Relationship tips for finding the right person

Life as a single person offers many rewards, including learning how to build a healthy relationship with yourself. However, if you’re ready to share your life with someone and want to build a lasting, worthwhile relationship, life as a single person can also be very frustrating.
Finding the right romantic partner is often a difficult journey, for several reasons. Perhaps you grew up in a household where there was no role model of a solid, healthy relationship and you doubt that such a thing even exists. Or maybe your dating history consists only of short, abrupt relationships where you or your partner gets bored too soon, and you don't know how to make a relationship last. You could be attracted to the wrong type of person or keep making the same bad choices over and over, due to an unresolved issue from your past. It's also possible you're not putting yourself in the best environments to meet the right person, or that when you do, you don't feel confident enough to approach someone. Whatever the case may be, it's important to believe that a healthy romantic relationship for you exists in the future.
It's also important to recognize that relationships are never perfect and always require lots of work, compromise, and a willingness to resolve conflict in a positive way. To find and build any relationship worth keeping, you may need to start by re-assessing some of your misconceptions about dating and relationships that can prevent you from finding lasting love.

The first step to finding a suitable partner is to distinguish between what you want and what you need in a partner. Wants are negotiable, needs are not. Wants include the things you think you'd like in a partner, including occupation, intellect, and physical attributes such as height, weight, and hair color. Even if certain traits may appear to be crucially important to you at first, over time you'll often find that you've been needlessly limiting your choices. For example, it may be more important, or at least as important, to find someone who is:
  • Curious rather than extremely intelligent. Curious people tend to grow smarter over time, while those who are bright may languish intellectually if they lack curiosity.
  • Sensual rather than sexy.
  • Caring rather than beautiful or handsome.
  • A little mysterious rather than glamorous.
  • Humorous rather than wealthy.
  • From a family with similar values to yours, rather than someone from a specific ethnic or social background.
Needs are different than wants in that needs are those things that matter to you most, such as values, ambitions, or goals in life. These are probably not the things you can find out about a person by eyeing them on the street, reading their profile on a dating site, or sharing a quick cocktail at a bar before last call.

 When we start looking for a long-term partner or enter into a romantic relationship, many of us do so with a predetermined set of (often unrealistic) expectations—such as how the person should look and behave, how the relationship should progress, and the roles each partner should fulfill. These expectations may be based on your family history, influence of your peer group, your past experiences, or even ideals portrayed in movies and TV shows. However, retaining many of these unrealistic expectations can make any potential partner seem inadequate and any new relationship feel disappointing.

#1: Keep things in perspective

  • Don’t make your search for a relationship the center of your life. Concentrate on activities you enjoy, your career, health, and relationships with family and friends. When you focus on keeping yourself happy, it will keep your life balanced and make you a more interesting person when you do meet someone special.
  • Remember that first impressions aren't always reliable. Especially when it comes to Internet dating, people don’t always accurately portray themselves. Regardless of where or how you meet someone, though, it always takes time to really get to know that person. You have to experience being with someone in a variety of situations, some good and some not so good, before you really know him or her. For example, how well does this person hold up under pressure when things don't go well or when they're tired, frustrated, or hungry?
  • Be honest about your own flaws and shortcomings. Everyone has a flaw—or several—and, for a relationship to last, you want someone to love you for the person you are, not the person you’d like to be, or the person he or she thinks you have the potential to become. In many cases, what you consider a flaw may actually be something another person finds quirky and appealing. By being honest and shedding all pretense, you’ll encourage the other person to do the same, which can lead to a fulfilling relationship.
  • Invest in a vertical relationship before you invest in a horizontal relationship. Don't be too quick to make a relationship sexual as it often becomes harder to develop a good vertical relationship afterwards. Even though it can be difficult in this day and age, try to take your time to get to know someone first. It will only lead to a more satisfying sexual relationship down the road.

#2: Build a genuine connection

The dating game can be nerve wracking. It’s only natural to worry about how you’ll come across and whether or not your date will like you. Here’s what you can do to get past your nerves and self-consciousness so you can build rapport and forge a great connection.
  • Focus outward, not inward. To combat first-date nerves, focus your attention outward, rather than on your internal thoughts and feelings. Try to be fully present in the moment: in what your date is saying and doing and what’s going on around you. This will help take your mind off distracting doubts, worries, and insecurities.
  • Be curious. The best way to connect with someone new is to show genuine interest. When you’re truly curious about someone else’s thoughts, feelings, experiences, stories, and opinions, it shows—and they’ll like you for it. You’ll come across as far more attractive and interesting than if you spend your time trying to promote yourself to your date.
  • Be genuine. Showing interest in others can’t be faked. If you’re just pretending to listen or care, your date will pick up on it. No one likes to be manipulated or placated. Rather than helping you connect and make a good impression, your efforts will most likely backfire. If you aren’t genuinely interested in your date, there is little point in pursuing the relationship further.
  • Pay attention. Make an effort to truly listen to the other person. By paying close attention to what they say, do, and how they interact, you’ll quickly get to know them. Little things go a long way, such as remembering someone’s preferences, the stories they’ve told you, and what’s going on in their life.
  • Put the devices away. You can’t truly pay attention to anyone or forge a genuine connection when you’re multitasking. Nonverbal communication—subtle gestures, expressions, and other visual cues—tell us a lot about what’s going on in the other person’s head and how they’re perceiving and responding to us. But they’re easy to miss unless you’re tuned in.

