Effortless love. A desirable prospect for anyone, but let’s face it - love doesn’t come easy. It may take some time for you to meet your better half, and when you do it’s tempting to just sit back and bask in new love. But let’s say you want to become a “Noah & Allie” or “Jack & Rose.” College relationships that withstand the test of time require some daily effort and good habits. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows the second you become Facebook official, but what if there were ways you could make it so?
What are dream couples doing to keep their love alive? You’ve seen them walking around campus holding hands, or studying right next to each other at the library. They are the couple that makes everyone sigh a collective “Aww” when they are spotted. They may even incite some jealousy.
But chances are, they have their low times as well as their high ones. The qualities that make them seem so happy together are also the qualities that they use to combat times of stress or disagreement. The best couples aren’t the ones that sail through a relationship without rough patches; they are the couples that recover from them like true pros.
So what can you do to counteract relationship obstacles and move on smoothly? What are the secrets behind a couple that is truly in love? Her Campus has compiled 7 habits of highly effective couples to ensure that you and your guy stay on a blissful track.
1. Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Love at first sight is an exciting prospect, but don’t count out someone you’ve been friends with. In fact, being friends with someone beforehand can lead to a stellar relationship because you’ve had time to get to know each other in a pressure-free situation. You can get a preview of how they act when faced with a variety of scenarios, something you won’t have on a first date with someone you’ve just met.
“Start by not choosing someone too hastily,” says Dr. Carole Lieberman, media psychiatrist, “Look for someone that has the same values and goals as you do.”
Tip: Invite someone you’re interested in to a party with a group of friends. If he gets along with your friends, he is most likely quite compatible with you. Then, when your crew invites you to play a game, turn it down and spend some time chatting him up solo instead.
2. Establish Mutual Respect
Respect is simple but powerful. Mutual respect for each other is truly like oxygen in a relationship. With it, you are able to navigate daily love-life occurrences with relative ease. Without it, you will be the textbook definition of a “struggling couple.” Having respect for your guy will amplify the qualities you love about him and keep you from being nitpicky about the small stuff. It will also keep arguments from going down a hurtful path with name-calling and contempt for one another.
Tip: Next time you feel yourself getting annoyed with your guy about something that you knowis small, take a minute and think of 3 things that made him catch your eye in the first place. Did he help someone when they needed it? Is he good to his family? Do you love his smile? Putting things in perspective will make the small stuff less of a big deal.
3. Know Where You’re Heading
It can be tricky to bring up “The Future” with a guy, but it’s an important step to take if you want to stay on the same page. Make sure you know each other’s overall goals for the present, like where you see yourself after college. And, it doesn’t hurt to talk about the big picture: being married (or not), having a family (or not), and having a job (hopefully). Are you planning on staying in a relationship? What will happen when you graduate? Do you want to be more family- or career-driven?
“[It is important for couples] to have a plan for their life together. When a couple knows what course they want to steer, they will know when they get off course,” says Lesli Doares, licensed marriage and family therapist, “This plan incorporates children, lifestyle, place of residence, relationships with friends and family, everything.”
Tip: If you’re looking to bring up the future without too much intensity, start with a simple question next time there is a lull in conversation: In a perfect world, where do you see yourself in 10 years? This will help you get inside his head without seeming like you want to talk about getting a rock on your finger.
4. Thou Shall Not Lie, Thou Shall Not Cheat
It’s simple enough to tell the truth, but when aspects of your relationship are traveling down a bumpy path, dishonesty may not be far behind. A loving, healthy relationship puts honesty on a high pedestal right where it belongs! A little lie may seem insignificant at the time but once it is found out, a seed of doubt is planted in your partner’s mind that has the potential to grow over time. As for cheating? That is the atomic bomb in any relationship.
“Once you both have decided that you are dating exclusively, then you should never cheat. If you feel like you want to date others, tell your partner,” says Lieberman, “Hopefully, you can work out the problems in your relationship, so that your urge to date others - because of resentments that have built up, or other problems - can be resolved.”
Tip: This one is self-explanatory! Don’t do it! And if you can’t seem to stop yourself from lying or cheating, do your guy a favor and put an end to the relationship before you do any more damage. You might need to take some time for yourself before you get into another committed relationship.
5. Use Your Words
Yeah, yeah. Communication. It’s the classic cliché of relationship advice but it’s there for a reason. The most loyal of lovers are open with each other about their past, present, and future. They don’t play games or act like everything is fine when it isn’t. Not being open about your feelings will only leave your guy in the dark and create more problems: “If you are mad about something let him know, because otherwise they are just going to think you are in a (bad) mood, and stay completely oblivious,” says Katelyn, a junior at James Madison University.
Sometimes it takes some courage to communicate, because it involves being vulnerable. But once you do, you will find yourself in a stronger relationship.
Tip: Being grumpy all day to prove your point may eventually end up working. However, you just wasted a day by being in a bad mood when a 15-minute conversation about what is bothering you could have fixed it hours ago. Don’t waste time!
6. It’s the Little Stuff That Counts
Have you ever been broken up with for what seemed like a silly reason? Chances are, there was more behind it. A bunch of little relationship mistakes can add up over time, and just one could be the tipping point. We’re all human and we will all make mistakes from time to time. The way your relationship will survive them is if you make up for them in little ways so that you never get to that “last straw” point.
Tip: You were late 15 minutes for a date? Next time, make a point to be early and emphasize that your guy’s time is important to you.
7. Kiss Often
Make no mistake, the physical aspect of your relationship is very important. A relationship that seems great in the verbal department could still suffer if you don’t keep up some intimacy. Want a quick fix? Kissing is the first step. According to this study by The Washington Post, kissing promotes a closer relationship. A kiss releases oxytocin in your brain, a chemical that is related to interpersonal bonding. Added bonus? Studies also show that it relieves stress.
Tip: Next time he goes in for a quick peck to say, “Hello”, let it linger! Turning a quick habit into a makeout session will only make you happier to see each other!
These aren’t the only keys to a good couple, but they are a definite start. If you’re unsure as to whether you’re part of an effective relationship or not, here are some red flags to watch out for:
- You’re bored when you’re in the company of your significant other.
- You see your guy flirt with other people, even when you’re there.
- You’ve been lied to/you’re the one lying.
- You vs. Me attitude instead of working as a team.
- Agreeing to do things you don’t want to do because you think it will help fix the problem.
“If both people’s wants, needs, desires and interests aren’t equally supported, the relationship faces serious long-term problems,” says Doares.
So what will you do next time you find yourself in a relationship squabble? Practice your rockstar communication, show your love some respect, and seal it with a kiss! Odds are good that you will both feel much better. Congratulations girl, you’re one-half of a highly effective couple!