How Do You Keep Love Alive in a Long Term Relationship?
Let’s be real - relationships can be hard. Long term relationships even harder. Some make it; a lot don’t. We can assume that a good portion of those that fail do so due to a general lack. A lack of commitment, a lack of effort, and a lack of communication which in time all combine and leave the union devoid of the fundamental thing keeping it whole - love.
So, how do you keep the love alive in a long term relationship? How do some relationships manage to stand the test of time? Do they do so due to a conscious desire on both sides to work at it - to remain faithful and committed and keep the lines of communication continuously open? Or are some couples actually more ‘hardwired’ to stick together due to a mutual regard not found in the average partnership?
What if it all gets too hard and one party decides to stop working at it? How does either party know if the relationship is worth the continued effort? How much effort is too much? And how does either party recognise the point of no return - when it seems there is nothing left to give?
My marriage of seventeen years ended abruptly when my husband decided he’d had enough. I don’t know how much thought he put into his decision; I don’t know if there were days and nights of soul-searching and deliberation before he made his final decision, or if he actually (as it seemed) just woke up one day and decided he was done.
I do know that we never had the talk. He didn’t sit me down and tell me of his dissatisfaction and unease and what he proposed to do about it. He didn’t tell me what I could do to help the situation, or what we could do together, as a couple, to get things back on track. He just left. And in doing so he crossed the point of no return.
He told me he loved me, that a part of him would always love me. Maybe what he really loved was the familiarity of the life we had built together; the family we had created. He no longer necessarily LIKED ME. If he did – would he have left? And if he had sat me down and told me of his discontent, could we have found a way through? I don’t think he wanted to find a way through - I believe that is why he didn’t. We had grown apart and he wanted something different - he wanted out.
A girlfriend and I were recently discussing this topic. This friend married the same year as I – her marriage is intact. I asked her why. I asked her what it was about her marriage that made it worth the fight. I know she has been through pain – as have we all. I wanted to know why she kept holding on. What it was about her marriage, about her husband, that made it worth the fight?
Her response to me was beautiful.
She told me she still liked him. For all of the mundanity and all of the crap, she liked who he was. She liked who they were together. She felt that there was something worth holding onto. She liked to spend time with him - JUST him. To get away at times from the house and the kids and the life and just be - with him.
She needed to remember who he was and who she was – who they were TOGETHER - without all of the stuff. Without the stresses and the bills and the jobs and the dramas. When she did this, she remembered what it was that she loved – LIKED – about him. Because when you have been with someone for a long time, when you are part of a long term relationship, it is easy enough to love that someone. You love them through habit. But to like them? That is something else altogether.
You like them because you choose to like them. Because you can see who they are AND their full potential as a person. You see their beautiful qualities AND their faults and you feel an affection for them for this - for all of this. You can see that you and this person have something together. It isn’t always good – a lot of the time it isn’t good – but it is definitely something.
And you choose to hold on. You choose to keep fighting. You choose to remember the person you fell in love with. You know that nothing is permanent – that nothing bad lasts forever. You know that you may not always feel this way – that maybe one day you will reach the point of no return. But for now, you hold on.
Yes, relationships are hard. But they can also be wonderful. Next time you find yourself doubting where you are at in yours, and questioning whether you want to be with the one you’re with – particularly if you’ve been with that one for a long time – try going back to basics. Try remembering why you are with him or her. Making time to get away from your familiar environment will help you to do this.
Ask yourself if there is still ‘something’ there; ask yourself if you LIKE the one you’re with. It may be one of the most worthwhile things you’ll ever do.
Do you have any other advice on keeping the love alive in a long term relationship? Share in the comments!
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