#4: Learn to handle rejection gracefully

At some point, everyone looking for love is going to have to deal with rejection—both as the person being rejected and the person doing the rejecting. Some people can be overcome with anger, embarrassment, or anxiety when faced with rejection, or are so frightened of it happening again, they avoid dating or starting new relationships. Others find it so difficult to reject another person, they find themselves caught up in prolonged, unhealthy relationships.
By staying positive and being honest with yourself and others, handling rejection can be far less intimidating. The key is to accept that rejection is an inevitable part of dating but to not spend too much time worrying about it. It’s never fatal.

Tips for handling rejection when dating and looking for love

  • Don’t take it personally. If you’re rejected after one or a few dates, the other person is likely only rejecting you for superficial reasons you have no control over—some people just prefer blondes to brunettes, chatty people to quiet ones—or because they are unable to overcome their own issues, such as a fear of commitment. Be grateful for early rejections in a relationship as it can spare you much more pain down the road.
  • Don’t dwell on it, but learn from the experience. Don’t beat yourself up over any mistakes you think you made. If it happens repeatedly, though, take some time to reflect on how you relate to others, and any problems you need to work on. Then let it go. By dealing with rejection in a healthy way it can increase your strength and resilience.
  • Acknowledge your feelings. It’s often normal to feel a little hurt, resentful, disappointed, or even sad when faced with rejection. It's important to acknowledge your feelings without trying to suppress them. If you practice mindfulness, you’ll find that staying in touch with your feelings helps you quickly move on from negative experiences. 

#5: Watch for relationship red flags

It's important to be aware of red-flag behaviors that may indicate a relationship is not going to lead to healthy, lasting love. In such cases, it's better to cut your losses early, rather than invest time in a relationship that isn't good for you or the other person. Trust your instincts and pay close attention to how the other person makes you feel. If you tend to feel insecure, ashamed, or undervalued, it may be time to reconsider the relationship.

Common relationship red flags:

  • The relationship is alcohol dependent. You only communicate well—laugh, talk, make love—when one or both of you are under the influence of alcohol or other substances.
  • There’s trouble making a commitment. For some people commitment is much more difficult than others. It's harder for them to trust others or to understand the benefits of a long-term relationship because of previous experiences or an unstable home life growing up.
  • Nonverbal communication is off. Instead of wanting to connect with you, the other person’s attention is on other things like his or her phone or the TV.
  • Jealousy about outside interests. One partner doesn’t like the other spending time with friends and family members outside the relationship.
  • Controlling behavior. There is a desire on the part of one person to control the other, stop him or her from having independent thoughts and feelings.
  • The relationship is exclusively sexual. There is no interest in the other person other than a physical interest. A meaningful and fulfilling relationship depends on more than just good sex.
  • No one-on-one time. One partner only wants to be with the other as part of a group of people. If there’s no desire to spend quality time alone with you, outside of the bedroom, it can signify a greater issue. 

#6: Deal with trust issues

Mutual trust is a cornerstone of any close personal relationship. If there is no trust in a relationship, it's impossible for you to feel safe and cared for by another person, or to make that person feel safe and cared for. In other words, without trust, lasting love can never blossom. Of course, trust doesn’t develop overnight; it develops over time as your connection with another person deepens and you learn more about each other. However, if you're someone with trust issues—someone who's been betrayed, traumatized, or abused in the past, or someone with an insecure attachment bond—then you may find it impossible to trust others and find lasting love.
When you’re unable to trust others, your romantic relationships will be dominated by fear—fear of being betrayed by the other person, fear of being let down, or fear of feeling vulnerable. But it is possible to learn to trust others. By working with the right therapist, you can identify the source of your mistrust and explore ways to build trust in existing and future relationships.

Therapy for trust issues

The key to overcoming trust issues in your personal relationships is to work with a therapist you feel comfortable talking to, someone who will be your partner in overcoming the problem. Obviously, having trust issues can make finding a therapist you trust and feel comfortable with difficult, but for many people the therapy process can be the ideal way to learn to trust again.
Don’t be discouraged if you think therapy is inaccessible or too expensive. Group therapy may be more affordable than individual therapy and can be just as effective at dealing with trust issues. In fact, having more people present means there are more opportunities for you to practice developing trust. Alternately, some individual therapists will accept sliding scale payments where you pay what you can afford for each session, while some community organizations offer therapy at discounted rates.

