On a recent plane trip home, I queued up my Netflix download of Chris Rock’s most recent comedy special, Tambourine. If you know anything about Chris Rock, he is one of the most prolific comedians and is always direct, candid, shockingly honest and funny at the same time.
I was prepared to laugh, but what surprised me about Chris’s comedy set was his high level of introspection about his relationship with his now ex-wife who he recently divorced. The relationship advice he offered reminded me that if you look at couples in long-lasting relationships, they generally share these similar traits. In a time where the value placed on love and commitment has been lost, it’s a good reminder of the necessary actions needed to have a relationship with longevity.
These are seven things couples in long-lasting and successful relationships understand:
1. There is no equality in a relationship. Wait a minute before you assume what of you may think equality looks like in your relationship. It isn’t what you may initially think. And this is an important point about how it works best with two people in a relationship.
Think about your favorite band. Each person has a specific role. There is a lead singer, guitar player, drummer, someone who may sing backup, write the music, and so on. But, what makes a great band is each person bringing their best effort to whatever their role is in the group. If one of these individuals doesn’t entirely play their part, the whole band is affected.
Now, apply this principle to your relationship. The reality in any relationship is that you are both there to serve one another. If you are keeping score of what the other is doing or not doing versus focusing on how you can take care of one another, this doesn’t build a happy and long-lasting relationship.
Sometimes, in a relationship, your partner may be out in front and center or need more support. And then at other times in your relationship, you may be front and center. Roles change all of the time in a relationship. Understanding your role and being supportive regardless of what role you are in will strengthen your relationship because each of you plays a significant role and working together leads to greater understanding of one another. One person in the relationship may have more success at a given time. And it is ok because even if you aren’t the person who is directly experiencing the success at that particular time, you both need one another and each plays a significant role. This leads me to the second lesson.
2. Stop competing with one another. Couples who support one another also celebrate each other’s successes. When you compliment and support one another, you can accomplish more and do it quicker.
Root for one another. When one of you has success, share in celebrating their success. What is good for one of you should be good for both of you. If one of you is rising in your career, your achievements, and your accomplishments, let your significant other know they are doing a good job and you are happy for their success and growth. Even if you are not the one on top at that moment, or if you may be having a more difficult time, remember that by being supportive of one another is crucial to nurturing your relationship.
If you notice your partner needs more emotional support or encouragement because they are going through a difficult time, part of not competing is being supportive of them during these difficult times.
I’ve seen couples in relationships in which they continually try to outdo or outperform the other person. At first, it can seem innocent and fun to keep pushing one another. And if it is done in a healthy manner that helps you both work toward a common goal, it can be ok to some extent. But, doing this in the long-term with a constant focus on outperforming one another can wreak havoc on to both parties. What benefits a relationship in entirety is when you genuinely support one another versus competing with one another.
3. Every couple has problems and generally they don’t change over time. Chris joked in his routine that the issues you have at the beginning of the relationship are usually present throughout your relationship. He’s correct. It is the nature of any relationship. You are not going to agree on everything and sometimes you will have moments where have difficulty getting along with one another.
The key to managing these moments is to be willing to forgive and let go. Problems that were surface level in the beginning can intensify as you spend more time with someone and the relationship progresses.
When this happens and you want to give up is to think back to the beginning of your relationship. At the beginning of your relationship, you probably took the approach that you could conquer all no matter what problems the two of you faced. It’s this same perspective and focus you need to have throughout your relationship. Learn to work through your issues and more importantly don’t hold a grudge. Grudges can quickly obliterate even the best relationship.
4. Relationships fall apart when only one person is working on the relationship. When one person takes on everything in the relationship and when I reference everything I’m talking about trying to fix the relationship, be the primary communicator, problem solver, always initiate intimacy, the relationship is doomed from the start.
No one person should be responsible for making a relationship work. Relationships, which are successful, require two working partners committed to building something substantial together. Commit fully or get out of the relationship. If you can’t fully commit you are wasting your time as well as the other person in which you have a relationship.
5. Don’t stop being intimate with your partner. Take care of one another. Intimacy means different things to different people. The book, the 5 Love Languages can be helpful to you understanding your partner’s love language better and the best ways to build intimacy with them.
Each of us has a different way of expressing and wanting to receive love from our partner. Intimacy means different things to different people. When you learn what you and your partner need and communicate this need to one another, it completely changes the dynamic of your relationship. When you are with your significant other, be fully engaged. Be present for them physically, mentally, and emotionally. This includes putting your phone away and actively listening and engaging with them.
6. Someone new isn’t always best for you. The grass tends to look greener on the other side, which is why infidelity frequently occurs when a relationship hits a difficult period. Couples who have successful relationships realize that something new isn’t always right for you. The price of infidelity and broken trust with your partner if you try to reconcile often results in having a partner who responds and acts entirely new towards you. Infidelity can create irreparable damage.
Infidelity is the worse feeling for the recipient and also for the individual who has to rebuild that trust with their significant other. Before venturing out and looking to solve your relationship problems with someone outside of your relationship, take time to evaluate your current situation and see if there is a way to work on what you have built with one another.
Opening up the dialogue with your significant other, addressing problems that are making your relationship stagnant, getting counseling if needed, and focusing on the reasons you love this person can be the reset you need to get your relationship back on par. Walking away is often easier, but putting in the real work of building and cultivating your relationship through a difficult time will make your relationship that much more treasured and valued in the long-run.
7. Long lasting successful relationships require compromise. Two people committed to one another realize that making the commitment to be together for the long-term requires dedicated effort and lots of do-overs.
Successful couples aren’t oblivious to the problems in their relationship. They recognize them and commit to seeing things through. They also realize that a recalibration of your relationship may be needed to help you recognize that everything you need is already right in front of you.