The Natural Drift Of Relationships – Why Some Relationships Don’t Last

The roles of men and women have changed in Western society over the past few decades and it’s now estimated that up to a half of all marriages end in divorce. Why has this happened? Are people more immoral than they used to be? Are modern couples not as strong-willed as ones in the past? No, divorce rates are now higher because the laws have changed, the stigma attached to a being a divorcée has been reduced, and society has placed a higher premium on individual rights. We all have a greater awareness of the fragility of life and that life really is too short to be unhappy and stick in situations that are no good for our mental and/or physical well-being. People are realising the importance of individual happiness against sticking together for some other reason (because they “said till death do us part” or to do so “for the kids” and so on) and enduring a life of unhappiness. An interesting post on the reasons for divorce can be found here, but in this post I’ll be discussing relationships that didn’t break down due to infidelity, a traumatic, life-changing or significantly stressful event, domestic violence or addiction(s).

There aren’t too many couples who aren’t madly in love when they first get married (with the exception being arranged marriages), so how does a relationship end up in such a state? People do change with time – not just physically, but their personality, likes and dislikes, and even beliefs. Think about the person you were five years ago, or even a year ago, and how much you have changed since then. The pace of modern life means these changes occur at a faster rate than ever before. If you don’t keep up to date with your partner’s thoughts, feelings and activities, you may end up loving the person they once were, and not who they’re becoming (and then feeling like you don’t know them anymore). This is one reason why couples ‘drift apart’ or feel like they ‘don’t know each other anymore,’ but is this because the relationship hasn’t been maintained properly? By maintaining your relationship (see our post on Relationship Maintenance & Avoiding Relationship Ruts) and by keeping the love strong by doing an occasional nice thing (see 10 Ways To Surprise Your Partner), your love for your partner will change dynamically with time and be continually refreshed.

Perhaps the relationship just wasn’t meant to be? People – friends, as well as lovers – come into our lives to help form new chapters of our lives, some can be brief (a seasonal love), others longer, but there are some gems that last a lifetime. Sometimes we misjudge relationships – we can hang onto the wrong person, trying as we might to make things work, or we can give up the right person prematurely. It is incredibly rare for two people to find themselves exactly on the same page.

Or perhaps you weren’t being honest from the very start? Perhaps your partner fell in love with the person you portrayed to win their affection, and not your true self. Being yourself from the outset can avoid this later on. The longer you date someone, the harder it is to fake who you really are. As someone who’s been there before, and told a white lie or two to gain someone’s interest – in the early stages of dating, meeting someone say once a week or month, you can almost be anyone you like. This reminds me of the movie There’s Something About Mary, where each of the guys vying for Mary’s attention create their own fake persona to win her over.

The proliferation of romantic movies, including romantic comedies, can also share the blame as many of these give a false sense of hope and aren’t treated as merely a form of escapism. Treating them as realistic can give unrealistic expectations of your partner and your relationship, particularly when times are tough in a relationship and the parties involved think a quick and amicable solution can be reached immediately. Hardly ever are the normal, everyday parts of the relationship portrayed in a 90 minute movie (well, it wouldn’t sell movie tickets, would it?). This topic is also covered in Romantic comedies make us ‘unrealistic about relationships’, claim scientists and Romantic Comedies Are Ruining Real Life Relationships. However, there are a few movies that do keep it real – It’s Complicated, The Change-Up (except for the switching bodies part), This Is 40, Crazy Stupid Love, and the latest release, I Give It A Year, which looks at the trials and tribulations of a newlywed couple during their first year of marriage. The trailers for these movies can be found at the end of this post.

There are also scientific explanations for why feelings seem to change with time and why we shouldn’t panic when they do, but I’ll save that discussion for another day… stay tuned for Scientific Explanations For Love (And Why Hearts Seem To Change).

Why do you think couples drift apart? If you’ve been in a long-term relationship before, did something cause your relationship to break down?

Realistic Rom Com #1: It’s Complicated

Realistic Rom Com #2: The Change-Up

Realistic Rom Com #3: This Is 40

Realistic Rom Com #4: Crazy Stupid Love

Realistic Rom Com #5: I Give It A Year

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6 Secrets To Keeping Long Term Love – Part 2

In the previous post 6 Secrets To Keeping Long Term Love – Part 1, we examined the first three of six secrets to keeping long term love and what the characteristics are of successful long term relationships. In this post, we examine the second three of six secrets, and summarise what you can do to ensure that you keep love for the long haul.