#7: Nurture your budding relationship

Remember that finding the right person is just the beginning of the journey, not the destination. In order to move from casual dating to a committed, loving relationship, you need to nurture that new connection. It's a process that requires time, effort, and a genuine interest in the other person as a whole. It also requires an openness to compromise and change.
All relationships change over time. You’ll change over time, your partner will change, and so will both of your needs and expectations. What you want from a relationship at the beginning may be very different from what you and your partner want from that same relationship a few months or years down the road.
For a romantic relationship to blossom into lasting love you need to be willing and able to:
  • Invest in the relationship. No relationship will run smoothly without regular attention, so ask yourself if you are willing to invest the time and effort into this relationship. Often, after the initial blush of romance has faded, couples switch off from one another, but the more you invest in each other, the more you grow to care. Find things you enjoy doing together and commit to spending the time to do them, even when you’re busy or stressed.
  • Communicate openly. Is your partner genuinely interested in your thoughts and feelings? Are you comfortable expressing your own opinions, thoughts, and feelings around this person? Are you playful, open, and able to laugh together and enjoy each other's company? Your partner is not a mind reader, so tell him or her how you feel. When you both feel comfortable expressing your needs, fears, and desires, the bond between you will become stronger and deeper.
  • Resolve conflict by fighting fair. Some couples talk things out quietly, while others may raise their voices and passionately disagree. No matter how you approach the differences in your relationship, the important thing is that you aren't fearful of conflict. You need to feel safe to express the things that bother you without fear of retaliation, and to be able to resolve conflict without humiliation, degradation, or insisting on being right.
  • Accept change. Every relationship changes and goes through good and bad periods, but overall a healthy relationship should continue to be good for you. It should bring the best out in you and should not only make you happier, but also make you a better person: kinder, more emphatic, and more generous.

Falling in love

When people first experience falling in love, it often starts as attraction. Sexual feelings can also be a part of this attraction. People at this stage might daydream about a crush or a new BF or GF. They may doodle the person's name or think of their special someone while a particular song is playing.
It sure feels like love. But it's not love yet. It hasn't had time to grow into emotional closeness that's needed for love. Because feelings of attraction and sexual interest are new, and they're directed at a person we want a relationship with, it's not surprising we confuse attraction with love. It's all so intense, exciting, and hard to sort out.
The crazy intensity of the passion and attraction phase fades a bit after a while. Like putting all our energy into winning a race, this kind of passion is exhilarating but far too extreme to keep going forever. If a relationship is destined to last, this is where closeness enters the picture. The early passionate intensity may fade, but a deep affectionate attachment takes its place.
Some of the ways people grow close are:
  • Learning to give and receive. A healthy relationship is about both people, not how much one person can get from (or give to) the other.
  • Revealing feelings. A supportive, caring relationship allows people to reveal details about themselves — their likes and dislikes, dreams and worries, proud moments, disappointments, fears, and weaknesses.
  • Listening and supporting. When two people care, they offer support when the other person is feeling vulnerable or afraid. They don't put down or insult their partner, even when they disagree.
Giving, receiving, revealing, and supporting is a back-and-forth process: One person shares a detail, then the other person shares something, then the first person feels safe enough to share a little more. In this way, the relationship gradually builds into a place of openness, trust, and support where each partner knows that the other will be there when times are tough. Both feel liked and accepted for who they are.
The passion and attraction the couple felt early on in the relationship isn't lost. It's just different. In healthy, long-term relationships, couples often find that intense passion comes and goes at different times. But the closeness is always there.
Sometimes, though, a couple loses the closeness. For adults, relationships can sometimes turn into what experts call "empty love." This means that the closeness and attraction they once felt is gone, and they stay together only out of commitment. This is not usually a problem for teens, but there are other reasons why relationships end.
Loving and being loved adds richness to our lives. When people feel close to others they are happier and even healthier. Love helps us feel important, understood, and secure.
But each kind of love has its own distinctive feel. The kind of love we feel for a parent is different from our love for a baby brother or best friend. And the kind of love we feel in romantic relationships is its own unique type of love.
Our ability to feel romantic love develops during adolescence. Teens all over the world notice passionate feelings of attraction. Even in cultures where people are not allowed to act on or express these feelings, they're still there. It's a natural part of growing up to develop romantic feelings and sexual attractions to others. These new feelings can be exciting — or even confusing at first.
Love is such a powerful human emotion that experts are constantly studying it. They've discovered that love has three main qualities:
  1. Attraction is the "chemistry" part of love. It's all about the physical — even sexual — interest that two people have in each other. Attraction is responsible for the desire we feel to kiss and hold the object of our affection. Attraction is also what's behind the flushed, nervous-but-excited way we feel when that person is near.
  2. Closeness is the bond that develops when we share thoughts and feelings that we don't share with anyone else. When you have this feeling of closeness with your boyfriend or girlfriend, you feel supported, cared for, understood, and accepted for who you are. Trust is a big part of this.
  3. Commitment is the promise or decision to stick by the other person through the ups and downs of the relationship.
These three qualities of love can be combined in different ways to make different kinds of relationships. For example, closeness without attraction is the kind of love we feel for best friends. We share secrets and personal stuff with them, we support them, and they stand by us. But we are not romantically interested in them.
Attraction without closeness is more like a crush or infatuation. You're attracted to someone physically but don't know the person well enough yet to feel the closeness that comes from sharing personal experiences and feelings.
Romantic love is when attraction and closeness are combined. Lots of relationships grow out of an initial attraction (a crush or "love at first sight") and develop into closeness. It's also possible for a friendship to move from closeness into attraction as two people realize their relationship is more than "just like" and they have become interested in one another in a romantic way.
For people falling in love for the first time, it can be hard to tell the difference between the intense, new feelings of physical attraction and the deeper closeness that goes with being in love.
The third ingredient in a love relationship, commitment, is about wanting and deciding to stay together as a couple in the future — despite any changes and challenges that life brings.
Sometimes couples who fall in love in high school develop committed relationships that last. Many relationships don't last, though. But it's not because teens aren't capable of deep loving.
We typically have shorter relationships as teens because adolescence is a time when we instinctively seek lots of different experiences and try out different things. It's all part of discovering who we are, what we value, and what we want out of life.
Another reason we tend to have shorter relationships in our teens is because the things we want to get out of a romantic relationship change as we get a little older. In our teens — especially for guys — relationships are mainly about physical attraction. But by the time guys reach 20 or so, they rate a person's inner qualities as most important. Teen girls emphasize closeness as most important — although they don't mind if a potential love interest is cute too!
In our teens, relationships are mostly about having fun. Dating can seem like a great way to have someone to go places with and do things with. Dating can also be a way to fit in. If our friends are all dating someone, we might put pressure on ourselves to find a boyfriend or girlfriend too.
For some people dating is even a status thing. It can almost seem like another version of cliques: The pressure to go out with the "right" person in the "right" group can make dating a lot less fun than it should be — and not so much about love!
In our late teens, though, relationships are less about going out to have fun and fitting in. Closeness, sharing, and confiding become more important to both guys and girls. By the time they reach their twenties, most girls and guys value support, closeness, and communication, as well as passion. This is the time when people start thinking about finding someone they can commit to in the long run — a love that will last.
Love is delicate. It needs to be cared for and nurtured if it is to last through time. Just like friendships, relationships can fail if they are not given enough time and attention. This is one reason why some couples might not last — perhaps someone is so busy with school, extracurriculars, and work that he or she has less time for a relationship. Or maybe a relationship ends when people graduate and go to separate colleges or take different career paths.
For some teens, a couple may grow apart because the things that are important to them change as they mature. Or maybe each person wants different things out of the relationship. Sometimes both people realize the relationship has reached its end; sometimes one person feels this way when the other does not.

