If you’re anything like me, true love is an elusive and sometimes frightening beast.
When it comes to meeting a potential soulmate, I’m ready to do follow anyone’s relationship advice and do anything it takes — run with love through the forest, jump on its back, plunge off a mountaintop. But when love starts to savor of commitment and “long-term” potential, doubt sets in.
I am a monogamist, the kind of girl who struggles to make anything casual (including a breakfast), let alone a relationship. But when faced with a love that feels real and everlasting and genuine, I also face a twin fear: what if I lose him or her?
Sometimes love is meant to be lost. But sometimes it’s worth holding onto — and it’s the holding on that’s often the hard part.
Healthy relationships aren’t an accident. It takes work to make a relationship strong enough to go the distance, and like most jobs, that work isn’t always easy or attractive.
Here are a few words of (moderate) wisdom for keeping your grip on “The One” — or at least someone who feels worth the ride.
1. Relinquish your need for perfectionism.
I make this point with a glow of shame, as I’ve been a self-professed and steady perfectionist since I could grasp a pencil and the concept of “right” or “wrong.” I like to think that I’m less keen for neat corners these days, but daily I must relinquish control on my need for things to turn out exactly the way I want them.
I’m particularly guilty of this in the love arena. When it comes to issues of the heart, who wouldn’t want things to be perfect and sparkly and Prince Charming-y?
Perfectionism can get you places, to be fair. It can land you a certain kind of career, a college acceptance letter, even accolades. But it can be damaging. In fact, it may be undermining your mental health.
In the context of a relationship, it can mean holding onto grievances for far longer, developing grudges, even shutting down the possibility for a healthy and vital kind of love. It can mean resistance to compromise, an often necessary aspect of a long-term relationship.
Let go of your vision of perfect. Realize that lasting relationships have rough edges. They are full of the unexpected. They are full of arguments, often. They aren’t always what you think or what you want.
The more you practice this, the stronger your grip on the person themselves. Isn’t that what matters in the end?
2. Let yourself be messy.
A twin point to the one above: you can have rough edges, too. You don’t have to perform for The One (or the Approximate One). You shouldn’t have to eradicate creases in all of your blouses, whip up a flawless soufflé, know exactly what your partner needs on rainy days.
You can be a blubbery mess, any time you like. In fact, I encourage it: the better for your closeness. Revel in your own authenticity and the right person will stick around. They may even be more tempted to be fully authentic themselves. A win-win.
3. Don’t leave things hanging.
It’s so easy to let loose threads dangle. Arguments fizzle without closure. Secrets linger under the surface. Wounds fester. Pride, sadness, fear, gloom — all of these can keep things, critical things, hanging. This can be ultimately damaging.
Do your best to tie up loose ends. Have conversations when you least want to have them. Commit to transparency and communication. Don’t bring skeletons into the closet — don’t even bring them into the house.
I’m not saying you can’t have wounds. But I am saying that showing your willingness to build common ground can go a long way in demonstrating commitment (and super-gluing your hips together).
4. Keep the respect mutual.
Yes, respect is foundational for any healthy relationship. But it should never be one-sided.
Don’t forget about yourself, chica. You deserve respect as much as your partner does. If you are the self-effacing empath diving in front of trains for your lover, at the very least, dive with a vote of confidence for yourself, too.
When you respect yourself, you may notice several things. You may become irresistible, suddenly. You may make choices more in line with your passions (not your partner’s). You may be able to deliver more conscious, nuanced respect to your partner herself or himself.
Make sure the respect is a two-way track. If you can address an imbalance, do.
5. Forgo the benchmarks.
It’s so tempting to box long-term relationships into certain categories. The official day of “beginning to date.” The two-year anniversary. The five-year. The engagement. Marriage. Baby. Or baby, marriage.
Sometimes such “benchmarks” can be lovely. But in other cases, they can be stifling. They can turn a relationship into expectation (and not bliss).
Let go of these as much as you can. Stay in the present. Expect only to love wildly and truly to who you are.
This can help you walk closer to The One, or, at the very least, walk better with the current companion to your heart.