The intimacy, the affection, the butterflies in the stomach一nothing seems better than the feeling of being in love. However, relationships, especially long-term relationships, can be much more complicated. “As a relationship grows one of the major challenges it faces is losing its importance,” says Dr. Shreya Chakravarty, a psychologist at Apollo Health City, Hyderabad. “Partners can feel disconnected, in many instances the daily conversation is mapped around the routine responsibility sharing. Both partners live parallel lives connected by role responsibilities一be it professional, familial or personal,” she adds. This is when it becomes necessary to start basing your relationship on other foundations as well, like being open, harbouring mutual respect and taking accountability. Here are five relationship checkpoints, along with physical and emotional intimacy, that can keep your relationship stable, secure and exciting.
1. Trust and communication
When it comes to trusting your significant other, there’s more than sexual and romantic fidelity involved. Are you able to be vulnerable in front of each other without feeling weak? Are you in tune with each others’ needs and goals? Security and a clear sense of communication are absolute must-haves. It takes time to understand another person and there may be conflict of opinions on the way, but according to Dr. Chakravarty, honest, respectful and sensitive communication is what will help you bridge the gap sooner. “Be approachable” she says, “a non-defensive attitude is required to ensure the longevity of a relationship”.
2. Physical and emotional consent
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, more crucial than feeling safe in the presence of your significant other. If a partner fails to understand the concept of consent (both bodily and emotional), then the situation can become abusive and toxic. Emotional abuse or violation of consent can often be overlooked when in reality it can equally debilitate and drain an individual. Signs of emotional abuse, as per Dr. Chakravarty, include (but aren’t limited to) manipulation, unwanted validation, emotional dumping etc. This can be followed by physical abuse and consent violation as well. You know your partner is right for you when they do not take you or the time you spend with them for granted, do not try to exercise ownership over you or do not force themselves or their views on you. Therefore, it becomes necessary to prioritise your physical and emotional security alongside (and, at times, over) romantic feelings.
3. Respecting individual space
In the spirit of retaining a sense of individuality and personal space, Dr. Chakravarty advises that “other than having a common goal, each partner should have unique goals and priorities to nurture the relationship”. Nurturing your own ambitions, interests and devoting some time only to yourself can help you be the best version of yourself, thereby helping you be a better partner as well. You should not feel like you have to give up all the things you love for the person you love. Therefore, all healthy relationships need to have boundaries. A 2021 paper in The SMU Journal suggests identifying and communicating your personal boundaries to your partner and then allowing them some time to process and accommodate them. With a little effort, learning about each others’ comfort zones can greatly enhance your knowledge about your likes and dislikes and help you navigate through them better.
4. Liking each other as people
In the 2015 book Principles of Social Psychology : 1st International Edition, authors Charles Stagnor, Rajiv Jhangiani and Hammond Tarry note that “over time, cognition becomes relatively more important than passion, and close relationships are more likely to be based on companionate love (love that is based on friendship, mutual attraction, common interests, mutual respect, and concern for each other’s welfare) than on passionate love”. We often make the mistake of assuming that being emotionally attached or physically attracted to someone equals liking who they are as people. You can be head-over-heels in love with your partner but still not enjoy their company or like certain aspects of their personality. While some opinions and actions are inexcusable, you can try exploring ways to bridge the gap between or coexist with the little differences you might have. Dr. Chakravarty explains, “a deep likeness for an individual enables us to respect and value the differences also. When partners like each other they respect the growth and try to look beyond the looks, charm and physical features”.
5. Being practical about the future
According to six studies published in a 2018 paper of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, “people base their commitment to a relationship more on their expected future satisfaction with the relationship than on their current satisfaction with that relationship”. Among many other things, love can be impulsive. However, as time goes on, you might find your lives going in directions that don’t perfectly align with each other. This is where having difficult conversations becomes very important. You and your partner need to ask each other where you are in life, what you expect from this relationship and where you see this going in the future. By staying on the same page, you can avoid misunderstandings or feelings of being unfairly led on. Dr. Chakravarty suggests the conversations be transparent and reflect your willingness to take responsibility. Try to understand where they are coming from instead of having preconceived notions about their opinions. “Pay attention to microexpressions and make them positive. Most importantly, focus on responding more than reacting,” she concludes.
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