How to make a relationship last

samzy asks: I need steps and advice to build a good relationship with a new girlfriend to make it successful

Hi samzy –

CONGRATULATIONS!  That’s great news!  New romance is the BEST!

And yet…

It’s funny, I’ve never been asked exactly this before.  I get a lot of questions about aspects of relationships, but not a simple broad “how to build a good one” like this.  And I like the question, but I think the answer is in all those others. 

Because no two relationships are ever exactly alike.

In some, you need to figure out how to build trust so the other person won’t suspect things about you all the time.  While in others, you need to figure out ways to deal with your suspicions about them.

In some, you need to learn how to give them enough space to not feel crowded, while in others, you need to learn how to lovingly demand space for yourself.

In some, you need to deal with the other person wanting more physical intimacy than you’re comfortable with, while in others you need to learn how to tolerate their need for moving more slowly than you’d like.

So really, the biggest advice I can give is three things, each of which is always true.

First, always work on

communication.  Listen to her, more closely than you ever have before.  Try to understand her, even when she’s completely incomprehensible (and if you think it’s hard to understand the opposite sex, imagine having your primary relationship be with a different species!  So yes, Handsome and I are always  trying to understand each other better).  What does she want, what does she need, what does she fear, what makes her angry?  And at the same time, to work to communicate about yourself better than you ever have – what do you want, need, fear, get angry at?  And how do you each need to be heard, and how will you best communicate your feelings in a way she can accept? 

It’s work.  And it’s not something anyone ever “gets right;” it’s something to work on as long as you’re in that relationship.  Yes, even for couples who’ve been married for decades!

Second, that old rule, Know Yourself.  We so often lose our senses of ourselves in new relationships, falling in love with the joy of them, and then one day wake up and say “Wait a minute!  I don’t even recognize myself anymore!  What happened to all the parts of me I let slip away?!”  So while absolutely it’s great to go surf on clouds of romantic bliss, also give yourself time to think about who you are, and what you need.  Even if, eventually, that means breaking the relationship up.  Not because one of you is awful, but just because you realize you need something different.

I’m guessing you’re still pretty young.  So great, I hope  you have more than one romance in your life.  And that you learn tons from each of them.  And if this is The One that’s the last one, that’s fantastic, but if not, that’s fine too.  Either way, keep re-focusing on your own feelings and needs, and it’ll work out for the best.

And Third, the one so many forget:  HAVE FUN!  Sure there’ll be all sorts of drama and worry and fear and stuff, but the fact is you two have something wonderful going on.  Think of how special it is: you’ve found someone who gains joy by making you happy.  Who dreams of you the way you dream of them.  It’s really magical, and rarer than you’d think.  So flirt and send flowers and tickle each other and nibble on their elbow and dress up the most gorgeous you ever have and cook messy meals together and send cute texts and deep serious poems, and get favorite songs and movies and places, all with new meaning because you shared them together.  Laugh and cry and stutter and just ENJOY EACH OTHER!

Every day, Handsome and I are completely thrilled every time we meet up.  I never understand why I see couples who don’t act that way.  I never eat a piece of cheese without loving it; why would I want to?  So, similarly, I want to get thrilled about my favorite people and dogs, and never stop.

Again, samzy, there are thousands of more specific bits of advice out there.  But these three are my basics: Always work hard to communicate better, keep aware of yourself, and have fun. 

Oh, and there is a fourth.  When you do all these, and something still goes wrong… check in with your favorite pooch!  And I’ll be very happy to help in any way I can!

Again, joyous congratulations!


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