After much research, observations, real experience and eating a box of Lindt chocolates, here are what I deem to be the top 5 rules of a strong relationship.
1. Accept the differences, embrace what you have in common.
In order for a relationship to work, you have to cherish and strengthen the things you have in common, and learn to accept the things you disagree on.
If you keep focusing on your differences, it will weaken the relationship and it will create this sort of negative idea that both of you are unfit to be closer.
Whereas if you focus on the similarities and on the things you share, this will strengthen your dynamic.
If you do not share anything you may decide to start an activity together, such as a weekly tennis practice or Sundays volunteering to help the homeless.
2. Balance desire with feelings.
When you love, how does it feel? And when you desire, how is it different?
Passion is what brings excitement in your life. It is when you feel this thrill. It is craving for the forbidden. Awaking your desire through transgression. And love, love is another story.
Especially in long term relationships, desire is hard to sustain. What needs to be done is a reconciliation of two fundamental human needs. On the one hand, we express a need for security, for predictability, for safety, for dependability, for reliability, for permanence. On the other hand we also have an equally strong need — men and women — for adventure, for novelty, for mystery, for risk, for danger, for the unknown, for the unexpected, you get the gist.
When you love someone, you need them.
When you desire someone, you want them.
There lies the difference.
Work on the balance of safety and risk, mystery and truthfulness, predictability and the unknown, and the more you’ll be able to come to terms with this highly contradicting field, the more your relationship will thrive.
3. Allow your partner the space to be themselves
Usually we fall in love with someone who seems independent, passionate about something and in charge. Then, usually from the moment we’ve got them, we try to change them. However, doing so will, so to speak, cut their wings off.
Before we met them, they managed quite well before us. But from the moment we met them, we start giving them advice, restricting their choices, sometimes blackmailing them, imposing on them our vision and opinions instead of letting them be. What should be done is for us to stand back and give them the freedom to be themselves.
Tip: In order to do so, think of the time when you fell in love with your partner. What interested you? What attracted you? What was special about them?
Now, look at them. What’s different? What has gone and has been replaced?
You have to take a step back and encourage them to step outside of the cosiness of your relationship and rediscover themselves, their energy, their passion and their skills at being independent. This is healthy. This is good. This is grown-up.
4. Go that extra step in trying to please them.
I am not talking about money here. This is about surprising them, finding little things to delight them. Go beyond what is expected. It is a fantastic opportunity to be creative, adventurous, crazy. Do not wait for birthdays or christmas to give something to your partner. If one day you feel like preparing a special breakfast for them, do it. If you notice how nice they look, tell them. Go to a fancy date just for fun. Plan a trip just to please them. Send them a love letter just because. Light up scented candles on a friday night with some good wine. Do not wait for special occasions, make the occasion special.
5. Knowing when to listen and when to act.
Some problems do not actually have solutions. That’s why we are told about them. We are only part of the process, and that may concern sympathy, grief, shock, empathy, kindness, emotional advice, handholding, and so on. When your partner is talking to you, try to hold back your advice unless they are asking for it. What they really need is the feeling of being listened to, of not being alone, the feeling that someone is understanding and acknowledging what they are going through. When they look at you expectantly after the talk, instead of giving an opinion, what you should really do is reformulate what they told you in a neutral way and show them that you understood. If what they ask is an opinion or advice, then you can allow yourself to express your thoughts.