How to Have a Long Term Relationship
Part 1 Putting Your Relationship to the Test
Start a casual relationship first. If you’re single and want to settle down, it’s important that you not rush things. It can take a while to meet people, let alone meet the right people for starting a long term relationship with, so try to take it slowly at first and let things progress at their own pace. This will work differently for every relationship, so work at your own pace.
- It’s not usually a good idea to discuss things like marriage and children right off the bat when you meet someone you’re interested in. For some people, especially older couples, this can work out fine, it’s not always the best way to get to know someone.
- Your goal for the first days, weeks, and months of a relationship shouldn’t be settling down, it should be getting to know the person, the real person, that you’re seeing. This allows you to determine if you want to settle down with this particular person or if you should look elsewhere–if your goal is to settle down rather than getting to know them, you might compromise on important beliefs or sell yourself short all in the name of having a long-term relationship. For this reason, it’s usually best to keep long-term conversations out of it, at least for a couple of months.
- Introduce your partner to your friends and your family after a couple of months and wait until later to ask what they think about the person you’re seeing. If everyone goes on and on about how happy you seem together, how good you seem to be for each other, and other compliments, take it as a good sign.
Ask your friends and family about your relationship. It’s true that love is often blind, and it can make us ignore obvious faults in potential long-term partners, things that your friends and family might be able to pick up on more easily. It can be helpful to get a second opinion from trusted friends and loved ones whom you trust.
- Remember, it’s still your relationship, and these decisions are ultimately up to you. If your friends don’t like your partner, that doesn’t necessarily mean more than that they’re incompatible, as long as you’re happy together.
Discuss your desires for the relationship after it has settled. If you’re with someone and are thinking about committing to a long term relationship, it’s important that you first discuss whether or not your partner is interested in one, and get all the cards out on the table. There are lots of different types of relationships, expectations about what a relationship means, and ideas about commitment, and the best way to learn how your partner feels is to ask.
- Ask your partner a simple probing question, like “How far do you see this relationship going?” Be prepared for all variety of answers.
- What does “long term” mean to you? A couple of months? Until the first fight? Or marriage? Kids?
- Think about scenarios that will help you consider your commitment. What if your partner got a job on the opposite coast? Would you want to move? Under what circumstances would you want to break up?
Share your personal life goals with your partner. What do you want out of your life? Where do you want to be in ten years? What kind of a career do you envision for yourself? These kinds of things can get in the way of long-term relationships, or can at least make your compatibility with someone more challenging.
- Recognize incompatibility when it arises. If you want to travel extensively in the next couple years and your partner doesn’t, that’s something you’ll need to talk about. Relationships that manipulate you into doing things that you don’t want to do are not healthy.
- There’s a difference between being ready for a long term relationship and being ready for a long term relationship with this person. A lot of times, settling down sounds nice, secure, and attractive, but is it right with this person? Right now? That’s something to think about and talk about with your partner.
Try going on a trip together. One good, quick way to find out whether or not your relationship has the potential to succeed is in going on a trip together. Trips can be stressful, and will force you to spend lots of time together at once, so it can be a nice way to see whether or not your relationship will stand up to the stress of it. You’ll see your partner at their worst, probably. Will you still like them afterward?
- It doesn’t have to be a big expensive trip abroad to tell you what you need to learn. Just plan a weekend trip camping to see how it goes, or go on a short weekend road trip to visit some family.
Try living together, when the time is right. If you think your partner might be “the one,” it can be good for a lot of couples to try living together for a while before they commit to marriage, or to a more long-term arrangement. Like going on a trip together, living together helps you to see what your partner is like when they’re tired, grumpy, hungover, and other low points. If you can still love your partner when they’ve got the flu or a stomach bug, you’ve got something really special.
- Alternatively, for some couples keeping separate spaces is one of the secrets to long-term success. It’s true that it’s important to have your own space. Nowhere does it say that living together is a requirement of a good relationship.
Try a pet before you try a child. Some couples make the mistake of thinking that having a child together can help to revive a failing relationship. This is a serious mistake. And likewise, just because you may be ready to have a child yourself doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s right for you to have a child with this person at this time. Want to find out how you’ll parent with a potential partner? Try getting a pet that requires “co-parenting” first.
- Even something as small and as low-commitment as a bird, hamster, or rabbit can help you to see your partner’s level of commitment to another life and another member of your twosome. Are they willing to compromise and love, selflessly?
- Keep your current living situation in mind! In some cases, getting a pet together if you’re not in a stable enough environment can be irresponsible and foolish. Don’t get a pet unless you have the time and resources to devote to it.
Part 2 Settling Down for the Long Term
Commit to your partner. If, after putting your relationship to the test, you think that you’ve got a keeper on your hands, it might be time to commit to something serious. When you’re ready, let your partner know that you’re committed to the relationship and that you’re willing to work on it and to try your best to keep it healthy. Every relationship will be different, so talk with your partner.
- Commitment may be as simple as being open about an “exclusive” arrangement, or as serious as getting engaged, depending on what you’ve discussed with your partner. But committing and choosing to work on your relationship, to make compromises to serve that relationship, is an important step.
