“Romance is everything.” ~ Gertrude Stein
For the first 32 years of my life, I was generally incapable of maintaining meaningful romantic relationships. My love life had been chock full of bizarre (sometimes hilarious) stories, narrow escapes, faux relationships and plenty of short bursts of intense, doomed passion masquerading as love.
I don’t know that I had to leave the country to start anew, but that’s what I did, a little over five years ago. My shifted geography changed almost nothing. After an unintentionally long break from dating, I resumed my painful patterns and self-destructive habits with ease in Central America.
That is, until a few years ago, when I met my life partner.
With him, I am currently sustaining my longest, most meaningful romantic relationship. With him, I am understanding what it means to love and be loved and agree and disagree and live together, day by day.
Here are five simple, common-sense ways to sustain a romantic relationship. May they be of benefit!
The key to any lasting romance is friendship.
Being friends means liking as well as loving each other, having deep mutual respect and trust, being loyal companions and sharing a sense of humor and plenty of laughter.
You know how people always gush about having married their best friend? It’s because a foundation of friendship is the best policy when it comes to long-term partnership.
Be on the same page.
Share goals and a vision for life.
At a few points in my checkered past, I believed I was “meant to be” with my boyfriend-at-the-time. In retrospect, marriage or long-term relationship clearly never would have worked out because we had incompatible hopes and dreams for our lives.
As much as it’s fun and important to be present and enjoy the moment without worrying about what lies ahead, it is necessary to consider the potential future with any partner with whom you are sharing your life. Do you want kids or not? Where might you want to live? Where and how much do you want to travel? How will you manage meals, housecleaning, finances? These are some essential questions.
If two people differ greatly—in spiritual practices, religious beliefs, ideas about child-bearing and rearing or desire to live in an urban setting versus the countryside, etc.—then it will be more challenging to sustain the relationship.
Cultivate intellectual chemistry. Read. Discuss topics of interest. Debate. Talk about your individual and shared dreams. Converse. Exchange ideas.
Cultivate emotional chemistry. Share how you feel. Ask your partner how he or she feels. Be open and honest. Say what you need. Get to know thyself and thy partner better and better all the time.
Cultivate physical chemistry. Touch, trade massages, kiss, hug, cuddle, make love. Be on the same page about when and how often you’re having sex. If you’re sleeping with someone but not in a committed relationship, communicate about the level of exclusivity of your sexual relations.
Speak mindfully. Listen attentively. Express how you feel and what you need in a non-blaming way. Pay attention to your tone. Try to speak with more gentleness and kindness.
Sharing the burden of problems is key. Rather than keep a stiff upper lip, admit to your partner what is bothering you. Talk about it. Two heads are better than one when it comes to finding solutions.
Life lasts a long time. And we never know how much longer we have to live. This is the great paradox.
There are moments when you hate your life partner, husband or wife. There are moments when you love them so much you can’t help but cry to think of losing them one day.
A happy marriage or life partnership is one in which the partners both hold on to each other, being kind, supportive and caring, and let go of each other, each maintaining his or her independence, freedom and individuality.
No matter what type of romantic situation we’re talking about—taking vows or co-habitating or co-parenting or just good, old-fashioned dating—we all aspire to attain and sustain meaningful relationships, right?
If you’re single and looking, keep putting yourself out there, meeting people, and being open and eventually you will find someone with whom you want to sustain a romantic relationship. In the meantime, don’t settle for lame boyfriends or boring girlfriends or meaningless, casual hookups.
A relationship has to be fluid, flexible and sustainable to withstand the test of time. Friendship, compatibility, chemistry, patience and clear communication are the key ingredients for a happy, lasting romance.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Rui Lopes/Pixoto