What do you think the goal of love is? Be honest with yourself. Many people fall in love with a notion that love is a very abstract concept, almost very distant from the individual experiencing it; though they sense it in some sort of way. While the abstract form of love may be useful when it comes to art (think of your favorite movies, songs, books, and paintings!), it is not a good basis for healthy relationships. Relationship issues very easily will arise if your mind and body are not firmly rooted on the ground. Love is a very mystical experience, but that does not mean we should constantly have our heads in the clouds because of it.
My girlfriend and I have been together for roughly ~7 years now. We are high school sweethearts, as some would call it. We are that couple that idolizes characters from the 90's sitcom Boy Meets World: Corey and Topanga. As such, we have had our ups and downs as most relationships do have. It is our intention to use this blog to help other people with their relationship issues and teach them how to properly love in such a way that will allow other couples to have a healthy relationship and potentially even a great long term relationship as well.
The focus of this article is on detailing 5 major tips we have learned from being in a long term relationship.
1. A healthy relationship will have relationship problems from time to time.
This thought cannot be avoided. Human beings are prone to arguments and conflicts, whether in our work relationships, simple relationships like those between friends, with our romantic partners, or even with our loving companions. I like to view love as being something you have to constantly look for with the other individual. Think of it like you are attempting to mine a precious mineral out of the Earth, like gold. In order to find love in everything you do, you must be willing to do all types of things. Having an argument can often lead to new topics in communication, which in and of itself makes having these hard times so worth it. While I am not suggesting to needlessly start fights with your partner, I am suggesting that when they naturally happen; do not act like they are inherently the end of the world or the end of your relationship. Relationship issues are a major part of learning how to love someone else. If you can make it past this rather large bump in the road, then you will be able to learn how to manage other aspects of your relationship with much more ease without a doubt!
2. Finding love in someone else is easier when you have similarities.
You may have heard this concept before, but I would like to add in a new twist for the sake of standing out from other blogs that have a tendency to feed you the same repetitive relationship help over and over again. Having similar interests should be a basis for being in a long term relationship. We make friends with individuals who are similar to us. I have friends I enjoy skateboarding and playing video games with. My girlfriend enjoys hiking and other outdoorsy adventures. Fortunately for our relationship, we both enjoy each others hobbies; which makes it a whole lot easier to get along and have things to do together. This concept is simple enough to grasp.
The difference I would suggest is something I would call the "Gestalt design" of a long term relationship. The theory of Gestalt suggests that the "whole is greater then the sum of it's parts." This is a concept that is prevalent in science and humanities, as well as in the arts. I am familiar with the theory from psychology (my major in college). My girlfriend is familiar with Gestalt by her experience with it in graphic design. As such, I would suggest that not every little aspect of your relationship needs to align with the other individual. I have seen many people who have passed up great people to date or be in a relationship with because they are looking for that "too perfect" individual who is essentially their replicated clone. It is not healthy to seek out someone who is completely perfect because this is not realistic. As such, you should ask yourself the question, "Am I in a relationship with someone who is very similar to me, but with enough differences to keep things interesting?" While there may be some aspects of another person that are inherently different from you (maybe a simple thing like diet), the importance is not necessarily on every individual thing; but rather how similar you both are in general. At the end of the day, are you similar enough to be in a healthy relationship with this person?
Remember: With "Gestalt design" you can be compatible with someone even if they are different then you in some ways. It is about determining what "different" qualities you are willing to live with in your partner.
3. Each individual in the relationship should seek to bring out the "good" in the other.
The "Good" is something that is constantly spoken about in philosophy as a topic heavily related to morality and ethics. In the past few months, I have been taking a philosophy course titled Philosophy of Love and Sex. As a result, I have been learning about the philosophical "Good" as it pertains to these two topics. While I understand that not everyone is very interesting in philosophy as an academic study (I myself am!), there is a lot to learn about relationships from the content. The "Good" as it pertains to philosophy is a highly disputed topic. However, for the average person, it can be viewed simply as whatever you deem "goodness" to be. Your goal is to bring this out of the other person. In general, you do not want to manipulate or use this other person for your own benefit; as that is not bringing out the good in them but rather making them a slave to your own desires. In other words: you are using them. This leads me to my main point of this section: bringing out the good in your partner is about allowing them to outshine you and be better then you if at all possible.
