“I know you love me, but love doesn’t pay the bills.”
After a friend of mine told her boyfriend those exact words before she ended their four-year relationship, I started reflecting on relationships. Ever since middle school, I noticed couples connect over mutual feelings. Some could say “I love you” freely and express their feelings without hesitation in their relationships. Even though I haven’t been in a lot of relationships, I’ve observed others. I can see why love isn’t enough for relationships to work out in the long run. When love combines with these three other things, though, it can be powerful enough to keep the flame alive for years.
Let’s face it – people aren’t mind-readers. People always drop hints, assuming their partner will pick up on them. Oftentimes, your boyfriend won’t know that you want a surprise gift when you downplay the situation. You probably won’t understand his passive-aggressive behavior when you mention that you’ve been hanging out with a male friend.
If your significant other isn’t able to read your hints, I suggest you have a private, upfront conversation about anything that bothers you or any desires you have. It’s important to talk and find a solution together, which may require meeting each other halfway. Sometimes, we have to let go of our ego and realize that our partner is a grown, independent person. Other times, we need to make ourselves clear and ask for our significant other to make some compromises. Clear, effective communication is the foundation for a strong relationship.
Having a sense of independence doesn’t just mean paying your utility bills and doing your own laundry. It also means being able to take care of yourself in all aspects – physically, mentally, financially, and emotionally.
Physically, it’s important to do things on your own instead of just expecting your boyfriend to do it for you. Try figuring things out on your own and only ask him for help when you really need it.
It’s important to enter into a relationship when you’re mentally strong enough to stand on your own and not bring your emotional baggage to your partner. If you struggle with mental health conditions such as depression, make every effort to help yourself because your partner cannot always put down his responsibilities to help you. He should be there to support you, but not constantly carry you.
I used to think it didn’t matter whether a guy was rich or poor as long as he was loyal and constantly working to better himself. I’ve recently realised that it’s actually important for couples to enter a relationship as financial equals. You can only truly call expensive purchases your own if you buy it with your own hard-earned money. That’s not to say that your significant other won’t buy you gifts from time to time, but you should never expect things to be handed to you in a relationship.
As women, we need to be able to deal with our own loneliness and emotions as they creep up. The key to helping a relationship thrive is giving your significant other space to breathe. Whenever you feel lonely and he’s busy, find other ways to occupy your time. Stream a movie or drama series you’ve always wanted to watch, or expand your social circle. Be productive. Take online classes, even if it’s just free ones on Coursera or EdX. Remember, your partner is your lover, not your babysitter. Don’t lose your independence just because you are in a relationship.
Self-love goes hand-in-hand with dating someone. Before you can truly love someone, you need to love yourself. In order to love yourself, you need to discover who you really are. Spend time reflecting on what you want for yourself, and invest in opportunities that can help you become the best version of yourself, inside and out. Once you know what makes you tick, you’ll start to see the right person to hold your heart. Get your act together first, then look for someone who can enrich you further, not complete you. A partner should be like a photo frame for your completed puzzle, not your missing puzzle piece.
You may say, “What if the spark dies after years even with someone who communicates, fosters independence, and encourages self-love?” Relationships aren’t all flowers and roses because after all, it’s all about stability. The feelings you looked for in the beginning will eventually stop becoming a priority and instead, lead to stability. Find someone who is worth the fight and willing to constantly commit to keeping the flame alive. Love alone may not be enough, but when you combine it with these three key traits and a few tools of your own, it is possible for you to have long-lasting and meaningful relationships.