A new relationship can be thrilling. From the first flirtatious encounters to the intense sexual passion, to settling into love; new relationships can have us feeling like we have a new lease on life. However, many people don’t truly understand how to keep a relationship happy and healthy.
The representations of relationships in movies and music can be misleading since they usually only show the intensely passionate and romantic first portion of a relationship. However, relationships do not stay in this phase. It’s normal for a relationship to move from passionate love to compassionate love, a less intense but deeper emotional connection that usually maintains relationships in the long term.
Keeping your relationship strong as it enters this second phase is very important but is often something people struggle with. They worry about the loss of passion, of that intense sexual desire fading, and of their relationship not looking like the movies anymore. If you find yourself asking: “does he love me?” or “does she still care?” you both may need to put more work into your relationship to keep it stable and fulfilling.
To that end, here are ten strategies you can use to keep your relationship strong:
1. Don’t wait
Finding strategies to keep your relationship strong are essential and should be addressed sooner rather than later. It’s best to prevent problems instead of trying to fix them once they have cropped up and driven a wedge between the two of you.
Many couples wait too long to attend therapy together when irreversible damage has already been done. Going to couple’s counseling and addressing issues early on does not mean your relationship is failing, it says you’re working to make it survive.
RELATED: 7 Ways to Get Free Marriage Advice
2. Censor yourself
While being honest with your partner is essential, it’s also important to know when to draw the line with critiquing and criticizing your partner. Unless they’re doing something damaging or hurtful, it doesn’t always benefit a relationship to tell your significant other everything they do that annoys you. Instead, it will just hurt the two of you in the long run.
3. Watch your tone
Fights are inevitable in a relationship. However, how you fight is often more important than what you fight about. Being snide, cruel, or yelling during a fight will often make the argument escalate to an unhealthy place and does not serve your relationship. Instead, if you have something critical to say to your partner, be careful to do it gently and without attacking.
4. Keep your sex life alive
A healthy, satisfying sex life is a significant part of a relationship, and you should work to maintain that connection if you want to keep your relationship healthy. Communicate regularly with your partner about your needs and desires. Touch regularly, even if it’s just a passing hug or quick kisses and–while it may not sound very sexy–scheduling time to have sex when you’re busy can help keep the passion alive when life gets busy.
5. Don’t accept hurtful behavior
Happy couples don’t accept harmful or damaging behavior from each other, even from the start. The lower that level of tolerance is, the more comfortable you will be overall. This means no condescension, name-calling, mean remarks, or unnecessary criticism. Your relationship should help you rise and feel fulfilled emotionally and physically.
Permitting cruel behavior will only drag the two of you down. If you find it difficult to fight in a healthy way, it may be time to consider therapy. If your partner is ever abusive, know that this is an unhealthy relationship that will most likely never recover.
Things like manipulation, hitting, or “gaslighting” are all signs that your partner has a deeply unhealthy view of relationships, and often of themselves, and you need to end that relationship to protect yourself.
6. Know when to end an argument
When there’s a disagreement, happy couples understand when it’s time to step away before things get too heated. Sometimes, there will be things that you and your partner disagree on and cannot reconcile at that moment.
Instead of beating the proverbial dead horse and getting angrier with each other, know when to change the subject, leave the situation, or back off to de-escalate the fight. You can also try using gentle humor (not at your partner’s expense), or giving a kind compliment that acknowledges your partner’s pain, such as “I understand how hard this is for you.”
7. Stay positive
Couples that regularly have five times more positive interactions with each other are happier overall. By focusing on more positive experiences or being able to see the bright side of things, you are more likely to have a happy relationship that is stable and fulfilling. This is especially important during a conflict. Even if you’re arguing with your partner, it’s important to be still laughing and gentle and kind.
Communicating with your partner isn’t just about chatting about your day, it’s about sharing your fears, dreams, and hopes with them. Talk about things that are important to you and make it clear if something is on your mind or you have a concern about your relationship, you express that to your partner.
Communicating is crucial to keeping your relationship healthy. If you struggle to communicate openly with your partner, know that there are steps you can take to get there. Don’t attack your partner or become defensive. Talk face-to-face about serious matters and leave the texting aside, and know that there is a right time to talk about certain things so that it doesn’t stress your partner unnecessarily.
9. Set goals together
Couples that have mutual goals are often happier and have stronger relationships. Planning for vacations together, for things you want to achieve together, and for what you want your relationship to look like in the future. Check in with each other regularly to make sure that you share the same goals and are still looking forward to a future together.
10. Trust is crucial
Trusting your partner is crucial for a strong relationship. Jealousy, envy, and misgivings about a partner’s faith will quickly destabilize a relationship and turn you against each other. If your partner has betrayed you, you both need to rebuild the relationship and consider whether or not the damage that was done is too much.
If you’re jealous without your partner ever lying to you, dig deep inside yourself to see why you don’t trust them and what you can do to build that trust.