Losing love can be painful for anyone. But if it's your first real love and the relationship ends before you want it to, feelings of loss can seem overwhelming. Like the feelings of passion early in the relationship, the newness and rawness of grief and loss can be intense — and devastating. There's a reason why they call it a broken heart.
When a relationship ends, people really need support. Losing a first love isn't something we've been emotionally prepared to cope with. It can help to have close friends and family members to lean on. Unfortunately, lots of people — often adults — expect younger people to bounce back and "just get over it." If your heart is broken, find someone you can talk to who really understands the pain you're going through.
It seems hard to believe when you're brokenhearted that you can ever feel better. But gradually these feelings grow less intense. Eventually, people move on to other relationships and experiences.
Relationships — whether they last 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years, or a lifetime — are all opportunities to experience love on its many different levels. We learn both how to love and how to be loved in return.
Romance provides us with a chance to discover our own selves as we share with someone new. We learn the things we love about ourselves, the things we'd like to change, and the qualities and values we look for in a partner.
Loving relationships teach us self-respect as well as respect for others. Love is one of the most fulfilling things we can have in our lives. If romance hasn't found you yet, don't worry — there's plenty of time. And the right person is worth the wait.

Are you falling in love? How do you really know? find out

There’s no question that the early stages of a relationship can be confusing. You might puzzle over your own feelings, and wonder what the person you’re dating really thinks of you. Your own emotions may be difficult to fully decipher, and trying to categorize them as falling in love or as just a passing attraction can be tricky. Is what you're feeling the real thing, or are you just prone to feeling this way and need to be careful moving forward?

