Anything worth doing is worth doing well, including dating.
We're often told when we're young that once we fall in love, things will all magically make sense, and that a "soulmate" relationship isn't one you have to work toward or spend time developing. Once you find "your person," it'll come easy. But this is far from true.
Attraction may come without effort, but lasting love does not. Making your relationship work for you requires effort, but the pay-off is more than worth it. Here are 10 ways to make your existing relationship as fulfilling as possible — or to set yourself up for the type of future dynamic you need.
1. Determine your non-negotiables.
Though compromising sometimes is a staple of any healthy relationship, know what your issues are your absolute deal breakers. For example, some people may know they don’t want to date someone who lives over an hour away while others may only want to date people who work in a similar industry to them. Knowing where you draw the line before you set out to meet people is crucial to saving yourself time and heartache later.
2. Evaluate past relationships.
Just because a relationship ended doesn’t mean it was a failure... if you’ve learned from it. Think about what caused problems in past relationships to determine what you should avoid moving forward. Understanding what went wrong in the past can help you build a stronger future with someone else.
3. Fight smart.
Don’t approach conflicts as a "you versus them" situation; approach conflicts as you together against the problem. When you have a disagreement with your partner, argue with the goal in mind of finding a solution, not hurting them.
4. Work on your communication skills.
If something bothers you, don’t hide it. It can be easy to let seemingly small things slide, but eventually, frustrations add up and resentment is bred. Don’t let yourself get caught up by ignoring what you truly want. Unless your partner happens to be a mind reader, the only way they can know that something’s bothering you is if you tell them.
5. Make time for one another.
Life can get busy. Conflicting schedules can lead to cancelled dates, and the person you care for can start to feel like a stranger. Set aside special time to see one another even if it’s getting breakfast at a diner on Saturday mornings or after work drinks. Scheduling time to be together shows that no matter how busy you both are, you both want to commit to being together.
6. Create your own happiness.
One of the biggest relationship killers is expecting another person to be responsible for one’s happiness. This can cause people to become clingy or jealous. The best way to combat this is for both partners to find joy on their own. Don’t be with one another because you need to; choose to be together because you want to. Make time for yourself to do the things that you love alone.
7. Discuss your goals together.
Ensure that you both stay on the same page and are helping one another by talking about what you want to get out of life. This can help your bond grow stronger and keep you both in a place where you know how to support one another.
8. Prioritize honesty.
Being honest can be difficult, but it’s a necessary part of building a strong relationship. If something bothers you, speaking up is the only way that your partner can attempt to fix it. If you make a mistake or have something on your mind, discuss it with your partner. What’s mentionable is manageable!
9. Celebrate the good.
It can be easy to be caught up in a cycle of the mundane. Mentioning negative things can also become a staple, but it’s important to take a step back and acknowledge positive events with one another. This includes big events like anniversaries, but should also include celebrating individual successes with one another like earning promotions.
10. Check in with one another.
A simple “how was your day” really does go a long way. Knowing where one another are emotionally can help things go more smoothly. Understanding when your partner is most likely to be stressed out can help you know when they need extra support.
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is an MFA candidate at Columbia University, and her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets 2017 anthology.