3 Things You Shouldn’t Forget When You’re in a Committed Relationship
The earliest stages of a new relationship are incredibly exciting.
You’re in a state of exploration and constant curiosity; spending time together is a priority, and you’re both excited to know as much as you can about the other person. You respond to every text, answer every call, and can’t wait to discover everything there is to know about them.
While there is something to be said for the comfort and the emotional exhale that comes with finding your person, too often this leads to people no longer putting in effort and going on autopilot in the relationship. Life easily takes over – especially when kids enter the picture, or careers start to take off and take over – and we subconsciously think the other person isn’t going anywhere and they don’t need the same energy or time the other aspects of our lives need.
This is the point where relationships begin to shift – it’s a subtle shift that happens slowly over time, with couples going from perfectly happy to one day, to realizing they’ve drifted apart and almost feel like strangers. And unfortunately, most couples don’t realize this is happening until too much time has passed.
To help you avoid this trap, here are just a few tips to keep in mind as you come down from the high of a new, shiny relationship and settle into real life with your partner.
Always continue courting.
One of the most common findings among couples who are happy ten, twenty, forty years in is that they never actually stop courting each other. The relationship remains as big a priority as any other, and it isn’t in competition with the other parts of life. Remember: Relationships grow apart before they fall apart. You are dynamic individuals who are constantly changing – your exploration of each other should be a continuous one.
Note: Research by Dr. John Gottman has found that the happiest couples continue courting and connecting in a few specific ways: Weekly date nights, regular vulnerable conversations, a six-second kiss every day, and physical intimacy at least once a week.
Don’t be the ugliest version of yourself with them.
Being in a secure relationship means trusting that your partner will be there for you through the ups and the downs that life will bring you. But let’s distinguish between having good and bad days, and allowing sides of us to come out that can cause permanent damage to our relationship. It takes effort to remain respectful and fair in an argument, and a lot of times people just stop putting in this energy. Disrespect and contempt can start to creep in and become a regular part of conflict; when this happens for an extended period of time, it’s almost impossible for the relationship to bounce back. Don’t treat your partner worse than you would treat a perfect stranger – be mindful of times where you might be handling them with less care and consideration because you’ve started to take their presence in your life for granted.
Stay in a space of positivity and appreciation.
Our brains are actually hard-wired to notice the negative things around us. We actually default to seeing the bad things – and place much more importance on them – than on seeing the good things and being grateful for them (this is known as the “negativity bias”). This tendency trickles over into our relationships, eventually eroding overall relationship satisfaction. When both people hyper-focus on the bad, you end up with two people who feel like their partner falls short, and who also feel like they are themselves deeply unappreciated and misunderstood.
To combat this, you have to intentionally go into a space of noticing and appreciating the good things about your partner. This may feel forced and even awkward for a while, but what ends up happening is you train your brain to stay in a space of appreciation. When this ends up becoming your natural perspective, relationship satisfaction skyrockets – both people end up appreciating each other more, and each person feels seen and valued. Not only is this critical for happiness in the relationship, but it also makes it so that when you do have a valid concern or constructive criticism, you’ve essentially built up enough emotional credit so that you can afford the occasional withdrawal to tackle a tougher issue. Extended periods of appreciation lead to higher levels of trust and closeness – these levels of intimacy are what carry couples work through the tougher times.
Love and committed relationships can enhance our lives in ways that nothing else can. But it isn’t self-sustaining – let your gratitude for finding your person fuel the energy you both put in to keep your love thriving for years to come.
Dr. Nura Mowzoon is a couple’s coach based outside of Phoenix, with a clientele locally and internationally. She also works as a full time instructor at Arizona State University, and gives talks and seminars on love and relationships around the world.