4. Show affection & intimacy

It is important to show your love in the form of affection and intimacy. As life goes by, and we become more comfortable in our relationship, we often forget to not only show our gratitude, but to express our feelings and attraction physically. The ‘good feeling’ chemicals in the brain (we’ll address the science behind love in another post) that made us so excited at the beginning of the relationship start to wear off with time and I’m sure there aren’t many longer term relationships that are as physically involved (read sexual) as they were in the first few months. The good thing is that if you’re a couple in this position, you’re not alone! The bad thing is that affection and intimacy requires a little more effort and motivation than before. Dating someone once or twice a week or month is very different to seeing each other every day and seeing their ‘ugly’ side (the morning breath and other bad smells, the bed hair, no make-up, and so on). But it doesn’t have to be too hard – be spontaneous, grab your partner and kiss them occasionally, be playful, have fun doing silly things together, hold hands, hop in the shower or bath together – but maintain some form of physical contact that keeps your love alive.

5. Maintain individuality (“us” time vs. “me” time)

It is essential to maintain a bond of togetherness with your partner with mutual interests. Going on dates together is important (and scheduling them if you’re busy people) and ensuring adequate “us” time, to learn and grow together. But giving your partner freedom to explore their own life is also critically important, by letting your partner have their own friends, their own hobbies and interests, their own “me” time. A relationship is a partnership in love and a journey through life together, but one should never lose their own individuality. The longer you spend with someone in a relationship, the more your lives become intertwined, which can leave you feeling dependent on your partner and depended on, upsetting your emotional balance and making you feel trapped and restricted. Think of the relationship as two individuals joined together by love on a journey towards a common goal (or goals). As Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said “Love is not looking at each other, but looking together in the same direction.” You should both be able to do your own thing with or without others, without the other being jealous or thinking that they don’t love or enjoy spending time with them.

6. Trust your partner & be trustworthy yourself

All successful relationships are based on a healthy level of trust for without trust a relationship will not survive. Trust is a two-way street: you must have the correct combination of one partner being trustworthy and the other being trusting. A relationship just won’t last if one is trustworthy and the other untrusting, or one is trusting and the other untrustworthy. Trust is one of the most precious commodities in a relationship and is far easier to lose than to gain. It is earned over time and is built on integrity and confidence in another. Think about you and your personal relationships – do you think you are considered a trustworthy person? Do you have trouble trusting others? If you’re having trouble with trust in your relationship, you’ll want to read our post on 10 Ways To Become Trustworthy and More Trusting.

Practising these six things – along with the suggestions in Modern Day Dating & Scheduling Dates and Relationship Maintenance & Avoiding Relationship Ruts – will ensure you and you partner are well on your way to a happy and successful long term relationship. In summary:

1. Show your gratitude
2. Encourage your partner
3. Tolerate their flaws & habits
4. Show affection & intimacy
5. Maintain individuality
6. Trust your partner & be trustworthy yourself

What do you think are the secrets to successful long term love?

6 Secrets To Keeping Long Term Love – Part 1

As discussed in the post Relationship Maintenance & Avoiding Relationship Ruts, all relationships should be maintained to keep them fresh and mutually beneficial. Modern times are busier and more unpredictable than ever and sometimes relationships can suffer as life flies by (see Modern Day Dating & Scheduling Dates). In the next two posts, we’ll examine six secrets to keeping long term love and what the characteristics are of successful long term relationships. Are you doing the right things in your relationship?

1. Show your gratitude

Be gracious for the things your partner does for you and never take anything for granted. Appreciate even the small things. As a thought experiment, imagine waking up tomorrow and not having your partner there. How would you feel? Think about the things your partner does for you or provides for you and your relationship. What would you miss? If you appreciate them, a few words of thanks go a long way. Tell them – or better still, show them – how you feel. For tips on how to do this, have a look at 10 Ways To Surprise Your Partner. This is also a good opportunity to thank other loved ones in your life: your friends and family. Too many people leave it until the last minute – or until it’s too late – to tell the special people in their life that they are appreciated, and regrets like these can last a lifetime. It can be awkward at first – many of us are not confident or comfortable expressing our feelings – but start with something simple (thanks for a meal, for example) and work your way up to feelings of more substance.

2. Encourage your partner

Encourage your partner’s pursuits, hobbies or interests: the things that make your partner happy. As long as their interest does not harm others (or themselves), and keeps them happy/amused/sane, then you should proactively support their pursuit of happiness. Make them feel supported, and help them maintain their own individuality (see Maintain individuality in Part 2). We should all encourage each other to pursue happiness in our own unique way, express ourselves, and enjoy the journey of life, which can be harsh and challenging. Feeling supported and encouraged makes us feel safe, loved and important – no matter what life throws at us.