1. Are you suddenly doing new things?
As people fall in love, they often branch out beyond their normal range of activities and try those that their partners favor. You might find yourself trying new foods, watching new shows, or attempting new activities like running, fishing, or gambling. People who fall in love tend to report growth in the content and diversity of their own self-concepts.
2. Have you been especially stressed lately?
As welcome as falling in love might be, evidence links the experience with higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. So if you’re anxious, tense, or just plain jittery, it might be a normal response to the strain of repeated social encounters with someone whose impression matters deeply to you.
3. Are you highly motivated to be with this person?
Transitioning from a casual relationship to falling in love may have a chemical underpinning: Evidence shows that dopamine-rich areas of the brain are involved in the beginning stages of love; these areas are considered part of the brain’s “reward system” and serve as highly motivational. Once couples are “in love” for a while, the intensity of these emotions tends to decline and different areas of the brain, potentially more closely linked to attachment, become more active.
4. Does the person you’re falling for return your feelings?
If you’re a woman and you feel like you’re falling in love, you might be interested to know that women experience reciprocity in those emotions more than men. Maybe women are more apt to hold back their emotions until they believe they are returned, or maybe women are more successful at seducing partners. In either case, women who think they’re falling in love tend to have their feelings returned more often than men, making them more likely to find their feelings turn into relationships.
5. How intense are your emotions?
People high in attachment anxiety (i.e., they question their own self-worth in relationships) tend to experience a high degree of passion when romance is budding. If that's not you, a lack of intense feeling isn’t necessarily a sign that Cupid hasn’t struck—not everyone experiences falling in love the same way. In fact, those who have avoidant attachment orientations tend to fall in love with much less intensity.
6. Do you fall in love frequently?
If falling in love is a feeling you feel frequently, you'll have less chance of missing the real thing—but more chance of heartache from mistaking attraction for something more. New evidence suggests that men fall in love more frequently than women. Researchers can explain this tendency from an evolutionary perspective, linking love to sex: Whereas women are likely to be more stringent in their partner criteria before declaring love, because their potential investment in an offspring is greater (e.g., pregnancy, childbirth), such emotions for men might promote reproduction and could therefore be considered evolutionarily advantageous.
7. Are you tempted to say, “I love you”?
A sure sign of romantic interest, some people are more hesitant to utter these three words than others. Although people might imagine that women are the first to utter it, though, research on heterosexual couples again indicates that it's men who are more apt to say “I love you” first. They also tend to fall in love faster.
8. Are you investing more in this person?
One hallmark of successful couples is investment—all the time, energy, emotions, etc. that people put into their relationships. People falling in love are likely increasing their investment in a person, linking their lives together in a way that might promote commitment and stability.
Falling in love is a uniquely intense period of time for anyone. But we need to sort out a lot of other questions during a falling-in-love phase: Beyond clear attraction, is this person someone who will support you, respect you, understand you, and be compassionate with you? And does this person share your values and priorities?
If you're lucky, putting in the time and effort during this initial period will pay off, and your mutual attraction can transition into a more stable (and less stressful) long-term relationship.

Real vows to make on your wedding day

As brides and grooms all over the world sit down to write their vows and envision their futures with their spouses, they may not realize that the vows they should be making have much less to do with what they are pledging to their partners and much more to do with a promise they are making to themselves. The question all of those getting married (or are already married for that matter) should be asking is, “What can I bring to the marriage that will keep my love, excitement and appreciation of my partner alive?”

What individuals who’ve been in lasting relationships often discover is that the promises that make marriage last have less to do with devotion and more to do with equality, less to do with union and more to do with independence and respect. With that in mind, here are seven vows that, if kept in the forefront of a person’s thoughts and actions, will help to keep a relationship as romantic, exciting and enjoyable as the wedding itself.

1. “I promise to support what lights you up… even if it has nothing to do with me.”
Getting married often involves the misconception that we now hold some sort of magical power over our partner. Since when does having the right to love someone give us the right to change who they are? Couples can be compatible without mirroring one another exactly. If a husband wants to go to a meditation retreat or a wife wants to climb a mountain, the fact that we don’t share these interests is not a reason to hold our partners back from being who they are.
It’s important to accept that no one person can match our every interest or meet our every need. Good advice for anyone in a relationship is to not expect to get all your needs met by one person. If we focus our attention on our partners and place all of our demands on them, we will find our worlds becoming smaller and smaller. Relationships should be used to expand, not diminish our lives. Even when our partner’s unique interests feel threatening to us, we can be supportive of their independence and benefit from the reward of them being free to be who they are.

2. “I promise to be an equal in everything we share.”
Failing to maintain equality in a long-term relationship allows dynamics to play out that can weaken the positive feelings we have for each other. Over time, any inequalities that exist in the beginning of the relationship become more pronounced until finally, the couple is at odds with each other. When one person is adult and the other childish, they typically evolve into the roles of an angry, disapproving parent and a helpless, incompetent child. When one is more extroverted and the other withdrawn, they become a couple where one is silent and the other is the spokesperson for the duo.
It is important to take a hard look at ourselves and at any ways that we may be acting unequal in our relationship. We should try to recognize if we are being childish and inferior and if we are being parental and superior. When we stop ourselves from acting out these behaviors, we stop provoking a corresponding reaction in our partner. For example, we may not like when our partner tells us what to do, yet we may be asking for that reaction by complaining about problems we could easily solve ourselves.

3. “I promise not to see you as an extension of myself.”
The mutual respect and equality that most couples feel when they are just getting to know each other often seems to fade with familiarity. When we first fall in love with someone, we value them for their opinions, thoughts and beliefs. Yet as we begin to see ourselves as a part of a couple or when we start to regard our mate as our missing piece, we sacrifice the sense of individuality that enabled us to fall in love in the first place. Viewing our partners as part of us, allows us to lose a sense of boundary or respect for them and for ourselves.
These feelings often lead to us slipping into routines instead of maintaining the adventure of sharing life with a separate person. We may be bonded by matrimony, but when we start seeing our partner as a part of us, we begin to formulate a bond based more on fantasy than real love. Looking at our spouses as our right arm may feel nice until we realize we are no more attracted to them than we are to our right arm. This “fantasy bond” creates a relationship built on form over substance, jealousy over excitement, neediness over attraction. You can take action, such as breaking routines and maintaining communication, to keep your relationship real and avoid a fantasy connection.

