Being in a relationship for a long time can be so rewarding and so... tough, at times. It's too simplistic to say that there are some sure-fire long term relationship secrets, because every couple is different. But one thing is for sure: relationships change over time. And you need to learn to change with them, and be comfortable with the fact that they change. Part of that is realizing that it's completely normal— every relationship looks different a year in than in the honeymoon phase. It's nothing to worry about. A lot of the change are signs that you're more comfortable with each other and feeling more free to be yourself— in all your toe-picking, Beyoncé-lip syncing glory.
At first you may be hiding the fact that on Sundays you don't get out of your cookie monster onesie, but pretty soon it'll all be out in the open (I like establish this early by wearing said onesie on the first date and during the first sexual encounter). You gotta do you.
So as things change don't stress about them, just think of them as relationship improvements. And remember that it happens to everyone. Here are seven ways all relationships change over time:
1. You Get Grosser
Let's be real. Going to the bathroom with door open, farting in front of each other, just being desperately un-showered together. There are so many gross things couples do, and the longer you're together the weirder it gets.
2. You Stop Flirting... But Shouldn't
Obviously as relationships go on things change, and one of those things is the flirting that was so common earlier in a relationship. I mean, you're together now, so what's the point of enticing? Don't be fooled: it's still really important. It may take a while to master flirting in long term relationships, but it'll help keep the romance alive.
3. The Sex Changes
But that doesn't mean it gets worse. In fact, one of the reasons I've never been into one night stands and more into friends with benefits is that sex gets better as you get to know each other. The same is true for sex in relationships, but with added romance. Don't be scared of it changing, just learn how to capitalize on it. As author and relationship expert Kate Figes says:
"There are different qualities to sex at different stages in a long relationship: first, passion; the urgency of reproductive sex; snatched sex in the early years of parenthood; then the slower intimacy of midlife onwards. But our culture presents only one type as being valid: youthful, vigorous, usually penetrative. It is possible to maintain a happy sex-life for decades with the same person."
4. You Get Used To The Family
At the beginning of the relationship meeting the family is overwhelming and often intimidating. But at some point, you get used to them. Maybe they feel like your second family, or maybe they feel like a battle zone, but either way, it becomes old hat. The relationships are complicated, Irma Kurtz recommends: "keep yours smooth by remembering birthdays and anniversaries, by butting out of family disputes". Sounds safe to me.
5. You Learn To Fight And To Listen
The first fight you have is the end of the world. You can start questioning the whole relationship. But eventually, if you make it to the long term, you realize that fighting is completely natural, even good for a relationship. You learn ways to do it constructively, how to listen, and, most importantly, learn to admit you're wrong. It's good for you as a partner and as a person.
6. You Learn All Each Other's Stories
Early dating is all about getting to know everything about each other. But over time you may realize all of those amazing and hilarious anecdotes that won you over are now just stories you know by heart. It's nothing to worry about and happens to everyone. The solution? Go on and make some new ones.
7. You Become OK Spending Time Apart
The honeymoon phase is when a lot of people want to disappear into the relationship. People want to spend all of their time together and bond, bond, bond. But as relationships go on you realize that's not sustainable, it's healthier to enjoy time away from each other. It's not a sign your relationship is waning, it's actually shows your being smart and how comfortable you are.
Want more relationships coverage on Bustle? Check out our latest video on what it's like to be a bridesmaid for hire.