The first year of your relationship can clue you into how your relationship is going to be long-term. Making it to the one-year mark with someone isn't always easy. There are so many uncomfortable things you have to go through together to make sure you're equally in it for the long haul. According to experts, there are some essential things to do in the first year of a relationship if you want it to last.
"Couples often spend a great deal of time attending to the reasons why relationships fail, but spend too little time thinking about how they can make new relationships succeed," Dr. Michael Reitano, physician in residence at sexual health startup Roman, tells Bustle.
Things like chemistry and intense sexual attraction can only get you so far. Old-school relationship advice that tells you to be unavailable in order to create more intrigue may seem interesting to some people. But that isn't going to make your relationship last long-term.
"At the very core, you can likely tell that your relationship will last long-term if there's a safe space between you to be vulnerable and open," Daniela VillaRamos, relationship expert and founder of Once Upon a Vow, tells Bustle. It may not happen overnight. It may not happen in the first month or even three months into your relationship. If you work toward opening yourself up to your partner over the first year, VillaRamos says you can have intimacy, deep trust, respect, and appreciation for each other.
But that's just the first thing. So here are some other things you might want to do in your first year, if you want your relationship to last.
Set Realistic Expectations For Your Relationship
Everyone goes into relationships with expectations. While some relationship expectations are good to have (i.e. a well-balanced partnership), others can hurt your relationship in ways you may not realize. So if you want your relationship to last, Caleb Backe, Health and Wellness Expert for Maple Holistics, tells Bustle, you need to "sacrifice the ideal" relationship before your first anniversary. "You will never have the ideal partner," Backe says. "You need to sacrifice the idea of the perfect partner, in order to make the most of the ongoing relationship with your actual partner. Once you are able to forget that image of an ideal, you will be able to grow stronger, since you won’t be comparing and contrasting all the time."
Make It A Habit To Try New Things Together
Keeping the spark alive isn't something you really worry about during the first year of your relationship since everything is still so new. But in order to avoid getting into relationship ruts in the future, make a habit out of trying new things together. "Oftentimes people in relationships will become too comfortable and as a result, the sparks will begin to die," Daniels says. "It’s important to keep things interesting in the relationship so it always feels new and exciting." You don't need to wait until things start to get "boring." If making the effort to try new things together is something you do as a couple, that habit will keep your relationship fresh for a long time.
Clear Out Any Old Unnecessary Baggage
"Prior to entering into any serious long-term relationship, do the work to clear out your emotional baggage," Avilone Bailey, Relationship Expert and Emotional Relief Catalyst, tells Bustle. Many of us enter into new relationships with baggage from exes or even childhood. If you want your relationship to make it over that one-year mark, you need to clear out anything that holds you back from fully loving your partner. As Bailey says, it's all about having the best foundation possible in order to have a mutually satisfying and long-lasting relationship.
Take The Time To Explore Your Partner's Interests
Putting in the effort to really know and understand your partner is important during the first year of your relationship. "Take the time to get to know what your partner is interested in even if it's something you're not," Daniels says. "You want them to feel like you are putting in the effort and that you care." You don't have to pretend that you like a certain band or activity in order to get closer together. It's not about that. It's about being curious about your partner and making them feel like their interests matter to you.
Create A Daily Ritual Where You Find Time To Connect
It's not only important to communicate when you have issues. Making time for each other to connect and just talk each day is essential. "This doesn’t have to be something grand," licensed marriage and family therapist, Heidi McBain, MA, tells Bustle. "Just sitting down for a meal together or talking on the phone about your day can help you feel closer to one another." According to her, spending time together every day can make a huge difference in the quality of your relationship long-term.
Accept Your Partner's Quirks
"No one wants to go into a relationship getting critiqued for all their quirks," VillaRamos says. "It can sometimes feel like the person you care about is trying to change you, not necessarily help you grow into a better human being." So if you really want to make it work in your relationship, it's essential to accept that your partner's quirks are just part of what makes them special, even if that means they annoy you from time to time. If anything, VillaRamos says you can always address a quirk or action that bugs you in a respectful way. "You just need to learn how to roll with the punches," she says. "Some people will never remember to close the kitchen cabinets, some people will always fall asleep while watching a movie, but if you're choosing to stay in this relationship, you need to accept them as they are, quirks and all."
Define Important "Relationship Terms"
"By the time you are engaged in a full-time, committed relationship you MUST sit down and discuss how each of you define certain words," Todd and Diana Mitchem, Relationship Coaching Experts tell Bustle. "We cannot stress this enough." For instance, what does "love" mean to you? What about "commitment" or "sex"? "For example, if you define sex as a quickie with a romantic vibe, but your partner defines sex as long, romantic love-making with multiple orgasms, you will both find yourselves in a twisted mess of hurt feelings and frustration," the Mitchems say. So by the first year of your relationship they suggest defining the following terms: sex, love, romance, financial success, passion, commitment, respect, and infidelity.
Find Ways To Keep Your Individuality
It's so easy to get swept up into the newness of being as part of a couple. But if you want your relationship to last over the one-year mark, it's super important to keep your sense of individuality. Don't lose yourself to your relationship. "Often times, we're so over-the-moon happy with the person we found that over time we expect them to be everything for us completely forgetting that we had a life outside of that love bubble," VillaRamos says. "If you give each other a little space to be the individuals you each fell for, chances are you'll continue falling in a little bit deeper."
Discuss Your Love Languages
How does your partner give and feel love and affection? If you want your relationship to last, you should be familiar with Dr. Gary Chapman's idea of the five love languages by your first anniversary. "Read, discuss and thoroughly understand what the five love languages reveal," Bailey says. She suggests writing down yours and sharing it with your partner. Describe specific examples so your partner is clear on what you mean and have your partner confirm their understanding of your love languages so you're both on the same page. "Always agree to check in with each other at least monthly to see how this aspect of the relationship is going," she says.
Maintaining a relationship long-term takes a ton of effort. But if you can do these ten things by your first anniversary, you're off to a really great start.