Having a strong relationship with your partner can be one of the most rewarding and exciting aspects of your life, a chance to support and be supported so you can each achieve more than you would alone – but it doesn’t always come easily! Familiarity breeds contempt, and all too often we start taking our significant other for granted, forgetting all the reasons we fell in love with them in the first place and getting caught up in all those niggly irritations instead.
Despite what the movies might have you believe, long-lasting relationships take work. If you really want to get the most out of your relationship, you have to wrap your brain around the fact that you get back what you put in. If you're ready to learn what it takes, we’ve put together our top five skills and tips to strengthening and maintaining a successful relationship!
Learn to have constructive disagreements
Once the ‘honeymoon’ phase is over, reality sets in and it’s inevitable that you're going to have differences of opinion and argue over decisions – that’s perfectly normal! It’s whether or not your disagreements escalate into hurtful or bitter arguments which can make or break the relationship.
You might even find it helpful to treat disagreements like a business negotiation, seeking a middle ground where both parties receive some benefit and there’s no winning or losing side. Your relationship at home is a great way to practice communication, negotiation and cooperation, so make an active effort to do so!
Make time just for the two of you
Sometimes for a relationship to be successful, you need to press pause on all other commitments for a bit! If you let keep letting life get in the way and never end up making time just for each other, one or both parties are eventually going to feel neglected. Show your partner that you value your relationship by making the commitment to clear your schedules for a romantic dinner, weekend getaway, or even a full blown holiday.
Even if your work schedule is really hectic, there are always at least a few options a short drive away. Johannesburg central, South Africa for example, doesn’t scream romance – but just 45 minutes away there are actually a selection of Vaal hotels on the riverside that make the perfect escape! With some great restaurants, swimming pools, spas and the opportunity to take a moonlight cruise down the river, getting away from it all doesn’t have to inconvenience either party. Even if it’s just a picnic or date night, schedule in some time to reconnect every now and then.
Express your gratitude often
Nobody likes being taken for granted – so show your partner that they're not! Make sure that you thank them for all the little things they do, drop them a cheerful or even slightly naughty text from time to time, and make them feel appreciated. They're sure to return the favor!
Choose your battles
‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’ applies to your relationship too, especially if you’ve been together a long time and what used to be minor irritants have suddenly started taking on a whole new level. Often the thing that is really upsetting us is not socks left on the floor, or a partner who nags all the time, but a deeper issue that could ultimately cause the relationship to fall apart. Get in touch with why these seemingly petty things are really causing you so much distress – because that’s the issue worth fighting over.
On the flipside, if it really is only an irritation, then remind yourself of all the good things about your partner before you blow something completely out of proportion. Make sure you're not just taking the frustration of a difficult day at work out on your partner, and potentially ruining the rest of their day too.
Virtually every problem that arises in a relationship traces back to a failure in communication. What makes this harder is that everyone has different ways of expressing the way they feel, and we can sometimes find it really tricky to get an accurate read on what our partner actually means, even if we have known them for ages.
If they find it hard to communicate openly, then try and approach your partner in different ways. Get a read on their body language, heck, write each other letters if it’s easier than speaking directly – whatever gets you communicating your needs honestly. If you work on just one area of your relationship, then this should be it!