When you meet someone you really want to be with, you might feel the urge to put on a performance. You might deny yourself the difficult, uncomfortable talks that might show you or your partner one another's darker sides. If you are trying to figure out how to make your relationship last, though, having these talks early and often ensures both of you are on the same page.
The reality is that a relationship is kind of a big deal. It might feel cooler to downplay its importance or project nonchalance, but that kind of fakery will only make you anxious in the end. You can take things slow and still not be aloof. If it's meant to last, you don't have anything to prove.
If you want to make your relationship last, these are the issues you need to address within the first six months of being together, while you are still feeling one another out. It might seem difficult, but if both of you are approaching your relationship with open hearts, you might just find that honesty brings you closer together.
1. The Insecurity Conversation
Depending on how comfortable you are with feeling vulnerable, talking about your fears in a relationship can basically feel like you are ripping open your rib cage and presenting your lover with your heart in one hand and a hammer in the other. It's like giving them an instruction manual for the most effective way to pummel your heart to pieces.
Or, if you are completely closed off, I imagine approaching a conversation about your fears goes something like this: “Insecurities? I don't even know what that would feel like. Can you give me a definition of the term, please?”
But if the second option is your answer, you might be dismissing your lover because you subconsciously think intimacy is a dangerous thing. But that is a topic for another post.
Even though it's hard, if you and your partner really want to build a relationship based upon mutual respect and trust, then you need to know what one another's triggers are. Everyone has fears, whether those are based on how their parents treated them, what their early relationships were like, or something else. Exploring this territory is tender ground, but I don't think love can exist without it.
2. The Sex Talk
Asking your partner what you can do for them in bed is one half of this conversation. In my experience, the second part — in which you articulate to your partner what you want in bed — is way harder. It requires you to be in tune with both your body and your desires and to be able to know what you like and what you don't like.
If you are still sexually inexperienced, then what you might need from your partner is an opportunity to experiment, explore, and figure out your likes and dislikes with someone who is as interested in what gives you pleasure as you are in your own. If you haven't been physically intimate with someone in a while or have trust issues related to touch, then you might need to be with someone who is willing to ease into sex or even follow your lead.
This conversation is especially important if you find that you and your partner have more of an emotional and intellectual connection than a physical one. Sexual pleasure can definitely be learned, but it requires communication on both ends. Once you break through your inhibitions about discussing sex, you might find that other hangups fall away, too.
3. The Ex Discussion
Hopefully you and your new boo are both over your previous relationships. With a little luck, any last traces of your ex faded from your thoughts as soon as you met someone new.
Or you might be like me. I'm close friends with a former lover, and I literally never get over anybody completely. Fortunately, my friend/ex-lover lives in a completely different state than I do now, and since relocating to New York City, I've found that a larger dating pool gives you plenty more space for moving on.
Even though talking about your ex might resurface old, unpleasant feelings, it's important that both you and your new love keep the air clear about your past. This is especially true if one of you has an ex who is still in your life. There's nothing worse than having a surprise sprung on you, and being open and honest about what led to the ending of your last relationship makes sure you are keeping an honest track record.
As a bonus, if your new boyfriend/girlfriend/partner ends up bashing their ex or calling them “crazy,” that is an important red flag to note. You don't want to be with someone who constantly plays the victim, and you can use that information to make sure you won't be the next person they're insulting.
4. The Feelings Check-In
You and your partner are going to have lots of different feelings about one another throughout the course of your relationship. Checking in early and often about where you are at, on a mutual level, means that when big feelings talks come up down the line, they won't be such a big deal.
My friends and I have what we call “heart-to-hearts,” where we just sit and talk sometimes for 20 minutes and sometimes up to two hours about everything going on in our lives. We share our high highs, our low lows, and everything in between. Sometimes, we offer one another advice, and sometimes, we provide a listening ear.
It's important that you and your partner don't only talk about the feelings you have for one another, but the feelings you have in general. There are all sorts of external stress factors that can influence what is going on in a relationship, and being sure that you and your partner are on the same page about what is going on in your lives makes sure that there is clarity of communication.
Of course, some people do better processing their emotions on their own. If this is the case with your partner, be sure to give them the space they need, and trust that they will follow up when they are ready to share.
5. The Future-Planning Session
Do you want kids? Is marriage a definite item on your bucket list, or are you ambiguous about the whole matrimony thing? Do you even believe in long-term relationships? Is there a possibility that one of you might want to explore an open relationship in the future?
Neither you or your partner have to know exactly what you want out of a relationship immediately, and you shouldn't be surprised if what you think you want changes over time. It almost certainly will. When you enter a committed relationship, you do so with the understanding that things won't stay the same — you have no idea what will be different in a few years' time.
If your partner doesn't believe in the institution of marriage, but it's important for you to have a family in the “traditional” sense, that doesn't necessarily mean you need to break up. But you shouldn't expect that either one of you will come around to the other's views.
If some of the differences between you turn out to be irreconcilable, then you need to reevaluate whether this relationship is actually supposed to last forever or whether you came together to learn something from one another in the short-term.
There's no magic potion to make love stay, no conversation that will guarantee your relationship will last forever. However, confronting one another's differences and developing the skills it takes to really, truly hear and understand another person will prepare you for a lasting relationship — whether that is with your current partner or the next person you meet.
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