It’s a new year, which means it’s time for new goals, new resolutions, a new you.
But hopefully the one thing you won’t be trading in this new year is your relationship.
I’m getting to the age where most of my peers are walking down the aisle, where I’m witness to new and blossoming love. And admittedly, as a married woman who just celebrated her sixth wedding anniversary (by working at the hospital for a 12-hour shift, woo-hoo!), I am starting to feel a little jaded about love.
I know the truth about marriage.
That the shiny new presents, the grandiose party, and the blissful honeymoon suite with the in-room hot tub does not a happy marriage make. Relationships take on all sorts of different shapes and sizes these days, with couples choosing not to marry yet live together, or to forge non-traditional family units.
So just what is the key to a lifelong, lasting union? Is it possible to predict if your love has what it takes to last for a lifetime?
1. Trust your gut
Apparently, the real test of a relationship’s longevity is actually incredibly simple. Time reports that a group of scientists measured how happy couples were by simply showing them pictures and asking them to rate them as either “happy” or “sad” after first asking them to look at pictures of their spouses. The couples who took a long time ranking the “sad” pictures had happier unions, while those who quickly identified the sad pictures ending up breaking up. The reason? At some unconscious level, unhappy couples who looked at pictures of their spouses were already in a “sad” mood, and thus could easily and quickly pinpoint the sad pictures.
2. You are a better person with your partner than you are without
I can honestly say that my relationship with my husband has made me a better person. When we first started dating, I was a miserably moody, unconfident, and insecure person and I took out a lot of my feelings on him. These days, I still struggle with those issues, but he has helped me to learn how to “fight fair,” and he has been the rock that I know will never leave.
3. You don’t depend on each other for happiness
While I don’t think this is meant to be confused with the fact that marriage can make people happier, I also fell trap to the thinking early on in my marriage that my title as a “Mrs.” was also my ticket to happiness. I thought for sure that having a husband who loved me would make me the confident, skinny, happy person I longed to be, but lo and behold — that didn’t happen. Marriage is a source of happiness no doubt, but marriage alone cannot make you happy.
4. You don’t depend on each other for happiness
There’s an inherent and underlying danger to the premise of soul mates when you really think about it. After all, if it’s true that we have soul mates, then who are we to take an active part in our relationship? If you’re destined to be, you will be, right? Well, no. Unlike the concept of effortless love that soul mates can portray, choosing a relationship is an entirely different matter. Personally, I love how blogger Hannah puts it, when she declared to the world in a post gone viral that her husband was not her soulmate: “… I delight in choosing to love him every day. I like it better this way, with the pressure on me and not on fate, cosmos, or divinity. I will not fall out of love, cannot fall out of love, because I willingly dived in and I’m choosing daily to stay in. This is my joyous task, my daily decision.”
5. You have realistic expectations
Glamour Magazine reported that one of the easiest and best ways to tell if a relationship will last is if a couple displays realistic images and portrayals about each other and their relationship — meaning, no unrealistic expectations about a life of pure bliss and toilet paper rolls that change themselves. This also means really grasping the concept that people don’t change, and it’s pretty much always a recipe for disaster if you go into a relationship expecting your partner to change for you.
6. You dream about the future together
Not in a way that keeps you from enjoying the present together, of course, but in a way that ensures that you will have a future together. Setting goals together, making plans for the kind of life you want to live with your partner, and checking in along the way helps to keep you connected as you dream together.
7. You can laugh together
So much about a relationship changes over the course of time. Even in the six relatively short years that I have been married, we have changed houses, careers, number of children, and of course, waist sizes. But the one thing that needs to stay consistent through thick and thin, sickness and health, and all that stereotypical marriage vow stuff that is absolutely true, is laughter. If you can find a smile from your partner and a reason to laugh even in the darkest of times, there is always hope.