The key aspect of a healthy long term relationship is that, when the two individual partners act in this kind of way, the good of the couple and the relationship is brought out. I think of the partners as being two separated halves, and "the relationship" helps unify these two halves like a sort of unseen force which brings them together. Some people may think of this in a popular sense as "these two people are soul mates." I don't particularly believe in this concept of "soul mates," as I believe this kind of relationship can be had with anyone (within reason) if both individuals try hard enough. The point remains though: try to bring out the good in your partner and your relationship will likely last a long time!
4. Long term relationships require a vested interest in one another.
To understand this point, it is important to understand what the phrase "vested interest" really means. It is one of those phrases that can often be thrown around, but we don't understand why we are using it. To have a "vested interest" in something, we are expressing that we hold a particular object (or a person in the case of relationships) as personally valuable and subjectively important. In William Crano's study of the phrase, he maintains that if a person psychologically is interested in a particular object on a personal level; then they will likely respond to that object with behavioral responses.
To make this easier to understand in the context of relationships: if you are in a healthy relationship, then you are both psychologically and physiologically involved in your partners life. You are interested in them as a partner because of what they represent to you on a personal level. I have maintained my relationship with my girlfriend for the past 7 years, despite many bumps in the road, because she means something to me personally. More then this, you act on your subjective feelings. As Crano would say, you "behave" according to your personal interested in this individual. In long relationships, you find things to do together (like hiking, playing video games, going out to dinner, etc.). Of course, when you relationship reaches it's climax, you can also enjoy the physical pleasures that only being in a relationship with another human being can provide such as the abilities to kiss, hold hands, and have sex.
While the focus of my blog is on providing long term relationship advice, many of these concepts can trickle over into a variety of relationship types, whether they be short term romantic relationships or simple friendships we have with other people. The "vested interest," however, only tends to come in when you are in a relationship for a longer period of time. Of course, the relationship does not just need to be a romantic one; as many friends go on to be "best friends forever." This can only happen if you have a vested interest in someone, and act upon your feelings in a positive way.
5. Romantic love is a fire that periodically goes out, but this does not have to be forever.
There are two basic ways one can look at romantic love. The first way is one in which "romance" (as portrayed in movies, books, and so forth) is a necessity. As most of us know, these sorts of stories, while often very nice to think about and be entertained by; are not particularly realistic. In fact, some philosophers who work in the fields of sex and love have even argued that romantic love is a perverted form of love. They come to this conclusion for a variety of reasons such as: 1. Romantic love is a standard that is impossible to live up too and 2. Romantic love only can exist if people are working off of societal gender/sex stereotypes. While I agree with these reasons to a good extent, I do not think that romantic love is inherently "perverse" by any means.
This is because romantic love can also be viewed in a very simplistic way. I wanted to understand how people perceived "romance" when it comes to relationships and love, and quickly found myself on Wikipedia's webpage specifically dedicated to "Romance (love)." The first two sentences were all I needed to view in order to determine what romantic love really is, at least when we consider it in a simple, day to day type of usage:
Romance is the pleasurable feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love. In the context of romantic love relationships, romance usually implies an expression of one's love, or one's deep emotional desires to connect with another person.
Romantic love is a very simple thing. It is that experience of pleasure (psychological or physiological) that occurs when we are "in love." As someone who studies psychology and the inner workings of the mind, I could tell you of the many neurotransmitters and chemicals that are firing when we feel this experience of being "in love," but I will spare you the complex scientific analysis (at least for now!). All you have to know is your own experience with love to know what this pleasurable sensation is.
As we all know, this feeling of pleasure can ebb-and-flow in our relationships. When we first meet someone we tend to think of them as really interesting and often very cool (if we like them from our first impression of them). However, after we get into a relationship with them, we have a tendency to not feel as interested in them from day to day. This is a very natural phenomenon. For long term relationships, it is important for individuals to be aware that this "fire of pleasure" does have a tendency to go out from time to time. It is important to learn as a couple how to rekindle it, and more important to become aware that it is very possible to do so; even many times.
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