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5 key steps to keep making it work

Long-term relationships are hard. New relationships are hard. The transition from new to long-term is hard. So, if you are in a romantic relationship; you guessed it, it is hard.

We all have false notions of how relationships should work. Maybe we were fed too many fairy-tales and happily-ever-after Hallmark movies. The reality is that even the strongest and best relationships are the result of hard work. Throw away all those ideas about how if it is right then it won’t be hard. Those are lies and keep people running around desperately seeking “the right one.”

How do we make it easier on ourselves? How do we avoid feeling like it is always a struggle to keep it working? These are some lessons I have learned and some that I am still learning.

1. Give grace. No one has the power to hurt us like those we love the most, and they do. We hurt them as well. Some of this hurt is unintentional, on both sides. When it is, extend grace. Accept that what hurt you was not done with the intent to harm, but simply the result of two flawed individuals attempting to join their lives together.

2. Grant forgiveness. Here is the thing no one talks about with forgiveness. It is rarely a one-time thing. Someone hurts you. They genuinely apologize and you forgive them.

The hurt is still there and it often comes back the next time you feel displeased with them, or it comes back just because you quit actively forgiving and the feelings snuck back in. To forgive someone of a wrong is an ongoing process. You have to make the choice to forgive over and over again.

I am not talking about when someone continues hurting you. I mean when they do something that left a wound on your spirit and you decide to forgive them. If we are not intentional about forgiveness, then the same hurt has the power to wound us over and over again.

Never forget that forgiveness is an ongoing process and not a one-time decision. It takes work and commitment to truly forgive for deeper wounds.

3. Make sure you are not doling out or receiving, misplaced anger. It isn’t a comfortable truth, but we often lash out at those who love us when we are feeling hurt or beaten up by the world around us. Problems at work, struggles with family, depression, feeling overwhelmed by our obligations are all things that can lead us to “bleed on people who didn’t cut us.”

4. Take a break from the business of building a relationship and just go enjoy each other. Find something you both enjoy or have always wanted to try and just throw down all the baggage and go laugh together.

Agree to table all issues until this time is over. Laugh together. Preferably the gut muscles hurting, tears streaming down your face, kind of laughter. Whether this is for a few hours or a weekend getaway, let everything go until this designated time is over. This serves a double purpose in that it gives you time to step away from the problems. It also reminds you of why you are fighting to make this work.

5. Talk. Talk about the uncomfortable topics. Talk despite your fear of messing things up. Be honest about your feelings, desires, dreams, and hurts. Talk about how you want the relationship to be. The flip side is to listen. Listen to your partner and do your best to truly hear what they are saying. Put your ego aside and let them say what they need to say. This is fundamental to all healthy relationships. We may want our partner to just know what we need but they often don’t. We may not know the truth in what they genuinely need either. So, no matter how difficult it seems, talk about these things openly and honestly.