I’m in my 40s and have been in several long-term relationships. For some reason, I can’t make it past the five-year mark and I’m wondering if you have any helpful insight?
I always tell my clients that there are a few major components of healthy, long-term relationships, and they are respect, sense of humor, and sex. These are closely followed by self-esteem, and kindness. As we explore each one, hopefully you will notice where any of these aspects have been lacking in your relationships.
I say that respect is most important, because it encompasses other things like trust, loyalty, open communication, and compromise. When you have a genuine respect for someone, you hold them and their feelings in high regard, you honor them, you admire and trust their judgment, and you appreciate their excellence and worth. In turn, this respect manifests itself into being a loyal partner, being truthful about your feelings and actions, and being able to openly and rationally communicate the things you love about your relationship as well as the things that may need some work.
When you’re with someone for a long time, you have to be able to laugh with each other and make light of annoying character flaws, and this is where it’s important to have a good sense of humor. It’s important, however, to not confuse having a sense of humor with belittling your partner or embarrassing them in front of others. Making jokes at other people’s expense is never ok, and sarcasm should be kept to a minimum. It’s also important to be aware of your partner’s sensitive subjects and be careful not to be humorous about them.
When I say that sex is important, I’m not just talking about the physical act, I’m talking about intimacy and affection and connecting emotionally and spiritually, as well as physically. It’s important, though, to be sure that your entire relationship isn’t based on sex and physicality, as these types of relationships never last. Sex and intimacy is an expression of, and the physical manifestation of love itself, and you can’t have a relationship that lasts forever without love and being loving.
Having self-esteem reflects how a person feels about his/her own worth, and having a genuine respect for oneself. If you don’t appreciate and love yourself, no one will be able to truly love you or have real respect for you. Without good self-esteem, you will never be able to attract someone who truly loves you, because you haven’t won over the most important person of all: yourself. Part of building and maintaining good self-esteem, and self-love, is to discover what your innermost demons are, and face them head on. Maybe you were picked on a lot in high school, or maybe your parents went through a traumatic divorce. Maybe you were a neglected middle child, or maybe you struggled making friends. Whatever the case may be, you have to get real with yourself if anyone else is ever going to get real with you. Sometimes, after a break-up, a person will lose their self-esteem and blame themselves for the demise of the relationship. They will beat themselves up over what they could have possibly done wrong, or why they weren’t good enough. You have to let go of the blame and focus on using these failed relationships as stepping stones to future relationships. If you’re feeling bad about yourself, discover the real reason and fix it; therapy can work wonders.
Finally, it’s important to be kind to one another. Having a sense of empathy and compassion are also a part of kindness as a whole. Kindness is one of those words that are considered to be outdated and an old-fashioned concept. We’ve been conditioned to think only of ourselves and never about what we can do to help others, and we’ve forgotten how important it is to be accepting and tolerant of other people’s flaws. If you have none of these traits in your core, and are instead filled with judgment, criticism, and inflexibility, you will be consistently disappointed. Nobody out there is perfect, in fact, we’re all rather imperfect beings. Being in a lasting, healthy, and loving relationship is about seeing an imperfect person as the perfect person for you.