I was never a believer in “love at first sight” until I met the woman who would become my wife. Even though I met her working at Burger King, I looked past the funny uniform she was wearing and saw a woman who took my breath away. Our relationship moved fast and we were married the day after I turned 18.
If you can relate, then you probably know that in the honeymoon phase (regardless of what ends up happening to your relationship), nothing matters except your love. You look past all the little things that annoy you. Or maybe you don’t even notice them yet.
When that phase is over, that’s when the work begins. At that point, you have a choice. Will you commit to the hard work it takes to make love last? Or, will you give up at the first sign of cracks in what you thought was untouchable? My wife and I have lasted 17 years so far (including a rocky separation), so I know how difficult this can be.
Here are seven choices you that will help your love withstand the rough times.
1. Prioritize your commitment to love over fleeting feelings.
Love is not the butterflies you get. Love is a choice you make every day and through every circumstance. When you decide to honor your vows despite other attractions that might arise, you’re choosing love. When you enact your commitment to work hard every day to keep your relationship strong and healthy, you’re choosing love.
Difficulties will always arise in a relationship, but accepting that fact, and working through the inevitable discomfort is where the power of love both grounds us and lifts us up.
2. Know when and how to put your partner’s needs first.
It’s hard to think about another person before yourself, but self-sacrifice is a choice that helps love last. It can be as little as offering that last piece of chocolate in the box, or deciding to hang out with your love because she had a bad day instead of going out with your friends.
No, you shouldn’t let someone walk over you, but where it makes sense, you can choose to put their needs first sometimes.
3. Clearly communicate even when you don’t feel like putting in the work.
When things aren’t going well, it’s easier to keep to ourselves, to shut down, to resist vulnerability. After all, who wants to talk when they’re miserable?
When you keep letting the anger and bitterness build, a little problem can turn into a relationship-ending event. Take a minute to cool down and then talk it out — even if it takes all night. It’s important.
4. Continuously strive for self-improvement.
Your relationship grows when you grow. You’re happiest when you are living the best version of you. Always strive for that best version and show your love that you’re committed to avoid complacency.
5. Commit to keeping your sex life hot.
It’s easy to get complacent in your sex life. What once was hot and passionate can turn into the once-a-month chore. As you work to make positive changes on yourself and increase your awareness of your sexuality, you become a better lover.
Great sex is about letting go and being committed to that moment. Lasting love requires a commitment to continuing to make your sex life and connection with your love stronger. Sex is important in your relationship, and it can always be improved.
6. Maintain your health.
You want to choose love every day, but that doesn’t mean that naturally occurring attraction isn’t also an essential component. Unfortunately, too often in relationships, one or both partners “let themselves go,” in terms of looks and self-care habits … and this can lead to a host of other problems.
Beyond the obvious reasons for importance, maintaining your health is key for your energy and your confidence. Practicing self-care tells your partner that even though you’re secure in your relationship, you’re also committed to continuing self-improvement.
7. Find or create work you love.
Each of us will spend 40-plus hours working per week. Work also inevitably leads to emotions that aren’t always the sunniest. And given how much time you spend working, these emotions will affect other areas of our life one way or another.
So, let me connect the dots here: if you’re at a job you don’t enjoy or find fulfilling, you will bring the stress and anxiety home with you. Finding or creating fulfilling work is not as simple as this paragraph, but if you start today, you can change your situation. The Internet and social media have open doors. Don’t let your job ruin your relationship.
After 17 years of marriage, we still have to make these choices to keep our marriage strong. The feelings and excitement of physical moments are nice, but not enough. Love takes hard work and hard choices, but it’s worth it.