If you're in a long-term relationship — or just a serious relationship — and things are going well, then you probably wish that they'll always be that way. In fact, if you've been with someone a long time it can be difficult to imagine what would happen if things go wrong between you. It's not unusual to worry about these things and to wonder how you can always keep your relationship strong.
"My mother, my first and most prominent mentor, used to say, 'Smart people don't get bored, they get curious,' which aligns with zen psychotherapy," zen psychotherapist and neuromarketing strategist Michele Paiva tells Bustle. "A Buddhist mind is a curious mind." So you need to start thinking about what you love about your relationship, about what makes your relationship tick, and the best way to safeguard that for the future. Because the best offensive is a good defensive — before problems in your relationship start, you can make sure your relationship is strong enough to deal with them. Hell, it might keep some problems from coming up at all.
The truth is, there's never a guarantee. But there are steps you can take to make your relationship much stronger. Strong enough to deal with anything that comes your way. So here are seven ways to bulletproof your relationship, because complacency is a relationship killer:
1. Nip Boredom In The Bud
Boredom and complacency have this horrible inertia which means that, once they hit, it's easy to get stuck in them for a long time. So at the first signs of boredom, take action. "Plan something together," life coach Kali Rogers Kali Rogers tells Bustle. "Just like people need promotions in their work in order to feel challenged and rewarded, couples need to feel that same adrenaline rush in a relationship." Plan something, try something new, whatever works for you— just make the effort.
2. Keep Your Communication Game Strong
And it's not just about being honest, although that's obviously important, it's about active listening. Couples who are active listeners fare way better in the long haul. "[They] listen to what their partner says, rather than get defensive without understanding the partner’s point of view or where they’re coming from," Janet Zinn, a New York City–based couples therapist, tells Bustle. As soon as your partner feels you're not really listening, resentment, and distance can build.
3. Touch Base
You might assume that you know each other so well that you can tell when things are OK or not. Don't be so sure. Touching base is crucial. Sure, about your relationship generally, but also just throughout the day. "Couples try to get each other’s attention throughout the day, whether it’s for support, conversation, interest, play, affirmation, feeling connected or for affection,” relationship coach and therapist Anita Chlipala tells Bustle. “Each of these moments is an opportunity to connect with your partner. A person should look for someone who responds to them, or at least acknowledges them when they try to get their attention, because it shows that they are meeting your emotional needs —or at least trying to.”
4. Stay Independent
Not only do you need to have time to have separate hobbies, interest, and lives, don't forget to make time just for you. “Taking time for ourselves may seem selfish, as though we're avoiding our partner,” clinical hypnotherapist, author and educator Rachel Astarte, who offers transformational coaching for individuals and couples at Healing Arts New York, tells Bustle.
“In reality, brief periods of solitude recharge our soul batteries and allow us to give even more to our partners and to the relationship itself.” Being alone makes you a stronger half of a relationship, not a weaker one.
5. Get In Time With Friends And Family
Spending time with your friends and family isn't just fun, it's nourishing. In fact, especially if you're a straight woman, spending time with your girlfriends gives you something that you just don't get in your relationship. "It's a social thing – a gender role that our culture has perpetuated," Erika Martinez, Psy.D., licensed psychologist from Envision Wellness tells Bustle. "A lot of times, women are taught to give and to nurture. There is this underlying, unspoken concept from previous generations that you shortchange your husband and your family if you practice self-care. But that idea is changing. Women are realizing they become better mothers, wives, employees, etc. if they do this for themselves."
6. Quality Time Over Quantity Of Time
Especially if you've been together a long time, you may be guilty of the relationship zone-out. Whether it's 'phubbing'— ignoring your partner for your phone — or just existing together rather than really being together, it can be a problem. While you should be able to be silent and relaxed with your partner, you need quality time too. Make sure you're getting time for date nights, shared activities, and really spending time together.
7. Keep Flirting
Flirting is so important in a relationship, for a lot of reasons. "Couples who stop flirting are couples who stop anticipating," Certified Relationship Coach Chris Armstrong tells Bustle. "Things go blasé and what was once an unpredictable stroll is now an expected lull." Firstly, it keeps the sexual energy going— and a healthy, long term relationship needs a healthy sex life. But even more than the sex side, it helps you be playful and keep the spark alive with each other, which shouldn't disappear just because you've been in a relationship for a long time. A healthy flirt will help your sex life and your connection.
You can't guarantee that you and you partner will be happy forever, but there are steps you can take to bulletproof your relationship. Keep these them in mind during disagreements and you'll be in a much better place to tackle everything that comes your way.