The first year of a relationship is full of sweet, romantic times, but it's also full of opportunities to set a good standard for how you want to act in your relationship. If the two of you experience certain moments in the first year of your relationship, that can be a great sign that it will be one that will stand the test of time, according to a relationship expert.
Nobody has a perfect life, and it's not realistic to expect your relationship to be without its bumps and disagreements. But each potential issue is an opportunity to set a good precedent. "Research shows that people unconsciously look for behavior patterns to follow, and once a pattern is established, they tend to follow it unconsciously," Dr. Tina B. Tessina, PhD, a psychotherapist specializing in relationships and author of Dr. Romance's Guide to Finding Love Today, tells Bustle. "Think about when you change jobs or homes, and how difficult it is for the first couple of weeks to remember to drive in the new direction, and you’ll get an idea of how strong patterns are," she says. "If you understand how habit patterns develop, how strong they are, and what to do about them, you can see mistakes as they happen, or even before you make them, and change what you’re doing."
Here are some moments in the first year of a relationship that point to a long future together, according to a relationship expert.
1. You Work Past A Fight
You might not expect that fighting has a place in a list of moments that mean your relationship will last, but it's truly a powerful indication of the longevity of the connection. "Every problem that arises and you can talk about and resolve strengthens your relationship," Tessina says. "Regular weekly talks (I call them 'state of the union' discussions) keep the problems minor, the resentment level down, and the communication open, so that there is time and space for intimacy," she says. Over the course of a long, healthy relationship, you're bound to have a number of disagreements. Having established the ability to move past them speaks volumes for a successful future.
2. You Get Through A Lull In Your Sex Life
In the beginning of a relationship, you probably have a lot of desire for your partner physically. But as the first year comes to a close, there might have been times when you and your partner weren't quite clicking sexually. How you handle this can say a lot about your relationship's long-term success. "The skills couples need to keep intimacy alive in a long-term relationship differ from new relationship intimacy skills, and they're not easy to learn, because people don't talk about them," Tessina says. If you and your partner worked together to find ways to shake up your time in the bedroom, that's a sign that you're able to make it past that difficult hurdle, and probably will be able to in the future.
3. You Begin To Appreciate The Simple Things
Thanks to movies, you might have a habit of holding your partner's shows of romance up to the standard of those in The Notebook or To All the Boys I've Loved Before. While romantic love letters or grand gestures are sweet, the moment that you begin to realize how important the tiniest shows of affection are to you is key to setting the tone for a long-term relationship. "Basically, couples need to lower their expectations of romance and glamour and raise the level of fun they have together," Tessina says. Maybe you and your partner have found that a wild game of laser tag is more your speed than a candlelit dinner.
4. You Embrace Cheesy Romance
"Today’s popular culture is cynical and 'cool’ — expressions of love are often looked on as embarrassing and awkward," Tessina says. But the moment that you and your partner embrace a "who cares" attitude when it comes to what other people think about your relationship is a solid indication that your love will stand the test of time. Of course, it's important to listen if your trusted friends or family members have concerns about your partner. But fully accepting all of the unique, quirky ways that you and your partner show each other love is a great thing for your relationship. Whether that means having a corny inside joke or speaking to each other in silly voices, embrace the weird.
5. You Learn To Truly Listen To Each Other
No matter how much you love your partner, it can be easy to have an instinctive negative response when they try to tell you what to do. But if you and your partner can figure out how to genuinely, deeply listen to each other in the first year, that's a great sign that your relationship can last. "Instead of replying negatively, by saying 'That won't work' or 'We can't do that,' try listening and thinking for a few seconds more," Tessina says. "You may find out your initial response changes, and at any rate, listening and understanding is not the same as agreeing." When you take a little extra time and empathy to think about what they're expressing, you'll have an easier time of coming to reasonable compromises.
6. You Find A Common Sense Of Humor
Maybe your partner falls into a fit of giggles with corny puns, but you can't stop laughing at silly memes. No matter what your individual sense of humor is, if the two of you have a moment when you find a common inside joke, that can be incredibly beneficial. "If something frustrating is happening, try easing the tension with a bit of humor," Tessina says. "After a difficult interaction in a store, on the way out, you could say, 'That went well' with a touch of irony," she says. Or, if you're both arguing about who needs to do the dishes, try putting on a Disney song and turn washing up into a silly singing session. Just make sure that your jokes aren't at your partner's expense, and you'll be sure to have a great way to lighten the mood when things get tough.
7. You Commit To A Regular Date Night
No matter how busy you are with work, friends, and errands, it's essential to put aside regular time each week to dedicate to the relationship, Tessina says. You might think of adopting a regular date night as something that's more habitual than romantic, but being intentional about time spent together can be so important for your long-term bond. Maybe this means a standing date at your local movie theater, or a commitment to go bowling together once a week. Whatever activities you and your partner love, it's important to do them regularly to celebrate and appreciate each other. You can also include a "state of the union" type of talk on these dates, during which the two of you can discuss any problems in the relationship so that you can go ahead and address them, Tessina says.
8. You Become Friends With Their Friends
You might not love every single one of your partner's friends, but the moment that you begin to really bond with their buddies is a great sign that your relationship will be a lasting one. In addition to telling each other how much you love each other, you and your partner should praise each other in front of your respective friends, Tessina says. For example, if your partner's pals are over, tell them something like, "Did you hear? [Partner] got a huge promotion. I'm so proud of them." Compliments like this, when you genuinely mean them, will help show your partner's protective friends that you're there to stay.
If, during the first year, you and your partner find yourselves experiencing many of these moments, that's a wonderful sign that the relationship could be a long one. But the important moments can be different for different couples, so don't worry too much if every one of these things don't happen for you.