3. Tolerate their flaws & habits

You must be able to tolerate character flaws and bad habits – everyone has them, this is part of human nature (again, as long as these aren’t harming them or others). I had an ex-cricket team-mate who couldn’t be around his wife when she made a cup of tea or coffee because the rattle the spoon made when stirring her tea irritated him so much. This is something I’d suggest to tolerate. Guys, for example (in general), have a lower standard for cleanliness and organisation than girls do. We must tolerate and understand that these small differences exist. I, personally, have learnt to leave the toilet seat down. The benefits of doing so outweigh the effort required to put the seat back down after I’m done. With tolerating behaviour, remember the saying “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff“. Think about the things you and your partner might argue about – are they really that important? For the bigger issues – these can be financial, job- or career-related, or to do with another interpersonal relationship – it is important that you communicate with your partner about the issue. The smaller issues – dirty clothes on the floor, leaving things in what you deem to be their ‘incorrect’ location – can be sorted out with some compromise from both sides. For the perpetrator, can you make a slight modification in the habits or behaviour that annoys your partner without too much effort? For the annoyed party, can you see past and accept your partner’s ‘misbehaviour’?

Be sure to read the second part of this post, 6 Secrets To Keeping Long Term Love – Part 2, which examines the second three of six secrets, and summarises what you can do to ensure that you keep love for the long haul.

What do you think are the secrets to successful long term love?

Dating Someone Similar Or Different – Opposites Attract?

In the last two posts in Part 1: Find Love, we saw that the first step to finding love is loving yourself (Love Yourself) and then looked at how to perform a self diagnosis to find out who you are and what you really want from a relationship/partner (Know Yourself & What You Really Want From A Partner). Following the same theme, in this post, we’ll look at dating someone similar to you in comparison to dating someone different to you and touch on the core foundation of successful relationships: the keys to long-term love.

If you happened to try out the previous self assessment task, you would have compared the characteristics that define you with the characteristics of your ideal partner. How many of these were similar? How many were different? There are a number of pros and cons for dating someone similar to you versus someone different to you. For starters, the former allows you to stay in your comfort zone, making you feel safe and balanced, whereas the latter might take you out of your comfort zone, which can be scary and make us feel vulnerable.

On the other hand, dating someone similar might see you fall into a rut of doing the same old things over and over again (making it harder to avoid falling into a relationship rut), but you can always do new things together (travel, take a class or course, explore new foods, and so on). However, with someone different, you could be trying and learning new things, and expanding your experiences and knowledge. They could provide a fresh and invigorating perspective on life (or at least show you that that particular thing is not right for you!), but it might mean more work and effort to get the same level of enjoyment out of the relationship.

I have friends and colleagues in long-term relationships at both ends of this spectrum, and I’ve seen that either of these can work well. We’re often advised by others that we should look for someone similar to ourselves, but there’s also the old adage that “opposites attract.” Sometimes opposites really do attract (and particularly when going on those first few dates, someone different can offer interesting conversation and new, exciting perspectives on life), but for long-term success with someone even moderately different, you must like or at least tolerate your potential mate’s differences – whether these are their beliefs, ideas, interests, activities, and so on.

This leads us to one of the keys to a successful long-term relationship: the sharing of common beliefs, goals or worldly ideas. This is hugely important, and can cover topics such as religion (or lack thereof), life/career goals, views on male-female roles/equality, marriage, morals, and so on. An additional factor that can play a role in successful relationships is that both partners have a similar level of experience (love/relationships, sex, life experience in general, etc.). Although perhaps it is not the level of experience itself that is critical, as this has happened in the past and cannot be changed, but the stage at which each partner is at in each of these areas with a view to the future. Love may transcend differences in personality, interests, and life experiences, but most likely not the more critical ones listed here. Do you respect and value this person’s views and opinions, their career, and do you appreciate their hobbies and interests (even if you don’t enjoy them particularly yourself)? In the end, personalities that complement and balance a relationship, rather than those that are the same or polar opposites, give the best opportunity for long-term relationship success.

How do you feel about dating someone similar to you versus someone different? What do you think are the keys to a successful relationship?

In the next post of Part 1: Find Love, we explore the dos and don’ts of a first date (First Date Dos and Don’ts).

Part 2: Keep Love. 10 Ways To Surprise Your Partner

Throughout the ages, men and women alike have pondered what love is. It has been written about, spoken of, debated on, and argued by millions for thousands of years. If you were following Find Keep Love’s Twitter feed (@FindKeepLove) or Facebook page in January, I posted an A to Z of Love Quotes, covering musings on love by some of the greatest and most famous minds – philosophers, scientists, musicians, doctors, and businessmen.

