When you choose the right partner, the rest is a whole lot easier.
Personally, I'm shocked that The Bachelor and its sister show The Bachelorette are still going strong! The shows' longevity speaks to how focused we are, as a society, on the dating portion of romance. As a culture, we have turned the search for love into a competition, a game, entertainment ... when what we really need are stories and examples of what happens after two people find each other.
We need to watch people who can show us what it takes to make love love last for the long term, how they wrap their minds around commitment and how they grow and thrive within successful monogamy — way beyond the ring or the rose. Fortunately, I know some people who are doing that, and here are a few foundational pieces they have in place.
1. Do It For YOU
You can't do monogamy for your parents or your friends or your partner. You have to decide this is what you want, for you. Identify your own reasons for wanting monogamy in your life. Maybe, for you, it's a religious or spiritual choice; maybe you value loyalty; maybe you see commitment as a path to personal growth; maybe you want to see what can happen if you focus your romantic energy on one person.
Whatever your reasons, for long-term monogamy success, it's crucial to take responsibility for your choice and to let go of any resentments about other people "making" you do it. Monogamy is not the only choice. If you choose it, do it because you want to.
2. Choose Your Partner Carefully
This may seem obvious, but I see people again and again who say "I want a committed relationship now, and the person I'm with feels like a decent match, so why not?" That's a hard setup for long-term monogamy.
If you want to feel inspired to stay committed, you need to find a person who inspires you, shares your sense of humor and adventure, and turns your body, mind and heart on in a variety of ways — the person who you want to leave the party with again and again. This may take time and several false starts. If you start out comparing your partner to others and wishing your partner was different in this way or that way, you may eventually find yourself just wishing for a different partner altogether.
3. Understand Your Own Sexual Desire
We live in a world of attractive people and no matter how appealing your partner is, you'll still notice the other people out there. The romantic saying, "I only have eyes for you" is not realistic. Our culture makes sure you see and encourages others to see you.
Committing to monogamy requires honesty with yourself about this, and you must prepare to shift the desire stirred up in the world back to your partner. You must learn how to respond to your own desires in ways that feel right to you, and you can only learn this by acknowledging that your desire for others will not go away, even when you find the one person you want to commit to.
4. Be Yourself And Ask For What You Want
Long-term commitment is difficult if you go into it trying to shape yourself into the person you think your partner wants. A fun part of early dating is trying out new things and being introduced to your partner's new world. But it's one thing to go to MMA fights a few times and another to pretend that you'd want to do this every weekend for the next five years.
If you feel you're subtly dismissing the things you want and slowly letting your life or yourself turn into your partner's idea of the ideal, tread carefully. You want to know for sure that your partner is committing to you — the person you really are, not the self you can pretend you are if you have to. And you want to know you're committing to a life you can happily embrace, not one with creeping resentment.
We may not have a lot of TV shows about it, but long-term relationships are hardly boring. They ask a lot from the people involved. So, whether you're searching for a partner or you've found someone but are wondering how to keep it going into the future, I invite you to think about these traits. You can develop them, and they will help to have a strong foundation for the evolving adventure that is love between two people.
Melissa Fritchle is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist & Sex Therapist with a holistic private practice in Capitola, California. She is also an award-winning international sex educator offering workshops and trainings around the world. Follow her blog, Conscious Sexual Self.