It’s a popularly known and experienced fact that relationships are tough. They take work and commitment. There are new challenges at every turn, something new to come to terms with. Yes, it’s difficult to make a relationship work, yet it’s worth it.
By putting in the effort and sticking it out, you earn yourself a partner who’s got your back till the end of time. That’s something worth fighting for. But the question is: how do you make a relationship work? What are the dos and don’ts of navigating the many twists and turns of a relationship? Is there a set of rules to play by?
We’re here to help all you relationship newbies out figure out the answers to these questions with insights from psychologist Priyal Agarwal, who is the Founder of StandWeSpeak, a sex education initiative, and works for promoting awareness about sex, relationships, personal well-being, and mental health.
What Are The Most Important Things For A Relationship?
In the popular sitcom, Modern Family Julie Bowen as Claire Dunphy said, “There are dreamers and there are realists in this world. You’d think the dreamers would find the dreamers, and the realists would find the realists, but more often than not, the opposite is true. You see, the dreamers need the realists to keep them from soaring too close to the sun. And the realists? Well, without the dreamers, they might not ever get off the ground.”
This shows that more often than not you’re going to end up with someone completely different than you. So, then, how do you make a relationship work like that? Is love enough to make a relationship work? The truth is, no, love isn’t enough to see a couple through the myriad ups and downs that life throws their way. Love is just the starting point.
Love is saying that you’re ready to put in the effort that’s going to follow. Here are 5 things that are important to make a relationship work:
Communication is the primary way through which you can get to know a person. That’s why, at the beginning of a relationship, there are a lot of conversations discussing all kinds of things. Favorite ice cream flavor, favorite movie, hobbies, etc. It is only after you’ve exhausted the safe topics that things get a bit more serious. After these come the things that people may be ashamed of or afraid of. All the secrets fall under this category.
Another category that comes after you have unraveled most of the layers of each other’s lives and personalities is talking about the relationship. Priyal says, “Open lines of communication are the most important thing in a relationship. Everyone has different expectations from a relationship, the way of expressing love and what they seek from their partners differs from person to person and conveying these is very important.”
This is the part where the limits of communication are tested. Most relationships hit this stage after their 6-month mark when both partners know pretty much everything about each other. Communicating likes and dislikes is the biggest part of making a relationship work. This is especially true if you’re trying to make a relationship work with a narcissist. Setting boundaries becomes extremely important in such a dynamic, without it you’d drown trying to keep the relationship afloat.
Trust in a relationship isn’t something that can be categorically measured, neither can there be any evidence to prove it. You can’t say that we’ve been together for a month now so we have to trust each other. Trust is always a risk, it’s a leap of faith. You can’t wait for someone to justify you trusting them.
You just have to risk it all and hope for the best, which can be especially tough if you’re trying to make a relationship work after cheating. All you can do is work double-time to win your partner’s trust back. If they truly care about you, then they may find it in their heart to forgive you, and eventually, you’ll gain their trust.
Related Reading: 9 Ways To Fix A Relationship After Trust Is Broken
People view relationships as the epitome of vulnerability. You are essentially opening your soul to someone with no guarantee that they will respect it. It’s a big risk! Priyal says, “When you’re vulnerable, you show that you are open to new things. When you try to keep things from your partner and leave them to figure things out on their own, it creates a void in the relationship. Vulnerability is truly a strength because it takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable, especially with the person you love.”
The truth is that your vulnerability might be the key to making your relationship work. Even more so if you’re trying to make a relationship work after cheating. This is because vulnerability shows your efforts are genuine and that is something that you need if you’re trying to start fresh with someone you’ve hurt.
Respect in a relationship is twofold. One it’s about respecting your partner’s boundaries. If they aren’t ready for or aren’t comfortable with something, then you need to accept that.
Priyal says, “If your partner is involving you in the decision-making process and considering your opinion, then it’s a sign that they respect you. Even your refusal needs to be respected as you should have the freedom to speak your mind. If this isn’t the case, then there’s no point being in the relationship.”
The second is respecting them as an individual. A relationship is indeed about teamwork, and as we all know, there is no ‘I’ in a team. But things are a bit different in relationships. Having each other’s back doesn’t mean that you’re aren’t still individuals. You each have your own skills and goals. When they achieve something, you should be proud of their achievement. Respecting their worth as a person, qualities and flaws alike, is very important if you’re trying to make a relationship work again after you’ve hit a rough patch.
“Loyalty is a two-way street. If I expect it from you, you’re getting it from me,” Harvey Specter said this in the series Suites and this sums up what loyalty is. When you’re in a relationship, the first step toward loyalty is exclusivity, which paves the way for commitment. The moment you get exclusive with someone you’re loyal to them.
Generally, this means, sexual fidelity but there’s more to it than just that. There is also supposed to be emotional exclusivity. You’re supposed to be in love with the person you’re loyal to. That love in turn helps you resist external temptation which reinforces your loyalty. This is the foundation of trust in your relationship, which is the base for everything else.