- Generally, it’s expected that a long-term relationship means that you’re not seeing other people, though this is by no means true of all relationships. Don’t take anything for granted. Check with your partner.
Be honest with your partner. One of the most important parts of a long-term relationship has to do with honesty. If you’re going to commit, you owe your partner honesty, at the least, in terms of your desires for the relationship and your happiness. If you’re frustrated about something, share, and listen in return.
- The other side of the honesty coin is being a good listener. You need to be there for your partner and be willing to listen to them open up. Make yourself available.
- Again, what “honesty” means will be different for every couple. Is it absolutely necessary for you to divulge the gritty details of your past to every partner, if you think it might jeopardize your relationship? Only you can answer that question. If it’s keeping you from happiness, tell. If not, consider keeping it quiet.
Work through the rough patches. One of the difference between short flings and long term relationships is how you negotiate fights with your partner. A fight doesn’t necessarily mean that a relationship is over. It just means that you’ve come up against something that you’re either going to work through, or come to terms with as a potential roadblock to your happiness with this person. Either way, fights are important to deal with and get past.
- Address problems as soon as they arise. The worst thing that can happen is ignoring warning signs when they arise to try to keep your relationship at an even keel. It’s important to confront things sooner rather than later.
- It’s important to recognize the difference between common little arguments that you can work through and serious problems that you can’t. If you have a tendency to fight about the dishes, that’s one thing, but if your partner constantly criticizes you, or makes you feel inferior after a conversation about dishes, that’s something else.
Make mutual friends. It’s a common joke: your friend gets a long term partner, and then you never see them again. The longer a relationship gets, the harder it can be to make time for socializing in addition to the work necessary to maintain your relationship. To make it easier on yourself, try to do both at the same time. Make friends together and socialize as a couple.
- It’s important to avoid situations in which you only spend time with your partner’s friendship group. If your partner has lots of friends, that’s great, but make new friends together. If you break up, it’s tough to feel like you lost all your friends as well.
- Try finding couples that you enjoy hanging out with, as well as single friends whom you enjoy the company of.
Set mutual goals. If you’ve discovered that your life goals line up with your partner, start setting mutual goals for yourselves and for your relationship. What is your ultimate ambition for your relationship and for yourself? Where do you hope to be next year? Where do you hope to be in the next five years? Figure out what you need to be doing to grow your relationship and your life together.
- In the early stages, this might mean things like saving money together, finishing school, securing a career, and other steps to get yourself ready for settling down more comfortably.
- In later stages, this might mean things like marriage and kids, starting to invest your money, and other family-oriented goals.
Part 3 Keeping Your Love Alive
Tell your partner you love them. Sounds obvious, right? It’s good to remember that if you love your partner, you need to say so every now and then. It’s very important that a burgeoning long-term relationship be built on love and trust, and you need to let both your actions and your words communicate that. Say those three words and say them often.
Do things together. While it might seem easy, it’s important for couples in long term relationships to make that relationship a priority, taking time out of your schedule with friends and family to do things with your partner. The longer your relationship gets, the more difficult this can become. Make the effort.
- You don’t have to do expensive or things or go on exotic dates to keep your relationship fresh. Going out to dinner and movies is nice, but it’s also great to go hiking together, or give each other massages, or spend a night gaming together. Time spent being active together is good.
- While it might seem unromantic, it can sometimes be necessary to schedule time to do things with your partner in a long term relationship to remain intimate with one another, and keep your emotional connection alive. Schedule weekly date nights, or monthly weekends away.
Be good, giving, and game. Savage Love columnist and author Dan Savage coined the term “GGG” to refer to a quality in partners common to good long-term relationships: the trait of being “good, giving, and game.”
- Being good means acting in a way that has your partner’s best interest at heart. You have to be good to your partner at all times.
- Being giving means going the extra mile to make your partner happy. Give a part of yourself to your partner, sharing your interests and your life with them. Be selfless when you’re with your partner.
- Being game means being up for things you might normally not be excited about. It’s easy to be a stick in the mud about things you’re inexperienced or uninterested in, but if it would make your partner happy, try to be up for it. Could be fun.
Make your relationship spontaneous. It’s easy for long-term relationships to become predictable very quickly. You go to work or school, you come home, you see the same friends, you go the same places, you watch the same shows. It can get boring, and that boredom can sour you on the relationship. Make the effort to keep things spontaneous.
- You might already know each other well, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep going on dates. Make the time to go out and have fun with each other. Keep your relationship fun and special.
- Surprise your partner every now and then by making special plans without them knowing. Even things as simple as cooking dinner or cleaning up the kitchen without being asked can score some points. It’s little things that make the difference.
Spend some time doing your own thing. As important as it is to keep your relationship active and alive, it’s also important to spend time independent of your partner, hanging out with your own friends and indulging your own interests. Not everything needs to involve your partner.
- Have your own space, especially if you live together. Even if it’s just your own desk or night stand, it’s important to keep a little space for yourself.
- Have your own friends and make plans with them independently. If your partner doesn’t like you to hang out with your own friends periodically, that’s a problem that needs to be discussed. Both partners deserve to have their own friends and spend time with them.