Check out the first 5 points at When Love is New – 10 Ways to Improve Chances of Longevity (part 1).
6. Check your conflict history and refine your skills as needed
Many people grow up in families where conflict is either non-existent or explosive. There is a medium ground, and you have the opportunity to find it. Conflict is inevitable. Conflict that remains unacknowledged will fester and bear bad fruit and, almost always, explode in one way or another at some point.
Look at your history with conflict, in your family, in previous relationships, and consider how successful you’ve been at finding resolutions that work for all parties.
Think about whether you’ve felt closer, or further away from those you’ve been in conflict with, in the past. These are some clues to tell you of whether your style might need some refining. For more on conflict skills see Conflict- Approach or Avoid? 6 Things to Consider. See also How to Start a Good Fight and “I’m Sorry” 8 Steps to a Good Apology and 5 Things Your Anger Can Help you pay Attention to.
7. Check your assumptions about gender roles
This might seem a bit dated, but even in young couples, there are still assumptions about who is going to do what, in the house, in the relationship, with the in-laws, etc. Like infidelity, this one warrants some discussion and re-evaluation on a regular basis. Nothing, apart from pregnancy and breast feeding (and even that is questionable, depending on what connections you have with breakthrough science) needs to be the job of one person based solely on their gender.
There is no rule that the woman has to remember all the birthdays on both sides of the family.
There is no rule that the guy is responsible for all vehicle repairs. You get to figure that out for yourselves. There will always be tasks that neither enjoys but I suggest taking turns with them instead of each picking one that you hate and doing it forever (a change is as good as a rest). See also Staying Together, after Kids.
8. The only relationship ‘win’ is ‘win/win.’
People in couples counselling often ask things like, “isn’t this _____ (fill in with specific behaviour, attitude or idea) bad for marriage?” My answer is usually something along the lines of, “how is it working for you, specifically?”
A marriage, or relationship, is not a thing all by it’s self. It is made up of two individuals who have committed to each other, and whose needs, desires and goals sometimes match, and sometimes don’t.
If only one person wins, the relationship has lost. You each get to say what works and doesn’t work for you and ask for what you want. You don’t get to decide that your way is the way that everyone does things (or should do things) and therefore has to be the way it is. For more about filling in gaps in your relationship, when you have a need or want that your partner cannot, or is not willing to meet, see Not Finding ‘The One”
9. Define your boundaries/ red flags & deal breakers
Each person will have their own limits and deal breakers. Some suggestions I’d like to add as red flags to be addressed if they exist are: Physical violence; chronic infidelity (based on agreements made between the two of you); addictions; emotional abuse (such as name calling, humiliation, gas lighting, threatening to leave regularly); chronic dishonesty; unpredictable anger. These don’t have to be deal breakers but they might be for you. (See Where Do I Draw the Line? and 7 Ways to Love a Volcano). These things will, at the very least, need to be addressed. This is urgent if there are children involved.
Don’t hesitate to get additional help in order to address these issues adequately. If you are unsure about things that you see in your relationship that are concerning you, don’t hesitate to talk to a counsellor about them. If you are experiencing physical violencego to Stop the Violence.
10. Deal with sexual problems
Last but not least. I put this one at the end in hopes that it will stick with the reader as an important one. It is rare that lack of sex is the only thing that ends a relationship, in my experience, however, it can play a very big role.
I do not advocate forcing yourself to have sex with your partner when there are unresolved issues that make it difficult to be close, or when there are physical concerns that make sex painful. I do, advocate for prioritizing the issues that are getting in the way of intimacy.
Many men I’ve talked to have related that they do not have physical connection with any of their friends, and some don’t talk to anyone except their partner, about their thoughts, feelings or concerns. When sex stops, if it is the woman who is not interested, other physical interactions also stop. Sometimes it is not intentional, other times, the woman may fear that a touch, a hug or a kiss will be misconstrued as her wanting sex. In these cases, the man has lost his only form of physical, and sometimes, emotional connection. This can be catastrophic for a man’s mental health. And sometimes, in a genuine crisis, a man will look for another sexual partner in order to fill this very real and very human need, simply because he has not learned to find connections anywhere else. If this is your situation, you have a responsibility to take charge of your own mental health and work to deepen your connections with others to make emotional connections with others, if not non-sexual physical connections. (See also Men, also see Mating in Captivity, and Sex – How Much is Enough? and After You’ve Cheated.).
In some relationships, circumstances have made sexual intercourse difficult, but intimacy is not only about intercourse. Finding ways to connect physically in both affectionate and sexual ways is important. When conflict is in the way, affection can help with re-connection even when sex feels too vulnerable. Sometimes lack of sex has been a part of a relationship for a long time and starts to feel normal. If this is true for both of you that’s fine, but if one person has brought it up repeatedly and then eventually stops bringing it up, it may have actually become a more serious issue. Listen to your partner’s concerns, take action even if they don’t feel urgent to you.
For more on relationships see Thinkers and Feelers Get Together