4. “I promise to be open to anything you have to say and to always look for the kernel of truth in your words.”
Most arguments in couples are impossible to mediate for one reason: Both people are right, and both are wrong. They are in a stalemate, because, in defending their own points of view, neither person can see the point of view of their partner. Though it may sound silly, it’s actually valuable to take the advise of business consultants who recommend that the first step in resolving an altercation is to see your adversary’s side of the argument, then for them to see yours, and finally to look together for common ground between the two points of view. If no agreement can be reached, it is also possible for two people to agree to disagree and maintain their loving feelings for each other.
More often than not, couples fight fire with fire, swapping insults and complaints that, although they may be valid, rarely get them anywhere in terms of finding a common ground. When our partner says something to us, it’s all too easy to get defensive; our knee-jerk reaction is often to counter attack. It is possible to talk to one another about our feelings without being critical or complaining. Someone as close to us as our spouse may not be entirely right about us but rarely are they entirely wrong. By staying open and vulnerable to feedback, we can respond sensitively to our partners while learning more about ourselves. We are also more likely to entice an open reaction from them when something bothers us, and we can both benefit from having a more honest relationship truly built on trust.

5. “I promise not to project elements from my past onto this relationship.”
Though it may sound vague and simplistic, this is perhaps the hardest vow for any of us to keep, as we are rarely entirely conscious of the ways our past experiences infiltrate our present actions. However, our reactions in our closest relationships often have more to do with defenses constructed long ago and old projections that we make on our partner than on anything going on in the present. For this reason, when something bothers us about our partner, it’s always important to think about why it bothers us – is it more our own overreaction or more a quality we really don’t like? An important form of honesty in a relationship that is often overlooked is getting to know yourself. Thinking about how past experiences shape our current perceptions can help us identify when our reactions are overreactions and inappropriate to our current situation.

6. “I promise to make my actions meet my words.”
Every one of us knows that couple who seems to detest each other, who argue day and night and who still close out every phone call with “I love you.” This couple single-handedly illustrates how, when it comes to love, showing is more important than telling. It’s not enough to say “I love you” when our actions aren’t loving. We can all find examples of this in our everyday lives: in those of us who say we want to be close but continually make excuses for not spending time together, or those who say we want to have a personal conversation but then criticize what our partner says, or those who say we want to be more sexual and proceed to watch TV late into the night.

7. “I promise not to act because of a sense of obligation but because I enjoy what I can offer you and appreciate what you offer me.”
When a relationship starts to become routine and lose its excitement, the little thoughtful acts that were originally an expression of our love begin to feel like burdensome obligations. Anything from giving our spouses a ride to the airport to making them a morning cup of coffee can be a sweet gesture until we start to resent it or imagine it’s being demanded of us. At this point, it is good to reassess what matters to us.
Where is the feeling of obligation coming from? Is the sense that we have to do certain things actually coming from demands we are putting on ourselves? Have we gotten into thinking about our day as a long list of “shoulds” rather than a list of “wants.” Unfortunately, society often sneers at lovers when they are kind to each other. A person who does a favor for their mate is often viewed as acting foolish or even pathetic or taken advantage of. In truth, it hurts us to hold back the behaviors that convey our love for our partner. Therefore, we should consistently try to think of what we can do that will not only make our partner happy, but will make us happy as a result.

Perhaps a more beneficial question is, what love is not?

As much as we as a species are capable of involuntarily plummeting ourselves into the magical glow of being in love, keeping ourselves in that carefree, heartfelt romantic space is tricky. Falling out of love and into routine, out of kindness into irritability, and out of respect into annoyance is all too easy. So why does this shift occur, and how can we evade it? By identifying what love is not, we can avoid the relationship “don’ts” that lead to our romantic demise.

Love is not selfish, demanding or a proprietary right over the other.
When we first date someone, rarely do we find ourselves saying things like, “You’re going out to meet your friends again? But I thought you were going to stay in and rent a movie with me?” or “Why do you take so long to get ready? You always keep me waiting forever.” The minute we start treating our partners as an extension of ourselves, criticizing their uniqueness and commanding their conformity, we not only damage their attraction to us, we pretty much obliterate our own attraction to them. Treating our partners as independent and separate individuals may force us to face our own insecurities, jealousy, and self-critical thoughts, but it will help us grow stronger, which in turn leads to a more real, more solid connection with our partner.

