Personal development is a never-ending activity in every aspect of my life.
Long-term commitment to a lasting relationship seems to be a rare occurrence in the world. The reason is because there are so many unfair expectations and rules as far as society views relationships.
Find that one you love, have a few rough patches, work it out each and every time, get married, more rough times, push through it together, and then die in each other's arms after living a full life; except the fairy tale ending that everyone wants doesn't often come around.
If you want that fairy tale ending so oft pursued in vain, then you need to lay the foundation for that fairy tale to come true!
Step 1: Define Your Desires
I cannot express how important step number one is, and even further I cannot express how so few people actually understand their own desires. People think they want long-term commitment to a relationship but the second it gets a little stagnant we find them sneaking off in the dead of night for a tryst and inevitably destroying the relationship they said they desired. As it is so often the case, I tell everyone to ask themselves this question, "Do I just want fun, or do I want long-term commitment?"
Take for example the young couples whose passions burn bright for a handful of months, they claim to love each other and often tell one another that it's a forever deal; to some they may even appear to be an ideal to achieve, but less than a year later they are at each other's throats and with their tongues in other people's mouths. This is what I call a failure to designate and define your desires.
When entering a long-term relationship you need to ask yourself if it is the long-term aspect that you truly desire. Most of the time people are entering relationships in order to quell boredom and emotional insecurity about being alone, to seek sexual gratification without immediate moral and emotional consequence, but it ends up backfiring because of the promises they make and fail to keep. If you are honest with your desires, letting your partner be honest without judgement as well, you'll find yourself in full control of both long and short-term relationships.
Step 2: Compatibility
There is no bigger waste of time than trying to shove a square peg in a round hole, you know what I mean, trying to keep that free spirit locked in a cage of commitment or equally trying to clip your own wings so as to adhere to the expectations of others. You can't expect someone who doesn't share your ultimate desire of long-term commitment to be happy while adhering to your desires, equally you can't expect yourself to be okay with someone coming and going as they please. Do not try to force compatibility, compatible pieces come together naturally but forcing incompatible pieces to fit tends to warp and break them.
When I was younger I had been raised in the church, I believed relationships were meant to be forever things and still today I hold that truth to be self evident. However, what I did not understand was that most people were out for fun and long-term commitment does not fall into that category enough to appeal to a vast array of individuals. Most people, the younger especially, are not compatible with the desire for long-term commitment and this saw me broken-hearted and confused more often than not.
As it concerns finding that person compatible with your desires, try not to put the cart before the horse. You have to meet the good, the bad, and the ugly to discern compatibility; you need to meet it all head on and with a fervor for all that building a relationship requires. As they say, "even roses have their thorns," and that holds more than true for the process of determining compatibility.
Step 3: Adaptation
Too many people in the world think it is appropriate to adhere to rigid principles and standards, and they quickly see themselves put aside the ability to adapt for idealism. Becoming an ideologue may work for some, but let's face it, in a world full of ideologues with failing relationships we can see adaptability and fluidity are more important. You can maintain your desires while also exploring a more flexible lifestyle, a less rigid relationship complex.
About five years into my current relationship, we needed to take a break from one another to see if we really wanted to continue down this path of life together. Things were getting boring, the sex was still great but the same restaurants, same people, same jobs... ugh... we needed a little shake and bake for our relationship cake. After a few months of self-exploration on both ends, seeing what the dating world held for us, we came back to one another stronger than ever before with a newfound respect and appreciation for the relationship.
The reason we had to take that time off was because we both needed time to understand why our relationship was simmering down. Both of us had gotten too comfortable with one another, we stopped adapting to the world around us and thus stopped adapting to each other's desires. Going outside of the relationship for a while, adapting to life without one another, showed us what we were lacking in our relationship and thus gave us the opportunity to truly adapt our relationship into a long-term powerhouse of love.
Step 4: Overcoming Obstacles
This is the step that is the most obvious and regularly regarded as least important, yet it is the only step that is going to continuously smack you in the mouth harder and harder as time goes on. Many people think with time that relationships get easier, and my goodness, if that were true then I think more people would be doing the whole long-term commitment style with ease. However, with time will not come ease, and the obstacles tend to get bigger and bigger, and the bigger the obstacles the more people we see falling off the long-term bandwagon.
Over the past eight years of my relationship we have suffered through unemployment, poverty, permanent injury, legal issues... the list could go on and on. We have endured the struggles that have seen many in the past torn to shambles and leaving their relationship in the dumps. Pushing through those obstacles together, one after the other, never-ending endurance of obstacle after obstacle, but enjoying each other's assistance and company throughout are the keys to our success.
As it concerns overcoming obstacles ask this of yourself about your partner, "Are they proving that they're ready to carry me over any obstacle, in any terrain, under any circumstance?" and if the answer is anything but, "Yes, they're the only teammate for me and I will do the same for them," then it may be time to consider a change in the team roster. A relationship is much like a military squad, if you can't trust your squad to have your back in any situation then your squad is ineffective and doomed to fail.
Step 5: The Unstoppable Team
So you've passed steps one through four and now you've come to the final step, this isn't even a real step in the process, this is the section where I congratulate you for having made it this far. Once you reach this point in your relationship it is time to pat yourself on the back, and do so each and every day that your relationship thrives because you are an example apart from the crowd. Building the unstoppable relationship team is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, many people don't seize it or even have the ability to seize it, but you're not the type to give up.
Truly, once you have found that team member who is as unstoppable as you are, the one whose thirst for love can't be quenched, you have become an unstoppable team worthy of admiration!
Important Closing Sentiments
Do not compare your relationship to the relationships of others!
I cannot express this enough, because it is an unfortunate and ever-present part of society, don't be like others and compare your relationship to those around you. I've seen some of, what I'd consider, the most grotesque misconceptions of relationships that have been happy and succeeding despite my ignorant judgement. My judgement and comparison to others tends to only serve as a way to make me feel bad about myself and even sometimes about my own relationship.
It isn't about living up to standards set forth by others, it is about doing what makes you happy and fulfills your desires!
So long as you are getting what it is you desire out of your relationships, then you are doing more than those who'd judge you for your choices could ever hope to achieve in their own lives. Rest assured that you will be judged, but respecting your own desires will outweigh any vitriol born of ignorance.
Don't let the world and all it's unfair expectations get you down; life is for you to live it as you see fit and you'll thank yourself for breaking your chains!