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nikipedia's avatar

How have your long-term relationships changed over the years?

Asked by nikipedia (27327 points ) January 28th, 2010

I don’t have good role models for what good long-term relationships are supposed to look like, so I spend a lot of time wondering what’s “normal.”

Can any of you older and wiser folks share some of your experience? I am especially curious about how relationships change—the kind of intensity and and passion you feel at the beginning of a relationship inevitably fizzles out, so how do you manage that transition to… whatever comes next? What does come next, anyway?

Beyond that, how did you sustain a long-term relationship? In your experience, when these relationships failed, how did you know they were failing? How do you distinguish between a rough patch and a red flag?

If you could go back and give yourself at 25 some advice about long-term relationships, what would you say?

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25 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

Nothing – Not one thing – is as important as you think it is. Just take life as it comes and let go of your expectations.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

The things that give me solace now are the things told to me when I was young but I’m a person who learns by doing and that means mistakes too. I wish I had been the type to take advice, to believe in the experiences of others rather than be so driven by my own stubborness and curiosity but that’s the way it goes. Like @YARNLADY writes, if you can find a way to let go of just some of your expectations then you’ll be open to more, appreciate more and maybe attract more positive. It’s a tall order.

As far as red flags go, what I’ve learned is there is only so much hurt I can dismiss in the name of growing love before it kills itself. I’ve scolded myself in the past for not trying hard enough and not being patient enough and made myself stick out some lousy situations- I’m not up for that anymore. The downside to my experiences is that I feel more pushy than ever with what I want and how I want it after so many years of not speaking up or being dismissed or accepting crap which is often confusing for new people in my life.

Violet's avatar

End it when you know it’s over. Don’t waist your time.

DrMC's avatar

Long term relationships depend on
– a simple value judgement—this matters more than any passing issue that could distract or derail.—this matters more than our phobias, phychological scars and baggage warts and all.

This mission and purpose matters more.
A steadfast dedication to fight for eachother, and work towards mutual goal. To compromise when needed, and to know which compromises will kill the relationship.

Luck, wisdom, determination, and true grit courage. And that’s just what the woman needs.

My wife’s answer: Compromise
My answer endurance.

When you marry, you become troopers going to war, remember, you are on the same team. This doesn’ meant you always agree!. It means you repair quickly after challegne. Simple life with quietly pose obstacles that 50% cannot pass, leaving behind ruined marriages, devastated savinges, and scarred children. Some things are worth fighting for.

ucme's avatar

They have to change & evolve otherwise they would become stagnant & stale. That’s part of the fun. Relationships grow with us. If you, your SO & consequently your relationship grow in unity then your compatibility grows to.The last 18 yrs of our relationship is testimony to that.

susanc's avatar

You know the difference between a red flag and a rough patch. Setting aside stuff that’s absolutely unacceptable, e.g. hitting – some stuff is just foreign. We choose people who aren’t the same as we are, for a reason. Another human being’s differentness will startle and excite you, sometimes exasperatingly. “Why can’t you just be normal?” “How can you be so irrational?” “Why can’t you just be nice?”
Well, they’re the way they are. You like them for some very, very good reason. Figure out what it was.

The intense initial magic does quiet down for most people; but it also comes back and is a big fat treat. “Bliss periods” don’t occur when you wish they would but when they do, they blindside you again the way they did the first time. Pretty fun; pretty grace-filled.

At 25, my agenda was a 25 year old’s agenda: find a form to put my energies into; seek encounters with people I found puzzling. I was mostly inchoate. But determined, like you.

You’re ridiculously smart, niki. Decide you have infallible instincts, read what @YARNLADY said, and go forward. Enjoy. Enjoy. Enjoy.

kevbo's avatar

I don’t feel uber-qualified to answer this. Rather, I just want to join in the discussion with some of my favorite people.

My short answer is that my long term relationships have gotten progressively longer. And easier. I think the why is that I’ve managed to apply better criteria as I’ve learned what to look and look out for.

I may be missing some key lesson, but I think what it comes down to in the end is that you love yourself more. Or maybe that there had better be plenty of room for you to love yourself. What I mean is that the person you are with is naturally inclined to lead, follow or get out of your way in the same direction you are going. You want to achieve some things or build on a foundation. You can share that space with someone who is supportive or who isn’t. Who shares your enthusiasm or doesn’t.

Of course, you have to know what that plan is. Or you don’t. To me, knowing is boring and scary, so whoever gets me has to deal with a “not knowing” person. Undoubtedly, this is draining. I seem to find “rescue/take care of me” persons (although maybe we are all that way). It’s gratifying for a while, and then I want my energy back. I love myself more, even though that self is ill defined.

The concept of “love addiction” might be worthwhile to understand. I don’t think you’re that way. I only mention it because you are confused about what is normal. In a nutshell, it is a compulsion to seek the pleasure of romantic love in lieu of all other aspects of life that bring meaning, such as relationships, community, principles and spirituality.

