I’ve had several failed relationships in my past. They all stemmed from not following some of the basic rules of building happy and healthy relationships — which meant they were never built to last.
Lasting relationships all have a few simple things in common. But because they’re so simple, it’s easy to forget or overlook them. When we start looking for a new partner, or get into a new relationship, we can skip one or two of those basics and create a shaky foundation for the relationship.
Keep these tips in mind to make your next relationship healthy, happy, and built to last.
Don’t try to change each other
I think everyone has met that person. The one that you think to yourself, “Oh, if only he/she did/didn’t have this one thing, they’d be the absolute perfect person for me.” And that thought makes you very tempted to think you can just change that one thing (or two things) and boom, you’ve got your soulmate.
But the reality is you can’t, and shouldn’t, change someone else. People will only change when they want to and that desire must come from within — it can’t be just to satisfy someone else. And if you’re busy trying to change someone, you’re not appreciating them for who they are.
You’ll make yourself and your partner miserable and destroy the relationship. If there’s something you can’t accept about a person, move on instead of thinking you can change them.
Don’t invite others into your relationship
Whether you’re asking for advice or venting your frustrations, inviting other people into your relationship is a bad idea. First, because they’re not getting both sides of the situation, whatever they say is likely to be at least a little biased.
Second, when you give someone the chance to speak about your relationship once, they’ll often take it to mean they can do so whenever they like. And that can lead to unsolicited advice and criticism that can not only hurt your relationship with your partner but also with the other person.
Finally, keep in mind that if you paint your partner in a negative light even once, others who care about you will always remember it. You and your partner may work things out and stay together, but your loved ones are likely to hold onto whatever you told them, just waiting for your partner to screw up again.
Don’t lose yourself
It’s not unusual to want to spend a lot (or even most) of your time with a new partner during the honeymoon phase of the relationship. And during that time, it’s also not unusual to be more willing to do things they enjoy as you’re getting to know each other and finding your groove as a couple.
But it’s important that you don’t lose yourself in the relationship. Don’t forget your own hobbies and interests. Don’t lose touch with family and friends. Don’t neglect self-care and time alone. Don’t give up on your hopes, dreams, and goals for your partner’s.
While you may be creating a life with your partner, and you might subscribe to the idea of “two become one,” you still need to remember that you are an individual. Keep your individuality even as you blend to become a couple.
Know your limits and expect respect
Being in love and wanting to make your partner happy doesn’t mean doing things that make you uncomfortable or unhappy. Whether it’s having an open relationship, agreeing to anal sex when you don’t like it, or even just eating foods you don’t like, you need to have clear boundaries.
You need to know your limits and not only be clear on them yourself but share them with your partner. You also need to expect that your partner will respect them. If you don’t have that expectation, you set yourself up to allow your partner to try to push your limits and persuade you to change them.
Set your boundaries and stick to them. If a partner can’t respect them, be willing to walk away. Your boundaries should be firm, not something that changes on a whim because a new partner doesn’t like them.
Don’t paint red flags green (or even yellow)
It’s tempting, when you really like someone, to want to ignore a red flag when it pops up. It’s also tempting to convince yourself it’s not actually a red flag or that you can wait and see if it’s a real problem.
Red flags are red flags for a reason. They’re letting you know that this is a problem for you and you should walk away. And it doesn’t matter if there’s only one red flag or an entire field of them waving wildly in the wind.
Don’t paint those red flags green or even yellow just so you can keep dating someone you really like. Remember that an ignored red flag will ultimately lead to a miserable relationship and a breakup, so save yourself the heartbreak and end it as soon as you see one.
Be true to yourself
You’ll often hear relationship advice that suggests your partner should come first or the relationship should come first. And while this is true to a point, it’s also important that you are true to yourself. You need to be true to yourself by making sure you are taken care of and not sacrificing important things.
Being true to yourself means not agreeing to be a stay-at-home mom if having a career is important to you. It means not letting go of the dream of owning your own business or to travel the world. You may need to compromise for the sake of the relationship, but if the compromise starts to look more like you’re sacrificing something that matters, then you’re not being true to yourself.