Loyalty can’t be one-sided either, it has to be mutual. A relationship can’t be sustained if one of you feels loyal while the other just does whatever they want. That’s a recipe for disaster. It’s something to keep in mind if you’re trying to make a relationship work after a breakup. If you got hurt the first time around, then be a bit more careful assessing their character next time.
Related Reading: Loyal Relationship – Meaning And Characteristics
How To Make A Relationship Work – 11 Golden Rules
Now that we’ve covered the key things that build the foundation of a relationship, let’s move on to understanding what makes a relationship work. Everyone is always trying to figure out why some relationships work and others don’t. Every relationship is unique just like the people who are in it. It is impossible to know what will make your relationship work but there are a few things that reflect your commitment to the relationship. These will reinforce your partner’s faith in you and their choice to commit to you.
So, here are 11 golden rules that you should experiment around with if you’re trying to make a relationship work:
1. Make an effort to remember things
Relationships are all about memories. Experiences, even the most embarrassing ones, that you share with your partner are what make your relationship stronger. Remembering these and celebrating them is very important when trying to make a relationship work.
While they may seem like exhausting cliches, celebrating relationship milestones like your first date and your 6-month anniversary matter. It’s fine if you can’t remember all these off the top of your head, you can always set a reminder on your calendar. As long as you’re making an effort to remember these important moments, it will make your relationship strong with your girlfriend or boyfriend.
Apart from special moments, you should also remember your partner’s interests, turn-offs and fears. In the beginning, all the cards will be on the table. You’ll get to know all the major things that bother them but these aren’t the only things that you need to remember.
Not every little thing about a person’s personality comes up in conversations, some aspects you will have to learn by observation. Like maybe they don’t like capsicums or maybe they like peanut butter. So, keep an eye out for these types of endearing idiosyncrasies to truly get to know your SO like the back of your hand. This degree of intimacy has the potential to make your relationship work.
Related Reading: How Much Space In A Relationship Is Normal? Balance Is Key!
2. Give each other space
Every relationship begins with the honeymoon phase, where everything is cupcakes and rainbows. You want to see each other constantly and there’s something new to feel every time you’re together. It’s only after this passes that you realize that you need some space from each other and this can be scary. Some people believe that this is a bad thing and that it’s a sign that the relationship is going downhill but this isn’t true.
Wanting space in a relationship is perfectly normal. It is the key to making a relationship work. It’s a sign that things are going well and that you can trust each other even when you’re not together. The difficult part is giving each other space and still being there for one another in times of need. It’s a delicate balance that revolves around understanding and it can take some time to find the sweet spot between space and intimacy that works for you. But hey, if it can make a relationship strong with your girlfriend or boyfriend, then what’s the harm?
3. Take an interest in their life
Mutuality and reciprocation are essential to make a relationship work. “You need to work on adding happiness to your partner’s life, you can’t expect them to make you happy while you sit back and just let them do all the heavy lifting. Both partners need to come together to share that burden and the happiness. Build on your already established foundation together,” says Priyal.
If your partner is the sweetest person in the world and they take care of your needs, then it’s only fair that you do the same for them. This isn’t just about splitting the cheque at the end of a meal, it’s also about giving them the same amount of time and attention that they give to you.
If they’re on your mind all day long, then don’t hide it from them. When you see something and go, “Damn! He or she would go crazy if they saw this!” buy it for them. It isn’t that difficult to reciprocate their efforts, just do what comes naturally to you and don’t fight it. If you’re trying to make a relationship strong with your boyfriend or girlfriend, then this can work wonders.
Related Reading: 12 Warning Signs Your Partner Is Losing Interest In The Relationship
4. Try new things together
If a relationship has hit a slump and you feel like you’ve “lost that loving feeling”, then the best thing to make a relationship work again would be to start trying new things together. Priyal says, “Find out what you like doing together. There are probably things you already enjoy doing together, even so, it doesn’t hurt to widen your horizons. It could be related to food, travel, activities, or even intimacy. There’s always something that you haven’t explored and trying out something new will bring you closer together.” Here are a few things you can try out:
- New restaurants
- Double dates
- A trip together (maybe your first one)
- A new cliche couple’s trend
5. Discuss and re-evaluate boundaries
A big defining part of a relationship is the boundaries you set on it. It creates the comfort zone that every relationship needs to thrive. This is especially true if you’re trying to make a relationship work with a narcissist, you’ll need to give them clear-cut instructions on what works for you and what doesn’t.
After some time though, these boundaries may need to be tweaked. As your relationship grows and there is an increase in trust, loyalty, and comfort, the boundaries may be pushed to accommodate your new dynamic. When you think about it, it’s like buying new clothes for your relationship.
