As a dating coach, every day I meet people who are struggling in the singles scene. Our initial sessions often reveal both a longing to find a significant other, and a fear of encountering the same pitfalls that marred their previous relationships. While it is not my job to spell out how you should conduct your love life, I am glad to share seven valuable tips that will help you keep your current or future relationship fun, healthy and meaningful. Many of these tips are involve common sense, yet I advise you to take this as a reminder whenever confusion settles in. Better yet, take a pen and a paper and jot down your observations for each point.
Spend time together
Long-distance relationships are often emotionally draining. It takes a real effort to find time to connect with each other. Telephone calls, emails and instant messaging do not quite make up for the physical absence of your loved one. Similarly, it is easy to let yourself get caught up in work, family functions and leisure activities to the point where the relationship takes a backseat. Even if you do spend significant amounts of time together, make sure it is quality time. Sitting on the couch night after night to watch TV does nothing for your relationship. This would qualify as side-by-side intimacy, as opposed to face-to face intimacy. The latter strengthens and deepens the bond while the former keeps things at a status quo. I am sure you figured that out already but it's easy to let yourself slip into lazy patterns. Now what are you going to do about it? Make time to sit and talk, have fun and make love.
Spend time alone
Spending time together is of paramount importance. Spending time apart is equally crucial. Following the old adage, absence makes the heart grow fonder. More importantly, everybody needs a little down time to reconnect with themselves and escape the various expectations of the people in our lives. Find some time for yourself to listen to your favourite music, re-ignite your imagination or just wind down after a hard day's work.
Spend time with others
Have you noticed how friends who start a new relationship suddenly disappear off the radar? They could just as well have been abducted by aliens and you wouldn't notice the difference. Sure, it's tempting to spend all of your time with your new lover but if you wake up one day with no friends left, you have got a problem. Make sure you meet your friends regularly, and even meet new people. Ultimately, being exposed to fresh ideas and points of view will only give you more to share with your partner.
Learn how to trust
Part of the reason so many people in a relationship live like recluses is jealousy. Just last week, one of my clients told me: "I would never allow my boyfriend to be friends with another girl. Except, of course, if she's exceptionally unattractive." Insecurity is often the root of jealousy. Learn to love yourself; this will prevent you from locking both of you in a golden cage. If your partner is going out with some friends, give him your blessing and wish him or her a fun night out. Bear in mind that making opportunities scarce will only make them more tempting. Jealousy can also be rooted in projection: if you are tempted to cheat, you are more likely to think your partner is also inclined to find another lover. Make a conscious effort to let go and trust yourself -- and your significant other. Nothing good ever came from inviting the green-eyed monster into your love life.
Keeping things bottled up inside is a recipe for disaster. Don't wait for a messy argument to let the cat out of the bag. If something is on your mind and you would like to share it with your partner, do it. However, there is a difference between formulating your requests as demands, and expressing them in an empathic manner. Start off with an observation rather than a judgment or a generalization. State your emotion and what it stems from. Then formulate a reasonable and concrete demand. This is especially valuable for touchy issues such as financial matters or sex. Being assertive without being a bully will only enrich your relationship.
Be a better listener
Communication is a two-way street. Your efforts to become more assertive will only pay off if you also pay attention to your partner's needs and show an equal amount of attention to your partner's needs. Having the patience to listen can be difficult but it makes a real difference in a relationship. It is very easy to slip into comfortable patterns of communication and listen only superficially to what is being said. Instead, listen both to what your partner says and how he or she says it. Dare to reformulate and ask for clarification before you jump to conclusions.
Keep it fresh
A little dose of familiarity and routine makes us feel at home. Too much of it, on the other hand, is a very potent recipe for extra-curricular romance. Taking things for granted is the cardinal sin of relationships. Do you take care of your appearance as much as you did on the very first date? Or do you wear the same old sweater and woolen socks every Sunday in front of the soccer game? Do novel things together: learn how to dance, go bungee jumping, have sex in unusual places or play music together. This will bring variety and a sense of adventure that is sorely missed in many relationships.
Over the long haul, there's no such thing as a perfect relationship. We humans are flawed and so are our relationships with one another. But with enough love and understanding from both sides, we can build on healthy foundations so we avoid resentment, frustration and confusion.
Jean-Baptiste Trannoy is a French dating-lifestyle coach. He coaches single expats of various ages and nationalities through one-on-one workshops, masterclasses and seminars via his company blusherseduction.com
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