"We've got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can't just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it's going to get on by itself. You've got to keep watering it. You've got to really look after it and nurture it.” — John Lennon
Image source: Robert S. Digby on Flickr
Since the beginning of time, men and women have struggled with love. It is both an emotional battlefield and a spiritual inspiration. Popular culture in music, literature, and ever-trending topics continue to be consumed with love. The great myth is that love is easy. The truth is that it can be hard to make a relationship work.
Relationships can be difficult. Both parties have to be willing to try. We can become too consumed with trying to find love. Once we find it, we may not know what to do next. The fact is, love is more than a feeling.
Not all relationships even begin with love. Real world relationships have to develop and grow to be successful.
Here are eight simple (not so easy) tips on how to make any relationship work:
1. Love Yourself
Image source: Irina Patrascu Gheorghita on Flickr
Rule #1: take care of you first. You can't love someone else if you don't love yourself first.
Decide what you need from others, and then ask for it. It is vital that we all take responsibility for our happiness.
Love is a many-splendored thing, but eventually we are each accountable to love and nurture ourselves. Be creative. Be good to yourself and learn what you want out of life.
To have a happy, emotionally healthy relationship, you have to be healthy and happy when you first get into it.
Image source: Len Matthews on Flickr
Any couple needs communication to truly know and understand each other.
Learn to really listen. It may sound too obvious, but when partners communicate, relationships prosper. It's not all about speaking your truth. Part of the equation is simple conversation.
In the digital age, we are often texting or tweeting cryptic messages to our loved ones. Talking is becoming a lost art. If you are at a distance, try telephone conversation. It feels good to hear voices. Talking on the phone is a deeper connection than a text message could ever be.
Communicate one-on-one. Write notes or letters. Handwritten letters and notes are also becoming a thing of the past. Re-connect and reach out with the personal touch.
Communications should not be a one-way street. If you feel like you are breaking down walls rather than talking, slow down. When you talk to someone, be clear and ask for clarity. Don't deluge them with all forms of contact. Communications are how we learn to understand each other. It should never be a way to monitor, control or demand.
Image source: Giuntini Jonathan on Flickr
Life gets so busy that we often don't stop long enough to be grateful for what we have. Find three things you appreciate about your partner and tell them all about it (preferably in a handwritten letter or in-person). Love letters are highly recommended.
When you are with your significant other, look around you. In that exact moment, how do you feel? Take the time to truly appreciate your relationship.
Forget the future. Just for now, stop worrying about what the future will bring. The person you are with is in your life today. You are not promised that they will be here every day in the future.
Compliment each other often. Do you like her smile? Tell her about it. Do you appreciate his generosity and kindness? Let him know.
If you are talking about your partner, emphasize his/her good qualities. Remember to be honest, not gratuitous. An appreciative point of view serves as a reminder of why you got together in the first place. It reinforces gratitude.
Image source: Bob Mical on Flickr
There comes a time to turn off your phones and devices.
We can get side-tracked and distracted by many things. Sometimes it's hard to focus on our relationship.
Whether the relationship is long distance or emotional distance is developing, you need to focus. To keep the energy flowing in a healthy relationship, you have to make time to give your partner undivided attention. They need to focus on you as well.
Be present for the one you love (or the one you are with). Partners can end up focusing too much on anything besides each other. Learn to concentrate on where you are, and who you are with right now.
Image source: Jason Mrachina on Flickr
Relationships should be an adventure. Even after years of marriage, it's a good idea to keep things fresh.
Life will happen no matter what you do. In the meantime, enjoy yourself. Romance includes the element of surprise. Go to new places together. Explore each other's likes and dislikes while you are exploring the world.
It can be a challenge to stay spontaneous. Be creative. You are trying to push your limits as well as find new ways to demonstrate your love.
For example, try a middle-of-the-week romantic date night, or a day where you stay in bed together and never leave the house.
Image source: Alex Proimos on Flickr
There are going to be lots of things that bother you. Bad habits, strange ideas or crazy hobbies are just a few of the things you may encounter. But it may also be a matter of preference and taste.
Does she always want to eat Chinese food when you love that romantic Mexican café? Is he set on golfing every weekend when you prefer bike riding?
Compromise is key. Take a look at the really important things you disagree on. Try to find a middle ground. Perhaps one week Chinese and one week Mexican will make it work. Maybe you can share your hobbies?
It's important to respect your partner's wants and needs. It's not essential that you make them 100% yours. You don't get your way all the time. They don't either.
You don't have to be right all the time. They don't have to be right all the time, either.
A relationship is a series of shifting actions and behaviors. Most disagreements can be remedied with the right compromise.
So what if he is messy and you are a "neat" nut? Both of you may have to give a little.
He should make an effort to pick up more, and you may have to learn to tolerate those papers that he keeps spread around the desk.
Try and pay some attention to the little things that bother your significant other. These are the painless things that you can change the easiest.
"How did we manage to stay together for 65 years? We were born in a time when if something was broken, we would fix it – not throw it away." — Unknown
Image source: Samuel Hearn on Flickr
When you have enough invested in a relationship, you need to be supportive. Sharing responsibilities, chores, and time is a great way to connect. When you care about someone, you begin to automatically help them when they need it. And you should expect support from the other person, as well.
The term "partners" means that your connection extends past each other. As a relationship deepens, you need to acknowledge the other’s friends and family. Try and stay out of the drama, but respect their other relationships.
8. Be Honest
Image source: Hamed Masoumi on Flickr
Be transparent. Secrets can destroy any relationship. If you are holding on to a secret, tell your partner. Let them in. You need to be yourself. And secrets have a habit of coming out in the end, anyway.
The first time we say or hear “I love you,” it can be magic.
But the truth is, "love" may mean something very different to each person. And to top it off, every relationship is unique. Whether you will be together forever or not, enjoy the now.
It's always a good idea to have an intuitive reading so you can get in touch with what's going on in your relationship. And it never hurts to take a glimpse into the future.