Think about it if you have a rule of no talking about your relationship at work but you get engaged, then that boundary may be a bit useless if you’re walking around with a ring. People will ask who your fiancé is and you’ll tell, then why still keep the relationship a secret? This is an easy example but not all things are this cut and dry. That’s why talking about the boundaries and re-evaluating them is very important if you’re trying to make a relationship work.
6. Decide on a monthly date night
The best thing to do in your relationship, especially after the honeymoon phase ends, is to schedule monthly date nights. Make them fancy and romantic, go all out! You can dress up and eat tasty food or maybe go out for a movie.
These dates will allow you to remember to give each other your undivided attention and catch up on everything that you may have overlooked or missed while busy. Besides, planning these dates together will be your opportunity to spend time together and it will give you something to look forward to when you’re stressed out about work.
Related Reading: 6 Ways To Be More Empathetic In A Relationship According To An Expert
7. Say thank you often
Both partners in a relationship need to put in an equal amount of effort. The relationship cannot be one-sided where one person is happy while the other feels unappreciated. A relationship is like balancing a seesaw straight, so the weight isn’t tipped in one partner’s favor. And acknowledging each other’s efforts is a pretty important rule to get this balance right and make a relationship work.
This is particularly true when you’re trying to make a relationship after some type of major conflict. When you’re trying to make a relationship work after cheating, expressing gratitude is extremely important. If they hadn’t forgiven you, then you would have lost the best thing that ever happened to you. Always remember that you’re not the only one in a relationship that makes sacrifices, and if you wish that your partner would appreciate your efforts, then they probably feel the same way.
8. Spend quality time with each other
Once your relationship gets comfortable and the both of you go back to the other things that are a part of your life, you’ll face the struggle of work-life balance. You’ll have to find a way to give time to each other while handling everything else with just as much efficiency. So, how do you do it? Well, it helps if you start to schedule your love life in the same way that you schedule your work life. It sounds unromantic but the system works.
A schedule will make sure that you spend time with each other and not take one another for granted. This will provide an opportunity for you guys to discuss anything that has been swept under the rug because of your busy schedules. It will help prevent problems from festering and later turning into a catastrophic fight. This is an essential rule if you’re trying to make a relationship work after a breakup. A little bit of candor will prevent you from making the mistake that led to your break the first time around.
9. Don’t take the sex for granted
Physical intimacy is a big part of a relationship. Whether it’s the first time or you’ve been doing it for a while, it holds a special meaning. If your sexual compatibility is off, then your relationship can get awkward but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed. Address the issues that arise in the bedroom. Be it shyness, discomfort, stress, or even anxiety, talk it out. Discuss the things that work and those that don’t, it’s the only way to make a relationship work again.
When you’ve been together for a long time, sex becomes a given. It just happens whenever and that makes it dull. When you’ve hit this sort of a slump, find new ways to spice things up. Don’t take your sex for granted, remember the times when it used to be exciting and try to go back to that.
10. Take time for yourself
Priyal says, “People need to understand that loving yourself comes before being able to love others. Their own glass of love needs to be full before they seek out something more from someone else because the essence of a relationship is not to seek out a person who can complete you but it’s about give and take. It’s about sharing what you already have with someone else.”
Relationships need to grow over time, and for this, the people in the relationship need to grow too. You need to take time for yourself so that you can do something that you enjoy. This could be anything from going to a spa to enjoying or hanging out with your friends. These things will help you relax and be yourself. You don’t need to do everything together if you’re trying to make a relationship work. Sometimes you need some downtime of your own.
Related Reading: How To Love Yourself And Your Body Irrespective Of Society
11. Don’t shy away from conflict
People in relationships are always afraid of fights. They’re worried that a single fight will destroy their relationship. But fights are nothing to be afraid of. They’re an outlet that can guide you toward solutions to your relationship problems.
Priyal advises, “Focusing on emotions and the source of the feelings that come to the surface in fights is very important. Understanding where you’re coming from and explaining it to your partner can help solve most conflicts. Don’t blame or victimize, focus on expressing yourself clearly. If you’re on the other end, then focus on listening with an open mind.”
If you talk, then eventually you’re going to stumble onto something that you and your partner don’t agree on. So, what do you do, stop talking? No. Conflict is a part of the relationship especially because you and your partner are not clones. If you’re worried about not being able to recover from the effects of your fight, then there is always counseling.
We have some of the best counselors here at Bonobology to help you navigate relationship conflicts and resolve them to the best of your abilities. Don’t run away from conflicts. You’re two different people with individual opinions and isn’t that why you like them?
So, these are the 11 expert-recommended golden rules that can help you make your relationship work. Remember trying to make a relationship work is difficult. There will always be mistakes, you’re both humans after all. What matters is that you discuss and work things out with each other. We hope this helped and all the best!
No, love on its own isn’t enough to make a relationship work. There has to be respect, trust, and communication along with love. All of these together make a relationship work.
Making a relationship last takes effort. You have to be observant and considerate of each other’s feelings. You can neglect the things that they are excited about. Appreciating each other’s efforts is the most important part of the relationship.