything else, long-term relationships are based on communication, respect, work and compromise, give and take, listening and being listened to and being companions for each other.

Understanding these principles allows one to let go of petty frustrations and focus on what one wants instead of what one feels like they deserve.

Knowing this, all relationships become a choice that is made on an hour by hour basis. Allowing every partner to be more forgiving and more willing to make something that they want to work, work. Sure we could all spend our time looking for that one perfect special someone, but if we’re really interested in making a fun and enjoyable long-term relationship sifting through more than seven billion potential suitors in one human lifetime seems easier said than done.

All of the above however begins with communication and respect. Each partner in a relationship (monogamous or otherwise) needs to be on the same page and feel comfortable talking about everything from changes and/or trajectory of the relationship to cheating, politics and religion. No conversation topic should be avoided.

Partners would be wise to remember the practicality of relationships as well, and this begins with a simple question: “what am I getting from this relationship, and what is my partner getting?” Romantic relationships are emotional and they serve the purpose of allowing for shared emotional connections and give each partner the opportunity to express their emotions in a safe and understanding environment.

Partners should be people who will support each other and be supported in equal measure but not necessarily at the same time. One of the most damning beliefs about long-term romantic relationships is that partners must always support or be supported. Romantic relationships are not unconditional parent-child relationships but instead are dynamic relationships where the role of supporter and supported will be traded based on who needs it most at any given time.

To a degree, this means that relationships are inherently unequal on a point by point basis but are on average more or less equal. If one partner is having a tough day, the other partner may have to accept the role of the supporter even if they too have not had the best of days. Relationships are about reciprocal acts of selflessness and if a partner is failing to reciprocate then the other partner needs to bring this up. Maybe the relationship is not working, or maybe that partner just did not realize that they were not reciprocating.

Emotional support is far from the extent of the practicality of relationships. Partners can be creative-partners, essay editors, homework helpers and fellow philosophers. They are one’s closest companions, peers, and toughest critics. And none of this mentions the free car rides, sex, permanent gaming buddy, near psychic communication, permanent good housemate, and an ever expanding catalogue of self-referencing jokes.

All of this aside, partners need to remember that everyone involved is an individual. Any relationship, romantic or otherwise, is made up of individuals and no one should define themselves in opposition to anyone else. Having accomplishments and goals that are separate from one’s partner is vital to said individual and also is what makes them attractive to their partner.

A relationship should be made up of people who feel as though they can be benefited and can benefit as individuals from each other. The goal of a partner should not be to change another but instead to help them subtly improve on their own, socially, professionally and romantically.

Noting that all partners are individuals includes understanding that they are not perfect. If your relationship is monogamous, cheating is something that you might have to deal with, so it is wise to first of all, talk about it, and second, to make a conscious effort to realise it. Extensive guilt over cheating is unnecessary as is any lasting anger.

Here it is worth noting that monogamy is a viable option for many, but it ought to be discussed. Homo sapiens are not exclusively nor necessarily naturally monogamous, so if partners are attempting it, they must consider that it is not something we are necessarily set up to maintain.

Lastly, relationships are dynamic and always changing as is the research and contemporary discourse surrounding them. Everyone involved in a relationship should try to understand this and do some baseline research to make sure that they aren’t setting unnaturally high standards.

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