Making it to your one year anniversary is a major feat, and can say a lot about the strength of your relationship. But if you're looking forward to many more anniversaries to come, experts say there are certain
relationship rules to follow and consider living by to keep things strong.
If you're thinking
relationship rules seem a bit rigid or harsh, just think of it more like having standards within your relationship. "We all have to know our bottom line and what we will and will not accept in a relationship," Dr. Lori Whatley, licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. "Sharing them with our partner helps to ensure we are both on the same page and there are no hidden expectations."
The best time to set these rules is after you've
made it through one year together. It's long enough to establish a commitment to each other, but early enough to create healthy relationship patterns. According to Dr. Whatley, that's when things begin to shift. "You start to 'do life' together without so much of the chemical impact of love," she says.
When you're no longer living in your honeymoon period daze, you'll quickly realize that relationships take work. Having rules or standards in place is just part of that as it "helps us to not take a wrong turn and gives us a map for the relationship moving forward," Dr. Whatley says. So if you want your relationship to last, here are some essential "rules" you should try after your first year together.
Share Your Honest Thoughts, Even If It's Not What The Other Wants To Hear
If you held back on expressing your thoughts or opinions in order to keep your relationship peaceful, don't be afraid to be honest. If something about your partner is bugging you, speak up in a kind, and respectful way. "While you may think you're good at hiding your thoughts and maintaining the appearance that everything is fine, your partner may sense otherwise,"
dating expert Kevin Darné, tells Bustle. " Keeping secrets has a way of eroding trust in relationships once someone suspects their partner is hiding something." It's better to be honest and upfront early on than be accused of lying later on.
Be Grateful For The Small Things
Holidays, anniversaries, and special getaways are fun and make for really great memories. But it's just as important, if not more, to be grateful for the small, everyday stuff. "Little gestures like folding the laundry together or shopping for gifts together indicates that you are attuned as a couple," psychotherapist
Simone Sobel, LCSW, tells Bustle. It may not seem like much, but Sobel says, these are actually far more important to keeping romance alive than grand romantic gestures or extravagant gifts.
3. Always Be Accountable For Your Actions
For relationship longevity, relationship expert
Davida Rappaport, tells Bustle that a couple should be accountable for their actions and whereabouts. For instance, it's easy to lose track of time and forget to show up when you said you would. Establishing a rule of accountability, in which you let your partner know that you're running late through a call or text, will make your relationship flow a lot more smoothly. Your partner's feelings won't get hurt, and you won't have to make up excuses. There's nothing more frustrating than being left hanging. "By making sure you can depend upon your partner and they can depend upon you, this will eliminate stress," Rappaport says. "Knowing when someone is running late or is unable to follow through is important."
Always Have A Shared Goal To Work Towards Together
You may have just made it to one year. But it's important to talk about what your relationship is going to look like six months from now, one year from now, or even five years from now. If the future involves a trip or a new apartment, work together as a team to come up with a plan. "Whenever two people feel as though they're on the same team and are relying on one another, it brings them closer," Darné says. "It's also a good idea for couples to have something to look forward to
." That way, you always feel like your relationship is moving forward.
Keep Learning About Each Other
You may think you know everything there is to know about your partner. But as you spend more time with them and grow with them, there are going to be new things to discover. This can be as simple as a change of likes and dislikes, to something bigger like their hopes and fears. "Knowing each other inside and out strengthens the bond of friendship that underlies strong, healthy relationships," Sobel says. This is the type of bond that can help you overcome the inevitable challenges that are likely to come your way.
Prioritize Romance No Matter How Busy Life Gets
When you're in the early stages of your relationship, it's easy to make time in your busy schedule for your relationship. But as time goes on and other things come up, the tendency is to put romance on the back-burner. "It's as if you feel like your mission has been accomplished in love, and now you can place your focus on other priorities," Darné says. But when you're not actively infusing romance into your relationship, it can lead to distance.
The good news is, this is totally preventable. "It's not impossible to continue to have a relationship which is filled with romance, passion, and intimacy," Darné says. "A couple just needs to make it a priority. It's easier to maintain a fire than it is to reignite a spark."
Practice Healthy Conflict Resolution Skills
You may have gone through one year together without any major arguments. But expect it to happen at some point because conflict is inevitable. The important thing here is to practice healthy conflict resolution skills. That includes pushing aside your pride every now and then and allowing your partner to be right. "It's OK to wave the white flag of surrender before things burn out of control during arguments," Sobel says. "You don't have to agree and you don't have to be right. You just have to admit that your relationship comes first and you are not willing to destroy each other over principle."
Recognize That Your Relationship Isn't Perfect
If your first year together has been nothing but relationship goals, don't put a ton of pressure on it to stay "perfect." As Sobel says, "Recognize that every couple has at least one if not more issues that cannot be resolved and that's normal." The key here is to stay "solution-focused." Learning how to compromise and navigate your differences in a healthy way is important. As long as you make an effort to put in the work to solve your issues together, your relationship can be as good as you want it to be.
Keep Having Fun Together
Romance is great for building a deep, emotional bond. But laughter can be just as effective in building intimacy. "Enjoying each other is the key to happiness," Dr. Whatley says. "Boredom is the enemy of love, so it's important to find ways to keep having fun together." This can be anything from trying new activities together to exchanging jokes or fun stories.
Overall, these relationship rules aren't really too hard to follow. Relationships, especially long-term ones, take a lot of work. If you can remember to apply these rules to your relationship, you can have a relationship that lasts.