How to find love and stay in love could easily be the world’s eighth wonder. It’s a wonder people from all walks of life never seem to get tired of trying to understand and master. Truth be told, there is no secret sauce for how to make love last, but there is a common theme–putting in work. If you’re currently in the thick of this love thing, you may know all too well what that means.
One of the ways to put in the work and increase the odds of your love lasting is by having a vision for your relationship. Having something to work towards as a couple can help you grow closer and also help you stay in the ring when the going gets tough.
If you’re ready to be your #RelationshipGoals in 2023, here are some targets you and your partner can consider adding to your list.
Be Intentional About ‘You’ Time
Every couple has different requirements regarding space, but it is undeniably important for everyone. Being able to spend time with yourself is a form of self-love and doesn’t mean you love your partner any less. It’s also not a selfish thing to do, says James Harris, a therapist and owner of Men to Heal, located in Richmond, Virginia.
“A relationship is individuals coming together to become one,” he tells ESSENCE. “Prior to this, you had your ideas and goals, and so did your partner. It’s important to be an individual still when you can. This will also allow you to miss your partner and recharge to strengthen the relationship.”
On that note, talk about how much time you need to yourself and how that space looks for you.
- Would you rather not talk to your partner during your alone time?
- Do you need to go to a different location, like a hotel or city?
- How frequently do you need alone time? How long is it likely to last?
- How can your partner support you?
- Are there any boundaries you need to set so it’s a fulfilling time for you?
Alone time could also mean carving out quality time for friends and family. Whatever it is, communicate your needs and be clear about your expectations. Remember, relationships are about two whole people coming together. Spending time alone is one way to feed your soul, pour into your cup, and show up to your relationship whole.
Have Monthly Check-Ins
Assuming everything is okay in your relationship is a way for small things to become big. To avoid this, consider checking in monthly, says Kasey Scharnett King, marriage therapist, speaker, and coach in Fort Worth, Texas.
“Monthly check-ins are important because you aren’t allowing months or years to pass and your partner isn’t aware of your feelings,” says King.
If you’re unsure how these check-ins should look, it could simply be sitting down over dinner and discussing what went well over the past month and what you may need to work on. Having these conversations regularly can help you build intimacy and is also a form of quality time.
“As a therapist, I have found that fostering honest communication improves vulnerability, honesty, and growth. Couples that feel comfortable opening up to their partner have more fulfilling relationships,” says King.
Love In Your Languages
The love language conversation is no longer new, but it’s still relevant. Loving your partner in their language is one way to keep the love growing in your relationship, so be conscious about doing that in 2023. For anyone unfamiliar with the five love languages or who needs a refresher, they include quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation, gifts, and acts of service.
Many people gravitate towards quality time and physical touch, says King. The latter is a way to show your partner you love them without saying the words.
“Oftentimes, your partner wants to feel love instead of hearing it,” King says. She continues, “Touch is also known to lower stress, increase happiness, and display compassion. Some examples are hugging for five seconds, rubbing your hands through your partner’s hair during tv time, having sex, or holding hands.”
Ask your partner how you’re doing with loving them in their language and vice versa. More specifically, ask them their favorite way for you to love them in their language. So, if they are gifted, they could say, ‘I love it when you bring home my favorite coffee from Starbucks with a personalized message on the cup.’ If they’re a quality time person, they could say, ‘I love that you leave your phone in the other room when we spend time together.’ Their responses should tell you what you can do more of or less of in the coming year.
Offer Mental Health Support
It’s never our job to heal our partners, but we should offer support. Our mental health fluctuates throughout our lives, meaning you may see your partner at both ends of the spectrum. Have a vulnerable conversation about how your mental health has fared this year and what you’d like to work on individually in 2023. Ask your partner how you can support them, and likewise, tell them how you’d like to be supported.
For instance, if you struggled with anxiety this year, you may want to be more aware of your triggers and work on minimizing them next year. Your partner could support you by avoiding behaviors that elucidate your anxiety or trigger you. An example of a trigger you can communicate is, ‘I noticed that when you’re distant with me after a disagreement, it triggers my anxiety.’ An example of the support you could ask your partner for if you struggle with anxiety is meditating or breathing with you when you’re on edge.
Butting heads with your partner is normal; some would argue it’s healthy. A YouGov poll found 30% of American couples argue at least once a week, and 28% argue at least once a month. The important thing is that you disagree respectfully or, as the saying goes, ‘fight fair’. Harding says oftentimes; couples see their partner as the problem instead of seeing the problem as the issue.
“Many people have walked away from relationships due to not knowing how to fight fair,” says Harris.
Evaluate how you and your partner have dealt with conflict this year. What did you do well at, and what needs work? Are you struggling with communicating during a conflict? Could you benefit from a therapist or couples course to help improve your communication during a conflict?
Remember, fighting fair is about adopting a problem-solving mindset together and collaborating with your partner, says Harris.
“Conflicts will happen; it’s a part of life, but knowing how to be respectful and understanding your partner is your teammate is a good goal to have and maintain.”