When you first start seeing someone, you’re compelled to put your best foot forward. You exchange all of the usual pleasantries and put each other first. However, as time goes on, the dark, ugly parts of yourself start to seep through. Pleasantries are sometimes replaced with sarcasm and selflessness is replaced with selfishness. As you get comfortable with each other, the real you makes an appearance, and it’s not always nice. We all have challenging days or an off moment, but that’s no excuse to treat the one you love badly. Each relationship must have a set of ground rules that ensure the love, care, and safety of each partner.
There’s no official guidebook for being in a relationship, but there are some unwritten rules that all couples should follow. These ground rules should be in place to make sure both you and your partner are engaged in a loving, respectful partnership. Here are some relationship rules you should never break.
1. Be kind
Kindness goes a long way. It could be a kind word, a smile, or an act of service. Don’t stop being nice to each other just because you’ve been together for a while. You could be one careless action or mean remark away from losing your partner. Don’t let uncaring ways become a habit. Demonstrating compassion is a powerful way to show love.
Psychologist Susan Boon says kindness shouldn’t be a one-time act you do on special occasions or when you want something. Kindness must become second nature if you desire relationship success. “You have to do nice things often. But it’s harder to be nice when the heat is on, when you’re really angry, or when something has happened for the 15th time. Nevertheless, the balance must be heavily, heavily stacked in the positive to have a happy marriage,” Boon told WebMD.
2. Fight fair
Don’t fight to win an argument. You’ll only end up frustrated and harboring grudges. Aim not only to get your point across, but also to learn something. Take a step back and think about what you may have done (or not done) that contributed to the disagreement. Sometimes disagreements, when entered with an open mind and heart, can help build and sharpen your conflict resolution skills. You can also learn more about underlying issues that may be causing friction in your relationship. Often, what you think you are arguing about isn’t the real topic at all. Your partner may be irritated with you because he or she feels you’re not spending enough time with them or paying enough attention. Have an internal dialogue with yourself and ask, “What are we really arguing about?”
Sometimes an argument escalates because you’re fighting from a place of your own past. Psychologist Lisa Firestone recommends analyzing your feelings as they occur. In her PsychAlive article, she says:
Is your partner really rejecting you or might you be distorting reality? Perhaps, you’re listening to your critical inner voice when you hear thoughts like, “He’s cheating on you!” “Who would want to be with you anyway?” or “You’re just being used. Don’t show her that you care.” In many cases, you may be projecting these feelings onto your partner based on old experiences.
Try to get to the root of the problem. Taking time to gain a deeper understanding of the dynamics at play can help strengthen your relationship and even help you relate better to people in other areas of your life.
3. Be present
Don’t take each other for granted. Make an effort to make time for each other and to remember important events (like birthdays and date nights). While it’s tempting to get distracted by a lengthy text session with one of your friends or compulsively check work email, take a moment to look each other in the eyes. Put the electronic devices down and actually acknowledge each other’s presence (especially during meals). Life has a way of showing us what’s really important. Don’t let a tragedy cause you to regret your inattention.
4. Give freely
Freely give your time, love, support, and acceptance. Remember not only your needs but also the needs of your significant other. It’s natural to want to think of yourself and how you can get your own needs met, but when you each keep each other’s best interest in mind, neither of you will have to fight to be fulfilled. Resist the urge to selfishly focus on yourself. Rather, think how you can both serve each other. Offering more of yourself goes beyond letting your partner have the last slice of cake. It’s getting up at three in the morning to drive to the emergency room because your partner is sick. It’s about staying home to watch a movie when your partner is too depressed to go out. When you give more of yourself you find your capacity to love grows and you have even more to offer.
5. Be loyal
If you feel compelled to cheat on your partner, that may be a sign that it’s time to address some unresolved issues or simply move on. Commit to love each other through both good and bad times, or leave. Don’t make your partner suffer unnecessarily because you’re unhappy. Work through your issues or allow your partner to find happiness with someone else.
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