Being smart, by the way, is actually a hinderance for LTR prospects. It puts you in a smaller pool, and it makes you more picky. There’s research on this which I’m sure you can find. “Average” people are more content to put up with a wider variety of crap from their SO, according to the study. I think.

Another study finding… successful couples do not avoid arguments, but do argue in a respectful and caring manner. See PBS’ “This Emotional Life” episode 1.

When I was 25, or maybe even before then, I took some time to articulate my values a la the Franklin Covey method. what came out was a very clearly defined picture of a guy who lived a rich and full life by maintaining relationships and practices that were important to him. I was able to pursue some of that in a place that supported me, Seattle, but have since been waylaid by the significant derailers that you already know about and for losing faith or understanding in the process of the universe rewarding your effort. While my values have shifted somewhat from that original template or draft, they are basically the same. Now, I certainly have myself to blame for failing to try earnestly, but guess how many of my LTRs have really supported me doing these things? Guess how many have kind of been in the way? Guess what I think I might do someday when I get my life back, and it supposedly isn’t bogged down with things that are the opposite of what I wrote down 10 years ago?

In no particular order, my last observation. Some people are better capable of doing a LTR than others. Some haven’t worked through their trauma, and their comfort zone is to recreate their trauma in their relationships. Again, they compulsively seek to reenact the trauma in lieu of pursuing meaning.

25 yo, find yourself. Be yourself. Approach others as an opportunity to learn something. Share with them, but when it’s time for your train to pull away from the platform, get on the train. Have faith that you’ll meet a likeminded traveler and say yes when you find him.

“him” autocorrected to “Jim.” might be a sign. ;-)

kevbo's avatar

Maybe I should have said “you love your values or princples more” as opposed to “yourself.” That makes more sense.

Cruiser's avatar

I’m sure you will hear all sorts of answers about compromise…I have found that compromise is a delicate tight rope to walk and in almost all my failed relationships came to and end because one side felt that the balance of compromise had been compromised. Life it too short to live not getting or at least trying to get what you want out of life.

ubersiren's avatar

The best relationships I’ve had were the ones where I felt that I had mutual control in working toward a common goal. There were boyfriends I’ve had who bowed at my feet and left everything up to me, and there were ones (well, one…) where I followed the guy around like a puppy waiting for him to throw me a bone. The greatest two relationships of my life (my husband and mine being the best) were based on wanting the same ultimate destination for our lives together and allowing equal input. Neither of us feels the need to “take over”, or “submit” to appease the other. If there is this respect along with the obvious chemistry it takes to be attracted to the person, then all the other good qualities of love fall into place.

mattbrowne's avatar

Romantic love evolves into companionate love. See

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triangular_theory_of_love

casheroo's avatar

I sometimes wonder about this…because I feel I went through a normal cycle like a lot of other girls with their “first love” (I apparently have two, because both relationships were quite similar). I wonder..if I hadn’t had a child, and didn’t stay with my husband, what sort of cycle would I be on? Would I have learned from my mistakes as easily since I had time to actually think about it?
When you’re young (18–21) you are so impulsive, and emotional that I think it’s hard to sustain a long term healthy relationship. Heck, I married at 22 so I’m admitting that I married probably too young (I’m not saying it was a mistake, but I do hope my children wait until they’re at least 25 so they can finish college…)

I’m still young, but for me they way I think while in a relationship has changed the most. Mainly because I matured and became less insecure.
I think once you get over that initial rush of excitement, you need to think “Is this the person I can get through the rough times with?” It’s one thing to enjoy being in a relationship with someone and get along fantastically…but whats going to happen when you marry and one of you gets laid off? One of you gets in a terrible car accident, diagnosed with cancer..etc? Will they still be the partner that you want to be with? Some people completely change when major life changes happen..and not for the better. It’s scary. You have to put your trust into someone to be there for you and with you no matter what.
ok, I’m ranting.
Overall, there should always be that love. No matter what, you will have a little bit of that sizzle to get you through. It should never go away. Things might seem boring at times, or routine..but just snap out of it. Don’t sit around waiting for it to get better…make it better.

susanc's avatar

lurve to @kevbo for this, and I hope you’ve read it with a big open heart:

“Some people are better capable of doing a LTR than others. Some haven’t worked through their trauma, and their comfort zone is to recreate their trauma in their relationships. Again, they compulsively seek to reenact the trauma in lieu of pursuing meaning.”

