Keeping a romance going for many years is a challenging task. It’s even more difficult to keep the fires of love burning through thick and thin, that is, through the conflict-ridden episodes as well as the light and pleasurable ones. The question is: How does a person turn a short-term relationship into a long-term one? In the chapter titled, Romantic Love Is Mostly an Illusion, in Dr. Geraldine Piorkowski’s book, BEYOND PIPE DREAMS AND PLATITUDES, she talks about romantic love as a fleeting, unrealistic fantasy, fueled by novelty and emotional arousal, that crumbles easily when reality sets in. This emotional illusion, which has been a favorite theme of artists throughout the centuries, is the essence of the honeymoon phase of a romantic relationship. Still, it’s not very durable or long-lasting.
With something so difficult to hang on to, making sure that romantic love endures and stands the test of time is not easy. How can love be maintained when all of the initial bells and whistles are gone? How can you keep the romance going in the light of reality?
Participate, Be Present, and Communicate a Lot
It is all about being an active listener and an active participant in the relationship. A romantic relationship often starts with the expectation that your partner will be someone who will always listen and support you, that is, always have your back. While that is not always possible, e.g., your partner may be too tired, too stressed, or too preoccupied with their own agenda, being empathic and supportive should always remain top priorities. Just as putting away your cell phone when another person is talking shows respect, so similarly, trying to be empathic when your partner wants to talk is considerate and respectful.
Being participative means showing affection, physically and emotionally. It is being sensitive to your partner’s needs and trying to be interested in their activities and pleasures. Doing activities together, showing kindness and compassion, and exchanging honest thoughts and feelings are other ways of enhancing emotional intimacy.
Communication about many things, especially sources of conflict, is essential to keeping a romantic relationship alive and healthy. Learning how to resolve conflicts together is an important way of increasing positive feelings towards your partner and letting the negative ones fade away. In this way, physical and emotional closeness is promoted.
Having Alone Time Together Often
This means going out together on dates frequently. Nothing strengthens a romantic relationship better than those cherished, intimate times together by yourselves. Even when a romantic relationship develops into marriage and kids, it is important to retain some of those initial roles as sweethearts. In most cases, you didn’t fall in love with a motherly figure or a housewife or in the case of women, with a father figure; you fell in love with a sexy, lively person.
So, it is important to reconnect with those early perceptions as a way of getting in touch with those early romantic feelings. Also, time together builds memories, which are reminders of the relationship in all its uniqueness and specialness.
Respect Each Other’s Individuality
As has been said, romantic love begins in an idyllic, idealistic, and unrealistic manner, which diminishes when ordinary, humdrum reality starts to erode its existence. When it’s gone, something more realistic needs to replace those feelings (or be a part of them to start with) if the relationship is to survive. When the butterflies in the stomach are gone, and the truth about each person emerges, what will sustain the relationship? What will provide the glue?
Clearly, the bonding factors for long-term, romantic relationships are the ability to communicate and resolve conflicts, shared interests, admiration for one another, companionship (enjoying each other’s company), friendship, a shared religious commitment, unifying values, and/or trust. And the more of these factors, the better for the relationship. In addition, accepting and respecting each person’s individuality and uniqueness is quite important.
The goal is not only to respect but to celebrate each other’s uniqueness. Inspiring one another to be the best person they can be by providing affectionate support can ensure the survival of the relationship.
Stay Resilient and Share Responsibilities
Finger-pointing and blaming are at a minimum in any successful relationship. In a healthy relationship, everyone shares responsibility and accountability. Relationships typically go through ups and downs; it’s how a couple survives the downtimes that determine how successful their relationship will be. Both parties need to be resilient, especially if a couple is coming out of the romantic phase and moving on to the next more serious stage of commitment. Transitioning to a deeper relationship becomes challenging, especially when problems arise.
The positive thing about resolving problems together successfully is that it enhances the relationship’s resiliency. The relationship then gets stronger as time goes on.
Keeping romantic love alive and well over time is quite challenging, especially when just coming out of the romantic phase. When reality sets in and they both discover aspects of the other person far different from their fantasies, that’s when the real work and commitment of love come in. Then, the turbulent feelings of the early phase can be replaced with a quieter, deeper, and more satisfying love that is likely to endure forever, if that’s what they both want.