Your partner and your relationship are important and they should be a priority. But you should also be your own priority. You need to make sure that you are putting yourself first because if you don’t, neither will anyone else.
Communicate for comprehension
I could send my partner a text telling him I’m craving fried chicken. But what does that text mean? Am I merely telling him about a craving? Am I asking him to bring home fried chicken for dinner? Am I subtly hinting that I might be pregnant?
Communication is key to making a relationship work, but the key to communication is comprehension. Ensuring that each partner is understood, that you’re both on the same page, and that no one is confused about what’s being communicated.
Repeat back what you understand your partner to be saying, and ask them to do the same for you. This allows clarification when something is misunderstood and prevents arguments later. It will also help you learn to communicate better so that you make yourself clearer both in and out of your relationship.
Don’t allow yourself to be taken for granted
Relationships can fall into ruts sometimes. One partner becomes responsible for all the cooking or laundry. It’s assumed you’ll cue up a movie on Netflix and scroll your phones on the couch on Friday night. You start taking each other for granted, assuming you’ll always be there or do the thing.
But when you’re taken for granted, you can also feel resentful. You wonder why you always have to be the one to do the thing or why your partner doesn’t think you’re worthy of being taken out on Friday night. And resentment breeds discontent and trouble in relationships.
Don’t allow yourself to be taken for granted. Don’t always be the one who does something; ask your partner to do it sometimes instead. Ask for what you want or need, even if it’s to go out on the weekend. And don’t take your partner for granted, either.
Don’t love your partner more than you love yourself
Most relationship advice is about putting your partner first and loving them more than yourself. And while you should certainly love them deeply and put them first at times, you also need to remember to love yourself. More importantly, you need to love yourself more than you love them so you don’t settle for mistreatment, neglect, or outright abuse.
When you love your partner more than you love yourself, you put their happiness above your own. You elevate them while pushing yourself down. And that can lead to an unhealthy dynamic in the relationship where you end up being treated badly — and you tolerate it because you love your partner more than you love yourself.
When you love yourself at least as much as you love your partner, if not more, you put yourself on the same level as your partner. And this means if your partner mistreats you, you’ll stand up for yourself. You’ll demand respect, better treatment, and the love and relationship you deserve.
Don’t overthink things
An offhand statement. A laptop suddenly closed when you enter the room. A phone taken to the bathroom when they shower. There are so many things that you can latch on to and overthink until you make yourself crazy. And in the process, you also ruin your relationship.
Overthinking things is one of the worst things you can do not only in your relationship, but also in life in general. Overthinking allows you to impart tones, misread facial expressions and body language, and find a thousand other things to support whatever you want to believe about what might be perfectly innocent.
If something is bothering you, address it with your partner. If it’s not a big deal, let it go. Don’t overthink things.
It’s not always the big stuff that trips you up
It’s not always a big thing that can cause a couple to fall apart. It doesn’t have to be about cheating, abuse, or wanting very different things.
Sometimes it can be as simple as not communicating clearly enough, not having clear enough boundaries, or feeling taken for granted.
So even as you watch for the bigger issues, keep your eyes on the smaller ones too. Set your relationship up for success by making sure you take care of it from the bottom to the top, from the simple and small to the complicated and major.
Wendy Miller is a freelance relationship writer & meditation teacher. After years of settling for abusive and otherwise toxic relationships, she got fed up. Using meditation and other tools, she got to work on healing herself, setting boundaries, and only engaging in relationships (romantic and otherwise) that bring her joy. She wants to help other single parents find the love they seek, including and going beyond romantic love. She lives in Florida with her two sons, where she homeschools while solo parenting, while surrounded by what feels like a zooful of animals.
You might also enjoy:
The Relationship Advice I Wish I’d Gotten
Of all the advice I ever got about relationships, it’s what people didn’t tell me that would have helped the most.
10 Easy to Make Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Relationship
While there are plenty of mistakes you can make, some are more likely to end your relationship than others.