Forever is a long time.
It seems like my social media feeds these days are full of engagements and weddings; every time I go online, people are bursting with news and excitement about promising to spend the rest of their lives together.
Think about that for a second. The rest of their lives. As a person who’s been married and divorced, let me tell you: the rest of your life can be a lot harder to promise than you think it is. Getting married is easy; staying married is hard. (And getting a divorce, by the way, is about a thousand times harder than getting married.)
I’m not saying nobody should get married ever again. But with the divorce rate perpetually sitting at about 50 per cent, and the phenomenon of ‘starter marriages’ in full effect, how can you know whether the person you’re with is really your ‘forever’ person?
Here are three signs that you could beat the odds and make it work for a lifetime…
1. He gives you space
Part of being in a healthy relationship is being able to give each other room to be your own people. Psychologist and researcher Terri Orbush conducted a study at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and found that 29 per cent of married couples said they wished they had more privacy and time for themselves. And interestingly, although the stereotype of the man retreating to his ‘man cave’ would say otherwise, more wives than husbands complained of not having enough space in their relationships.
Author Lydia Netzer, whose blog post, 15 Ways To Stay Married For 15 Years, went viral, heartily recommends the benefits of couples doing their own things. Her husband is into racing bicycles, says Netzer, while she couldn’t care less about bicycles; she writes books that her husband doesn’t even read. “Seriously. And I don’t care. We can still support each other without being all up in the other person’s stuff,” explains Netzer. “Doing your own thing, having your own friends, being completely insanely passionate about something that the other person has no idea, really, about, is awesome.”
So, if your partner is always insisting you do everything together, doesn’t trust you to hang out with other people without him, or just doesn’t have interests of his own, he may not be your forever person.
2. He touches you
I’m not just talking about sex, here – although a hot sex life is definitely a prerequisite for a lasting relationship. It’s the PG-rated stuff that matters most: cuddling under the covers, rubbing each other’s backs, touching each other’s knees under the table, holding hands. A 2011 study by the Kinsey Institute found that men, even more than women, place great importance on physical affection outside the bedroom.
Physical intimacy, according to Body + Soul relationship advisor Dr Gabrielle Morrissey, is vital to a long-term relationship. Morrissey calls physical affection “the glue that keeps a couple together or feeling connected – it can be what helps them feel bonded, despite the challenges in their everyday life.” So if your partner touches you a lot, don’t shy away. Reassure him by reciprocating his touch, and make an effort to keep things hot in the bedroom.
“Couples who enjoy a regular sex life, tend to nag less, fight less and feel as if they have an ally in their life, no matter the problems,” says Morrissey. So if you want him to be your forever person, get busy.
3. He’s in it for the long haul
It’s one thing to say you want to be with someone forever, and it’s another thing to really be committed to doing the work required to sustain a long-term relationship. Falling in love and getting married is the easy part; the hard part often comes years later. A 2006 study from Australia showed that about a third of divorces occurred after people had been married for 20 years or longer, when you might expect they’d have had things all sorted out.
So what’s the secret to making it work, forever? Relationship expert Denise Reichenbach, of Relationships Australia, says successful couples put the relationship first, ahead of either of their individual needs or goals. “The relationship is the higher shared goal,” she says. Couples that last are committed to “doing what they have to do to keep it strong. It’s about putting the relationship first and facing the unavoidable reality that it can’t always be smooth sailing and good times.”
Lydia Netzer says it’s all about seeing yourselves as a team. “The team is not adversarial, the team does not tear its members down, the team does not sabotage the team’s success. Teammates work constantly to help and better their teammates.” She says you each have to put the other person first all the time, sacrifice your own desires for your partner’s sometimes (because they’ll do the same for you), and be loyal to your partner above all else.
“This is the heart of everything, and it is a tricky balance. Sometimes it sways one way and sometimes the other. Sometimes he gets to be crazy, sometimes it’s your turn. Sometimes she’s in the spotlight, sometimes you. Ups and downs ultimately don’t matter, because the team endures.”
Images via tumblr.com, tenor.com, youtube.com, and much.com.
Comment: How did you know your partner was your forever person?
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