We tend to romanticize the idea of love when we’re single, but what about when we’re far into a long-term relationship? Things can go stale or feel tired, repetitive, disconnected. Love is so much more than the blissful initial fall or even the paradise years immediately following— it’s a journey that two people consciously embark on together, knowing that it will take work and intention.
Monica Berg, co-host of the Spiritually Hungry podcast and author of Fear Is Not an Option and Rethink Love, tells us that we can continue to bring that freshness of the honeymoon phase to any point in our relationships by revisiting our commitments and solidifying them with tangible emotional support. We don’t want to allow ourselves to become complacent and thus settle with how things are or have become when we don’t feel happy.
“Settling and complacency are the antitheses of growth and fulfillment. When we don’t actively work on nurturing our relationships, they become stagnant, and we lose appreciation. Once appreciation is lost, it is hard to get back on track,” Berg starts.
“Instead of asking questions, we may be relying on assumptions we may have made years ago. Check in with yourself to make sure you aren’t letting previous experiences inform you about today. They may no longer be relevant because we are ever-evolving and changing, and so are our motivations and our intentions. Questions are powerful, while assumptions are insidious. Asking questions opens up a space for vulnerability, which allows us to continue knowing each other on deeper levels, sharing more, and understanding each other’s inner worlds, changing needs, focus, and desires.”
2. Be friends first, and make sure you remain friends as well
“For the most part, friends set aside their desire to vent when triggered, and instead aim at defusing the situation because they prioritize the relationship and their love (even though they may not be feeling loving at that time) over a moment’s outburst (no matter how tempted they may be.) Friends find a way to make it fun, and there is a kindness that permeates their exchanges. Usually, there is a humorous observation to be made or an inside joke to recall.”
“We shouldn’t feel shame in wanting things, and we should have no shame in asking for what we want. Too often, people hold back their desires because they’re afraid of appearing too blunt, too aggressive, too demanding, or too idealistic, or they fear that they won’t like the answer. Yet we owe it to ourselves to simply ask. How else will our partners know what to give us if we don’t know how to ask them for it?”
4. Have the hard conversations now
“When problems arise, don’t ignore them. If you don’t address them now, they don’t go away or get better in five years; in fact, they [may become] unbearable. Make a commitment to each other to have those difficult conversations.”
“Share your past and present fears, traumas, and embarrassments [over time]. The more you get to know somebody, assuming you feel safe and understood, the more you start revealing about yourself. In a successful relationship, both people make themselves known, gradually disclosing their innermost selves, divulging their desires, fantasies, and dreams—even those that don’t show them in the most favorable light. Let yourself be seen and loved for precisely who you are.”
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