Love is never submission or dominance, emotional coercion or manipulation.
Emotional game playing is a defense mechanism formed to protect ourselves from the hurts, rejections, and uncertainties that come with feeling vulnerable to, invested in, and wanting something from a completely separate human being. Playing the victim to a dominant personality or the boss to someone who’s easy to influence is a destructive process that is all too easy to lose track of.
Because many of these manipulative behaviors are unconscious and not intended to be malicious, we should always pay attention to what our actions are based on. Are we falling silent when we don’t get what we want, so our partners will notice and feel sorry for us? Are we feigning flexibility, while covertly setting terms and restrictions to which our partner must comply? By becoming aware of these patterns, we are able to pinpoint and alter damaging behaviors and take a chance on expressing real wanting directly, asking for what we want and need from our partner. This allows us to feel our partner’s real feelings toward us. Getting something from our partner through manipulation keeps us from experiencing his or her real feelings toward us.

Love is not the desperate attempt to deny aloneness or a desire for fused identity.
When you find yourself thinking of love as a means of being “taken care of” or “not winding up alone” you may be entering dangerous territory. Love is a feeling you have for someone else as well as an appreciation of a feeling directed toward you. As much as we revel in the joy of a shared life, that joy can only be preserved when we recognize that a healthy relationship consists of two lives being led in harmony and not a single life being led by two people.
Sharing activities, stories, friends, and children are all meaningful elements of a relationship. But denying the fact that every human and experience is unique is denying ourselves and our loved ones a partnership based on equality, reality, and genuine affection for one another. When we merge our identity with our partners we lose attraction to them. They become no more interesting to us than our right arm. Yet, if the relationship ends, we feel devastated, as though we have lost our right arm.

Love is not to be confused with emotional hunger.
Feeding off of another person is not love. Many people are left with a feeling of emotional emptiness from their childhoods. Often, as adults, we still see ourselves as these empty children and turn to our partner to fill that emotional void. When we allow a lack of maturity to weigh on our partners, we drain them of their vitality and the esteem they once had for the developed individuals we are truly capable of being. It is important to avoid looking to our partners for an unhealthy dose of definition, praise, reassurance or approval. These are attributes we must develop within ourselves in order to realize a full and satisfying relationship with another person.

Love is not an inner state of mind that has no recognizable outward manifestations.
How many times have we found ourselves bickering, scowling, snapping at, and exhausting our partners, then casually declaring how in love we are? Often, we have formed a fantasy bond, an illusion of connection, with our partner. We relate to them in fantasy, but we don’t treat them with kindness and love in reality. Love is an action as much as it is a state of being. If we purport to love someone, there should be actual manifestations of that love and behavior that is observable to others.
When we find ourselves mistreating our loved ones, it is important to understand that the inner critic we all possess in our minds that encourages us to fear and destroy true intimacy can be just as savage to our partners as they are to us. Thoughts about ourselves such as, “I’m not loveable. She will never care for me the way I care for her” can just as easily turn on our partners suggesting things like, “He is so selfish. Why doesn’t he ever think of me?”
These thoughts dictate our behaviors, allowing us to treat our partners with the same scrutiny and unkindness with which we treat ourselves. Hitting the brakes on these behaviors, no matter how compelled we are to act them out, can help us stand up to these critical inner voices and have more compassion and love toward our partners as well as toward ourselves.

Learn the qualities that make a person an ideal partner

While the reasons we fall in love are often a mystery, the reasons we stay in love are far less elusive. There may be no such thing as the perfect partner, but an ideal partner can be found in someone who has developed themselves in certain ways that go beyond looks, charms and success. Although we each seek out a specific set of qualities that is uniquely meaningful to us alone, there are certain psychological characteristics both you and your partner can strive for that make the relationship much more likely for lasting success.

1. An ideal partner has grown up.

One common criticism people make about their partners is that they need to “grow up.” What many of us fail to recognize is that growing up is not merely a matter of acting like an adult. To truly grow up means recognizing and resolving early childhood traumas or losses, and then understanding how these events influence our current behaviors.
Therefore the ideal partner is willing to reflect on their past. They possess a maturity that comes from being emotionally emancipated from their family of origin. They have developed a strong sense of independence and autonomy, having made the psychological shift from boy to man or girl to woman. Having broken ties to old identities and patterns, this person is more available to their partner and the new family they have created, as oppose to the one in which they were born.
Because this partner has grown up, they are less likely to re-enact childhood experiences in an intimate relationship. Because they have evolved as a person, they aren’t looking for someone to compensate for shortcomings and weaknesses. They aren’t looking for someone to complete their incompleteness. Rather this person is looking for someone like themselves. They are looking for another adult with qualities similar to theirs, with whom they can share life in a compatible fashion.

2. An ideal partner is open and non-defensive.

The ideal partner is open and undefended, and is willing to be vulnerable. As a result, they are approachable and receptive to feedback without being overly sensitive about any topic. Their openness also enables them to be forthright in expressing feelings, thoughts, dreams and desires. It includes an interest in personal and sexual development.

