As a savvy single, it’s sometimes hard to imagine that after all the time, energy, and work that goes into finding the right long term relationship, things could ever go south. But with divorce statistics pointing to over half of all marriages ending, and the 7-year itch scratching at many a long term relationship’s door, how can couples fail-safe their chances of happily ever after? The following seven strategies may hold the answer to that very question.
Strategy #1: Break free of relationship patterns that don’t work
Like it or not, couples in long-term relationships tend to become creatures of habit. And not just in where they go on Friday night or what they have for dinner. They also develop habits of how they treat one another and interact. And while some of those habits can be good (always ending the day with a goodnight kiss, making coffee for your sleepy spouse, always remembering to take out the trash, etc.) some can be detrimental or downright demeaning. For example, if one or both of you start taking the other one for granted, if either or both of you adopt a condescending tone in communicating with your spouse, or if you start seeking emotional comfort and intimacy from members of the opposite sex other than your partner, etc.
In the long run, these kinds of negative relationship habits and patterns can wreak all kinds of relationship drama. To help avoid long-term unhealthy side effects that can lead to the 7-year itch, it’s important to change those relationship-weakening patterns and habits. In doing so, you may rediscover what you love about each other, and ultimately deepen the bond you share.
Strategy #2: Carve out time for each other
Sometimes life’s list of responsibilities can get awfully long. Between big projects at work, dealing with everyday chores and errands, not to mention needing down time for yourself, sometimes our commitment to our partner falters. The last thing we want to hear when it’s been a long week is that they need something from us. But guess what? Your commitment to your partner should be one of your very top priorities. Even on your busiest day, it’s important to make time for the love of your life. If you and your significant other have slacked off when it comes to spending quality time together, stop right now. Put down your Blackberry, step away from your inbox, and recommit your love, affection, and attention to your precious partner. By making meaningful moments happen on a regular basis, you’ll reconnect to your partner, deepen your intimacy, and realize just how precious the time you spend together can be.
Strategy #3: Always maintain your own identity
Just as it’s important to nurture your romantic relationship on a regular basis, it’s equally important to make time for yourself. After all, it’s impossible to get all of your needs met by one person. That’s why it’s essential to your relationship success to continue nurturing your own needs. By maintaining a life of your own throughout your relationship with your partner, you retain a sense of individuality, have more to share with your partner, and avoid any yearly itch by staying connected to your own ever-changing wants, needs, and desires.
Strategy #4: Keep the lines of communication open
Poor communication skills can wreak havoc on any relationship, especially a romantic one. That’s why it’s essential from day one of your relationship to practice healthy communication. By being able to openly and honestly discuss anything, learn how to argue fairly, and manage one another’s emotional expectations, you and your partner will be better equipped to weather any relationship storm. The fact is, during any long term partnership there will be bumps in the road. The goal is not to avoid them at all costs, but to understand how to navigate them in healthy, effective, loving ways.
Strategy #5: Rebuild intimacy as needed
If healthy communication breaks down in a relationship, a domino effect can occur. The next thing that suffers? Intimacy. For the sake of your relationship — and to help you successfully avoid the 7-year itch – the minute you sense that the intimacy in your relationship is faltering, you owe it to yourself and your partner to repair it. First, talk about it. See how your partner feels about what’s happening. Express your own feelings, concerns and needs. By simply opening up those lines of communication, you’re better able to rediscover an intimate relationship with your significant other and nip any other issues in the bud.
Strategy #6: Express your needs
Sometimes the best secret to avoiding the 7-year itch is as simple as telling your partner what you need. Not only that, but asking your partner about their wants and needs can go a long way in bridging any emotional gap that’s been standing between you. As daunting as it can sometimes feel to emotionally reveal yourself to a partner whose energy and attention seems elsewhere (and may have been for quite some time), you owe it to your happily ever after future to summon up the courage and do it anyway. By broaching this conversation, you will most likely reawaken the emotional intimacy between you and your partner, bringing you closer together in the process. Plus, by asking for what you want and need, you may actually start getting it!
Strategy #7: Choose happiness over your need to be right
The key to avoiding the 7-year itch and instead experiencing a successful relationship future lies in one simple question: Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy? Chances are, you know those people in relationships who would much rather be right than happy. They’re the ones who constantly nag, belittle and fight with their partner over every little thing. Do you want to be that person or the kind of person whose relationship is blissful because they’ve let go of the need to always have the last word, the right answer, or prove their partner wrong? By letting go of the desire to always be right at any cost, you give yourself and your partner permission to enjoy life again. A happier relationship AND less stress? Sounds like a win-win!
Before any relationship reaches its breaking point, couples should take stock, identify relationship road blocks, and commit their collective energies to remedy the situation. In doing so, they can hopefully re-open the lines of communication, allow intimacy to once again flourish, and ultimately avoid the 7-year itch.