Marriage Counseling Insights brought to you by California Psychotherapeutic Resources, Inc.
Ah, people harbor a lot of romantic notions about long-term relationships. Young people especially are prone to romanticizing a lifetime commitment, with ideas about soulmates and happily ever after dancing in their minds. Beyond romanticized ideas about permanent commitments, though, they actually involve far deeper issues. Writing for Working Resources, psychologist and executive coach Dr. Maynard Brusman says, “People in lasting relationships tend to live longer and stay healthier, and they report that they experience more happiness in life. Statistics indicate that people in long-term partnerships report more rewarding social interactions and lower instances of alcohol and substance abuse. Maybe the most important aspect of living within a successful permanent relationship is that a person not only feels loved, but is also able to share love with somebody else.”
For most people, the pattern in a relationship is somewhat similar. Attraction in the broadest sense initially brings two people together. If the relationship is going to be a romantic one, infatuation often develops. But infatuation is not a normal or lasting state — it’s a state of enhanced neurochemistry. Fortunately or unfortunately, the relationship enters the next stage.
“As the attraction wanes, as it inevitably does for most,” writes Brusman, “the relationship enters a stage where intimacy becomes the predominant theme. Concerns about a feeling of closeness and security come to replace the initial focus on attraction. And finally a couple enters the stage of commitment. They decide that the relationship is permanent and concentrate on ways to work on adaptive boundaries, communication, and modes of living everyday in a way which accommodates both their own needs and those of their partner. These are difficult transitions for any relationship.”
If you’re in a romantic relationship and are beyond infatuation — whether months or decades beyond — there are ways to help ensure that you enjoy the rewards of a permanent commitment. According to Brusman, here are four things you can do to enhance the beauty of your long-term relationship.
Share your humor and lightheartedness with your partner. “When we lose our sense of fun and enjoyment on an individual level, our mood is often replaced with negativity and pain… and the same is true within a relationship. Enjoying your partner and sharing good times together increase the chances of having a successful long-term relationship.”
Keep things polite. “Long-term relationships are possible when both partners feel loved, respected, and cherished by the other. Think of the enormous gift you have when another person agrees to spend his or her life with you: your attitude should be one of gratitude, honor and appreciation.”
Don’t expect your partner to fill up the holes in your life. “When we feel deficient in some aspect of our own lives, we may put pressure on our partners to be different somehow. However, it is far more productive to look internally at our own issues, to come alive with life’s challenges, and to gain a sense of our own competence and empowerment, rather than to look to our partner to ‘save’ us.”
Bring your best abilities into your relationship. “The successful relationship is one in which each partner has gained a sense of his or her own integrity and uniqueness as a person. They have a feeling of being valued by the other just for being themselves. They know they can achieve their life goals with the full support of the other person. When two healthy people come together and form a permanent relationship, they can experience a sense of love, security and trust which allows each to soar.”