3. An ideal partner is honest and lives with integrity.

The ideal partner realizes the importance of honesty in a close relationship. Honesty builds trust between people. Dishonesty confuses the other person, destroying their trust along with their sense of reality. Nothing has a more destructive impact on a close relationship between two people than dishonesty and deception. Even in such painful situations as infidelity, the blatant deception involved is often more hurtful than the unfaithful act itself.
The ideal partner strives to live a life of integrity so that there are no discrepancies between one’s words and actions. This goes for all levels of communication, both verbal and non-verbal.

4. An ideal partner is respectful of and sensitive to the other, having uniquely individual goals and priorities.

Ideal partners value the other’s interests separate from their own. They feel congenial toward and supportive of one another’s overall goals in life. They are sensitive to the other’s wants, desires and feelings, and place them on an equal basis with their own. Ideal partners treat each other with respect and sensitivity. They do not try to control each other with threatening or manipulative behavior. They are respectful of one another’s distinct personal boundaries while at the same time, being close physically and emotionally.

5. An ideal partner has empathy for and understanding of their partner.

The ideal partner perceives their mate on both an intellectual, observational level and an emotional, intuitive level. This partner is able to both understand and empathize with their mate.
When a couple understands each other, they become aware of the commonalities that exist between them and also recognize and appreciate the differences. When both partners are empathic, that is, capable of communicating with feeling and with respect for the other person’s wants, attitudes and values, each partner feels understood and validated.

6. An ideal partner is physically affectionate and sexually responsive.

The ideal partner is easily affectionate and responsive on many levels: physically, emotionally and verbally. They are personal, acknowledging and outwardly demonstrative of feelings of warmth and tenderness. They enjoy closeness in being sexual and are uninhibited in freely giving and accepting affection and pleasure during lovemaking.

7. An ideal partner has a sense of humor!

The ideal partner has a sense of humor. A sense of humor can be a lifesaver in a relationship. The ability to laugh at one’s self and at life’s foibles allows a person to maintain a proper perspective while dealing with sensitive issues that arise within the couple. Couples who are playful and teasing often defuse potentially volatile situations with their humor. A good sense of humor definitely eases the tense moments in a relationship. Besides, it always feels good to have fun with someone!

Learning to love

The act of loving is more gratifying for both the lover and the beloved than the state of being in love. The state of being in love is passive and can easily slip from reality into a fantasy about being in love. The act of loving involves real behaviors that keep a person actively engaged in loving.

People are taught manners and how to be polite to one another, but people are not taught about love or how to be loving to one another. Learning how to love is as easy as learning manners. Learning to love involves 3 steps: acknowledge and accept, be grateful and express appreciation, and finally reciprocate with action. This simple process breaks into the self-protective behaviors and attitudes that interfere with partners loving each other. It enables people to accept love with dignity and return love with appreciation. When people follow these suggestions, they find themselves actively involved in being in love.

1. Acknowledge and accept
The first step is to acknowledge and accept what is given to you by your partner. This step is much more difficult than it sounds because most people have little real awareness of what is given to them. They perceive their partners in terms of what they want from them or what they should be getting from them.
To gain some perspective, step back from your partner. As you stand alone, get a feeling for yourself as a separate, independent person who is perfectly capable of functioning on your own. You are just you, alone. Now take a look at your partner, separate from you. Separate from anything you may expect, want or demand of him/her. Separate from a role he/she may be trying to fulfill in relation to you. He/she is just him/her, alone.
Once you are experiencing yourself and your partner from this vantage point as two very separate, individual people, look at what your partner is giving you. Don’t look for grandiose gestures of love and devotion. Don’t look for what he/she ought to be doing for you. Look for real, simple, everyday acts of thoughtfulness, sensitivity and kindness. Look for unique acts of giving that are an expression of his/her nature and his/her sensitivity to your nature. Couples hurt each other by overlooking these acts as love. However when you acknowledge them, you are accepting the love your partner is offering to you.
2. Be grateful and express appreciation
Once you have acknowledged what is being given to you and have then accepted it, the next step is to be grateful and express gratitude to your partner. Your gratitude would not be conveyed with occasional, extravagant and effusive expressions of thanks and appreciation. Your gratitude would manifest itself in tender feelings of thankfulness that you would feel and express every time kindness, sensitivity and generosity was extended to you by your partner. As a result of this ongoing expression of appreciation, you would find yourself living in a constant state of gratitude for your partner’s love for you.
3. Reciprocate with action
 You have accepted and expressed gratitude for what your partner has given you. Now, in the final step, you give to your partner. Giving to your partner is not about you as a couple. It is not about how you see him/her in relation to you or your relationship. Giving to your partner involves an awareness of each of you as separate and distinctive people with your own individual traits, interests and desires. This awareness makes you sensitive to what your partner personally wants and needs; at the same time it makes you conscious of what you personally have to offer.
Therefore, the final step in being loving is the act of responding to your partner’s personal needs with a response that is highly individual and unique to you. Because this personal level of giving is such a profound expression of who you are, the more wholeheartedly you give, the more fully you realize yourself. As you continue to actively respond to your partner, your life will be enriched by the joy and satisfaction that comes from expressing gratitude and love through thoughtful acts of consideration and kindness.