For many, long-lasting love is the goal. The kind that still sends you swooning after years or decades together. In fact, as a sex therapist, a lot of the clients I see find themselves wishing they were right back where the relationship started. When everything was exciting and intense and passionate. When you didn’t necessarily think about healthy relationship expectations because everything just felt… right.
Perhaps you had sex every day.
Felt completely consumed by each other.
Maybe even missed the other person when they went to the bathroom(!).
Your feelings were big and expansive, and perhaps overwhelming – feelings which you kind of want to return to.
There’s nothing wrong in wanting it to be this way. And you shouldn’t feel bad if you sometimes feel like you want to go back to that constant state of euphoria with your partner. I mean — wouldn’t we all if we had the choice?
Finding “the one” and living together happily ever after is a fairly widespread ideal, especially in the western world.
But ideals are, per definition, unattainable. Looking to reach that ideal of constant euphoria and butterflies galore may, therefore, lead to a crisis in your relationship.
Wanting that ideal isn’t bad — but believing it should be a constant in your life leads to both of you feeling like there’s something missing. And perhaps, worst of all, leads you to believe you shouldn’t be together anymore (when there’s nothing wrong in the first place)!
This is where our expectations come in and why they’re so important to cultivating a great, strong relationship.
Even if constant butterflies aren’t necessarily the goal – you and your partner can learn how you can make your relationship last and thrive over time, with the reservation that what you’re striving for is a realistic idea of relationship.
Some researchers, among them John Gottman, calls this: striving towards a good enough marriage. And, in reality, that’s perhaps where we should all attempt to set the bar (at least for the everyday).
A good enough relationship is one where you still want to be with your partner after years or decades together. A relationship where genuinely still enjoy your time together.
In order to maintain realistic expectations of yourself, each other and the relationship as a whole, you continuously have to evaluate your ideas and attitudes.
You need to ask yourself why you want things to be a certain way, and if those goals are desirable in every situation.
As a clinical sexologist and sex coach, I help clients work towards eliminating possible weaknesses in their relationships and ramping up their relationships for future challenges.
Because one thing’s for certain – no matter how much in love you are now or perhaps how unstable your relationship is at the moment – things are constantly changing. And the change may work in both directions!
If you’ve asked yourself how people make a relationship last over time – you’re not alone. That is, indeed, the million-dollar question.
Everyone wants to know how to do it.
There are a few important principles that govern the durability and success of a romantic relationship. And in order for your relationship to last, you usually need to focus on other things than what initially attracted you to one another.
My free resource The Desire Test helps you take that first step towards an increased sex drive, by understanding your decreased desire.
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Dating sites and apps can easily have you believe that similarity in personalities is the most important factor for a lasting relationship. However, being similar doesn’t guarantee a great love affair -- even if it can be important in terms of how we become sexually attracted to someone.
So, what is important, then?
Simply put, if you’re looking to create long-term love, you need to focus on both your strengths and weaknesses. And to do this you need to come at them from a perspective of healthy relationship expectations.
Because without the right expectations, no amount of work will ever be enough.
It’s not uncommon for us to forget to appreciate the strengths we share as a couple. And - appreciation is easily as important to relationship resilience, as is working on our weaknesses.
Relationship expert John Gottman divides conflicts into two kinds: those that are solvable and those that are unsolvable. Gottman believes the unsolvable conflicts represent 69% of all of our conflicts (!).
And this means we definitely need to find a way of dealing with unsolvable conflicts if our relationship is to stand the test of time. One way of doing this is creating healthy relationship expectations surrounding conflicts.
Without putting in time or effort, it will be difficult for our relationship to last over time. This may seem too simple or too obvious, and in that case I’d like to challenge you to watch how much effort and time you’re currently putting in. Is there an area you could work on a little bit more? Perhaps one you’re currently avoiding, such as your sex life?
Low libido in long-term relationships is really common (despite the fact that we seldom talk about it). And when we haven’t had sex in a long time, it’s easy for sex to become a very big deal in our minds.
Everything and anything that reminds us that we “should” be having sex: a sex scene on tv, the way our partner cosies up to us in bed, or even just the mention of sex from our partner, can cause us to tense up.
If this sounds like you, know you’re not alone and there are ways of reducing that pressure and stress surrounding sex, and increasing desire and intimacy in a way that feels truly good to you. If you want to work on this, read more here about my online program Re:Desire.
Many believe that cultivating our individual identity is crucial for both attraction and desire to flow. If you’re no longer sure where your partner begins and you stop, you might want to work on rekindling your identity.
At first glance, this may sound a tad strange - but stay with me here. Researcher Sandra Murray has, in a number of studies, found that those who are the happiest a few years into the relationship, are those who idealized their partner at the start of the relationship.
This can look like idealizing certain traits your partner has, such as their intelligence or kindness, or the way they treat you by cooking your favourite meal or suggesting a fun date night activity.
Healthy relationship expectations surrounding communication, and healthy relationship communication skills are paramount
. And when looking at the most long-lasting, strong relationships, we can see that these are ones where partners more often than not, respond to their partner’s attempts at communication.
This doesn’t mean we’re brilliant at it all the time, nor that we never miss the mark. It means that those who respond more frequently to their partner’s attempts are happier with their relationship and tend to have longer-lasting relationships.
Being a great support, whether in times of sorrow and hardship or in times of happiness and excitement - is crucial. If you’re interested in making your relationship resilient, take a look at how much you and your partner are willing to support one another’s goals, how willing you are to compromise, and what you’re both prepared to sacrifice for each other.
When it comes to how you can make your romantic relationship last over time, it’s all about setting healthy relationship expectations. This can be done by examining your relationship’s strengths and weaknesses and working on them together, to make your bond stronger and your relationship more resilient.
If you’re looking for ways to increase that intimacy, desire and closeness in your relationship -- without pressure or stress -- check out my online program Re:Desire. Based on sexological science and coaching and psychotherapeutic tools, it helps you get your sex drive back and put your relationship on track.
Get instant access to expert advice, delivered directly to your inbox weekly, when you download The Desire Test.
With 11 years of experience in the helping profession - Leigh helps her clients create stress-free, shame-free, pressure-free sex lives, through her unique combination of sexological science, & psychotherapeutic & coaching tools.
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