Oxford Dictionaries defines love as “a strong feeling of affection,” “a great interest and pleasure in something,” “a person or thing that one loves,” or as a verb to “feel deep affection or sexual love for (someone).” From our own experience, we know that love is much more complex than these simple definitions suggest – the true meaning of love transcends any words we might use to attempt its definition. Love is defined, felt and experienced differently by different people, but however you try to define it, I strongly believe that love is largely defined by our actions, like the old cliché, “Actions speak louder than words.

Love without action is not real love, and paraphrasing what Kim Casali once said, “Love is the little things you do for each other.” Something similar can be found in the Bible in 1 John 3:18: “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” So your love for someone will be demonstrated in the things you do for them. These are things that you do not because you have to, but because you want to, making their comfort, happiness and/or pleasure the sole aim of your actions, and not for your own personal interest, gratification or reward.

Here are ten ideas to get you started on how to surprise your loved one with random nice things. As I mentioned in my previous post on Relationship Maintenance & Avoiding Relationship Ruts, the monetary value of the gift/action is not what is important, but the thoughtfulness, imagination and love represented by it. You can never force or buy love, despite what some people may think.

  • Buy a small treat when coming home from a trip away somewhere.
  • Leave love notes in random locations around the house: on the pillow, on your partner’s desk, in your partner’s pocket, or on a Post-it note on today’s page in their diary.
  • Cook their favourite meal or, better yet, prepare a meal together. If they cook, you clean the dishes.
  • If your bath/shower is big enough, sneak in there with them every now and then.
  • Plan a surprise date – tell them nothing of your plans, except the time, date and place to meet you. You could extend this to an overnight trip somewhere, or even something over a weekend, if you’re feeling particularly ambitious.
  • If your partner is working on some project or hobby, offer to help them out.
  • Instead of buying a card for your partner’s next birthday, Valentine’s Day or your anniversary, buy a blank card, get some coloured pens, get creative, and write your partner a special message from the heart.
  • Write your partner a love letter and slip it somewhere they’re likely to find it during the day.
  • Pamper your partner for a night – be at their service for a night. Cook them dinner, make them their favourite drink, run them a bath, give them a massage (or something more erotic), and let them fall asleep hearing how much you mean to them.
  • Make a handmade coupon book – the coupons could be for anything: a massage, a home-cooked meal, a meal out, a night away. If you feel really generous (and courageous!), you could make one or more of them blank.

Not only can you show your love for your partner with these simple things and help maintain your relationship, but you will feel better about yourself. Like giving to charity or carrying out volunteer work, people are happier themselves when they are giving to or helping others. And if you’ve taken my advice from my previous post, Modern Day Dating & Scheduling Dates, and scheduled a date night, try taking it in turns each week at organising the night – a great opportunity to surprise your partner!

What is a random nice thing that you do (or could do) for your partner (or loved one) to show them that you love them?

Part 2: Keep Love. Relationship Maintenance & Avoiding Relationship Ruts

All relationships – whether a friendship, love or business – need to be maintained (read nurtured), like you would a computer or a car, to keep things fresh and exciting. Maintaining a relationship, particularly love, should never feel like “work,” but any relationship can be improved, tweaked, and maintained.

It’s important not to find yourselves in a rut. Do you ever find yourself having dinner at the same restaurant (but not to reminisce the past, but rather as a force of habit)? Or doing the same thing over and over again? This can be boring, but even worse is not doing anything and staying in all the time. The things you do don’t need to cost too much money either. A picnic in a nearby park, a trip to the zoo (my favourite), getting cultured at a museum or art gallery. Exercising releases endorphins and improves your mood, and allows you to bond with your partner while keeping your body and mind fresh and healthy. It could be as simple as a walk nearby holding hands, but there’s jogging, bushwalking, mountain climbing (or for those who don’t have a mountain nearby, indoor rock climbing), mixed sports… I could write pages and pages on potential dates and activities (and in fact there will be more on this in a later post).

Another way to keep the love flowing is to do shared activities. Something you both might like to do or something that gives your partner a greater appreciation for who you are, where your passions lie, what motivates you, and so on (without boring them to death, of course). This works both ways, too – ask your partner to involve you in something they’re passionate about and form a deeper bond. I always remember the great friendships I formed as a child, which almost always involved doing some kind of project together (building a treehouse, playing sport, playing a video game and killing the ‘boss,’ and even made-up activities exploring the world). Your partner should be your lover, as well as your best friend, so do things and explore the world with them.

What do you do to maintain your long-term relationship and keep your love fresh and exciting?

In the next post of Part 2: Keep Love, 10 Ways To Surprise Your Partner, I give a multitude of tips on how to surprise your partner with random nice things to keep the love burning.