In a long-term committed relationship, it’s easy to get distracted and lose sight of what matters.
It’s easy to fall into a routine that includes taking care of yourself but not necessarily of the relationship.
It’s easy to get comfortable and take your partner for granted.
Bottom line: lack of nurturing kills relationships.
A relationship ends when you place your individual goals above the goals and plans you have as a couple.
You need space as an individual, but having your own space should never mean forgetting you’re part of a couple, part of a unit. Having your own space should never mean you isolate yourself into your own pursuits and forget to nurture the relationship.
Whenever there isn’t enough respect, whenever selfishness overcomes kindness, whenever there isn’t enough nurturing, the relationship will die.
Relationships end when inflexible partners refuse to yield. They end whenever there’s no balance, whenever it’s the same person who’s always crying and promising things will get better, over and over again. They end whenever one is trying much, much harder than the other.
Not to mention that love is much more than just a feeling. Love is action. Love manifests in how we behave towards one another on a consistent basis.
To nurture a relationship is to nurture love. Is to make it strong so it can last longer, perhaps even forever.
What you can do to properly nurture your relationship
It’s important to remember that keeping a relationship alive is not a cake recipe. People are different, and they connect and relate differently, there’s no one size fits all.
But there are a few nurturing practices and elements that you should watch out for and make sure you’re putting enough of them into the relationship.
1. Don’t just spend time together, but be fully present with each other
Spending time together as a couple is awesome, but no matter how many hours you spend with your partner, if you’re not fully present with each other when you’re side-by-side, it’s not going to count for much.
Distracting yourself with TV, cellphones, or your own thoughts will sabotage the moment and make it less valuable in nurturing the relationship.
Make an effort to engage. Make an effort to be more than just physically there.
2. Listen with curiosity
Listening is the most important aspect of effective communication, and when you make a habit of listening to your partner with curiosity, you’re open to what they have to say and you listen without prejudice.
Curiosity helps you to not simply listen, but listen with attention, respect and care.
The worst kind of conversation a couple can have is one-sided. It happens when one partner tries to explain how they feel, only to have their experience bounce back on a wall of preconceived notions and already solidified opinions.
Listening with curiosity nurtures your relationship because it means you’re listening with the intent to learn something about your partner. It means you’re open to changing your mind, to see the world through their lenses for a minute.
3. Don’t take your frustrations out on your partner
Whatever you’re frustrated about outside of the relationship is not your partner’s fault.
Your partner is there to help you and support you, and they will do so as often as they can, and as well as they’re able.
However, if you take your frustrations out on them, you’re not only being unfair, but you’re being mean. You’re pushing them away with your combativeness, resentment, and misplaced anger.
See your partner as an ally against the stresses of the outside world, not as a container on which you can indiscriminately dump all of your frustrations.
4. Practice gratitude
The longer a relationship lasts, the more tempting it is to forget to be grateful. If gratitude isn’t actively practiced, however, you run the risk of sliding into the habit of taking your partner for granted.
The practice of gratitude involves both offering and receiving it.
Offering gratitude is about appreciating the other person’s qualities and strengths and expressing that appreciation in a genuine manner.
Receiving gratitude can be harder than it looks. It involves being vulnerable, open, accepting of someone else’s admiration without feeling like you’re not worthy of being acknowledged. Receiving gratitude well is an exercise in humility.
5. Know when to take a step back to care for yourself
True, too much self-involvement can cause the end of a relationship, but lack of self-care doesn’t help either.
A healthy relationship is made of two healthy individuals. If one of them isn’t healthy, the relationship will suffer.
Health comes in many forms. There’s physical, mental, and emotional health, and all need to be taken care of.
Whatever is getting you off-balance needs to be addressed with or without help from your partner. If you need to seek professional help, do it. You can’t give your best to a relationship if you’re not at your best. You have to replenish your well before you can quench someone else’s thirst.
Self-nurturing is also relationship-nurturing.
If you’re in a mature, healthy relationship, these nurturing steps will only help strengthen it
If you’re in an unhealthy relationship, then it’s possible that no amount of nurturing can save it.
You need deeper, more intense work to reach the level of mature love that will propel you forward as a couple.
The proper nurturing of a relationship involves understanding that you’re still whole without the relationship, but the relationship isn’t whole without you.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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