Friday, April 11, 2008

How to Keep the Love You Find

I admit it, I used to be a serial monogamist. I loved the "hope" that accompanied every new wished-for relationship. Let's be honest, who doesn't love those wonderful first days, weeks, and months when everything is blissfully "perfect."

Anyone can make it through the honeymoon phase of dating because it's a great time. She laughs at your jokes. He calls by Tuesday to ask you out. She thinks that everything you say and do is interesting. He brings you flowers. He feel like a million bucks because every thing he does is great in your eyes. She's glowing and feels special because of the little things you do and say that shows you cherish her. You're both happy and living in a bubble.

But relationships are like electronic gadgets and blenders, they come equipped with limited warranties on parts and labor.

Reality hits your wished-for loving, happy relationship. The bubble bursts. Wouldn't you know it, the 90-day warranty on parts just expired. And you're not too sure what the labor costs are going to be. So you think about what you want to do.

The serial monogamist looks at the labor costs and asks, "is the amount of effort and the return on investment worth it or - is the price too high to pay for this current relationship? Should I just get a new model?"

The partner who wants a long-term relationship asks, "how do I keep the love I've found?"

To answer that question, I surveyed happy couples who have been together for more than a decade. I asked them the secrets to their success and longevity. Although their age ranges were from 20s-70s, they all said the same thing. This is their advice:

  • Like yourself. If you're angry with yourself, you will be angry with who ever is closest to you.

  • Communicate! Communicate! Communicate! Remember that part of communicating is to treat your partner with dignity and respect. When there are chronic power failures in the lines of communication you're doomed.

  • Don't hold grudges. Don't carry around all that baggage.

  • Look at the big picture, at the amount of love there is in the relationship.

  • Balance. A relationship must be give and take. Everything can't be "all one way" all the time. Don't push otherwise you'll lose the other person.

  • Give up control. Give up both the need to control and to always be in control.

  • Give up being right all the time. Say "I'm sorry" even when you're right.

  • Work at it. Don't walk away. It's too easy to leave. It's more challenging to stay and work things out, but it's worth the effort.

  • Genuinely like and appreciate your partner.

  • Keep your heart open. Remember the reasons you fell in love with this person.

  • Keep things new.

  • Keep saying "I love you and how glad I am you are in my life."

If you've been in the trenches for a while, you know that intoxicating and blissful feeling of being in a new relationship. And, I'm sure you've also experienced that dreadful disappointment of dashed expectations when love slips through your fingertips.

So, how do you stop being a serial monogamist and keep the love you find? Follow the advice of happy couples. Stop expecting an ironclad, lifelong guarantee and go for the extended warranty.

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