I can attest that living in this kind of trauma-discovering, trauma-correcting relationship is confusing and hard, but actually helps/works/gets you through. It’s not the easiest way to enjoy partnership.

clioi's avatar

I’ve been in only one serious long-term relationship (actually only one relationship period), and it has been an on-and-off-one. At the very beginning, it was of course new and delightful, but as time went on and he went to college a year ahead of me, we began growing apart and began an annoying cycle of being together during the summer, when we could see each other, and being apart during the school year when we were in different states. We as of right now are together and I’ve promised to try to make it last, but I’d be lying if I said that I still felt the same innocent joy and wonderment that I felt when it first began. That said, maybe that innocent joy isn’t the best thing for a relationship. We are both older now and have a more mature perspective on our relationship. We still love each other and despite the problems we’ve had, we are still working at it. So I guess what I’m saying is that you can really only decide if it’s a lasting relationship in retrospect. I still don’t know for sure if it will last, but I’ll try my hardest to keep him happy and I know he is doing the same.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I am 25, like you – I found the love of my life. I can see us being together forever as long as the mutual respect and admiration will remain. We have a very happy home and I think it’s because we’re on the same wavelength and because we admire one another, really admire one another for being the kind of people we are. He is different from me, in so many ways but I can depend on him to be his best when he says so. He can depend on me in the same way. We don’t have to believe in the same things, but we stand together for ourselves and our children when it matters. We simply love being together and learning together. I think it helps (and I will stop rambling on) to remain consistent while always yearning to become better people, together.

MissAnthrope's avatar

I wish I could say my long-term relationships have evolved in a positive manner, but I keep finding myself dating my mother. Which, trust me, is not a good thing.

I think that when it’s right, it’s right.. sure, the “newlywed” excitement fades, but it should mellow into a deep love and affection. Being there makes rough patches easier, in that you treat each other in respectful manner. Red flags are things that make you feel really bad in your gut.

Anyway, I have the crappiest love life history ever, so beyond what I just said, I don’t feel like I’m that qualified to give you love advice.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@MissAnthrope I would so not want to be with someone like my mother, geesh

MissAnthrope's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir – I really don’t, either. :\

nikipedia's avatar

Glad to see you here, @susanc. And thanks for the compliment :)

sferik's avatar

Why is this tagged iPad?

Coloma's avatar

All things change, that is the nature of life.

People change and not every relationship is meant to last ‘forever.’

It is okay to want that, but it is dysfunctional to expect it.

I believe that people suffer greatly because of this forever expectation, they feel betrayed if someone changes or the relationship runs it’s course.

Love is a CHOICE, a renweable agreement on a daily basis not a static absolute.

Most peoples idea of love is more like taking a hostage. lol

Earthgirl's avatar

Of course it is hard to maintain the intensity of a new relationship over time. Part of the intensity is in the discovering of that person and getting to know them. But since we are all changing and growing over the years you need to not take it for granted that you know everything about your partner. It is so important to keep growing and remain open-minded and open to life. Even something as simple as musical tastes can keep things interesting. I hate it when people are still listening to the music they grew up with in high school and say, “I just don’t like any of the new bands.” I want to tell them, “maybe you aren’t seeking them out enough.” I drag my husband to concerts he would never go to otherwise. I hate to feel like I’m taking him against his will. I want him to enjoy it as much as I do! Surprisingly, sometimes he ends up liking the concert. (the last time was Emily Wells and Portland Cello Project at City Winery, NYC) Then I say “Aren’t you glad I dragged you here?” and he’ll admit that, yes, he is. There is nothing like experiencing something new together.
We also both enjoy going to museums. Whatever it is that you both have in common, keep seeking it out. Fresh experiences keep the staleness out of your relationship.
Always respect each other and don’t be afraid to demand respect if you aren’t getting it.
Be a big enough person to admit when you’re wrong.
Fight Fair. (for example- http://www.angriesout.com/fairfigh.htm)

YARNLADY's avatar

I used to visit with my best friend every day, when we lived in the same apartment. We both had sons the same age. Then we moved away from each other, and kept in touch by phone and letters, and visited once or twice a year. After about 15 years the letters pretty much stopped, and we only exchanged Christmas cards, with notes inside. Now even that has stopped.

heartofire's avatar

I’m 57 and have been in a few long term relationships. When you aren’t on the same team anymore, its over. If you find yourself hating yourself, you need to ask yourself some deep questions. Does this relationship bring out the worst in me? If it does, what can I do to change the way I’ve come to feel about myself?
The most important thing in a long term relationship is lots and lots of positive experiences together. Sometimes talking is just not the way to fix it. Action is.

zander101's avatar

Be open, don’t assume things and honesty, I understand where your coming from, I myself didn’t have a good role models in reference to relationships period, and as a result allot of my relationships whether it was friendship or romantic wise tanked. It’s challenge to express emotion concerning the matter due to it being a situation where the recipient of the conversation was listening however was not understanding/comprehending, and it hurts from an emotional standpoint because it generates feelings of hopelessness and depression because your expressing your thoughts and your feelings the only way you know how. Take life by stride and develop your confidence, remember in essence you are not your ancestry, you are you and you have to make a choice on now presently creating new interactions that can benefit yourself and your future relationships. It’s not easy but Rome wasn’t built in a day and starting now will assist you cause future wise you will wish that you started today. Stay focused and you will push the right buttons.

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