We asked Brenda Schaeffer, a licensed psychologist, relationship expert and author of Is It Love or Is It Addiction? (Hazelden, 1997), to share her tips for ensuring your new relationship continues to grow in a positive direction.
1. Discuss expectations
Even though you and your new partner might appear to be on the same page, we all have different ideas about where a relationship is going and how serious it is. If you really want your relationship to thrive you're going to have to communicate.
"Talk about the vision of the relationship you carry in your head," says Schaeffer. "Most people have hidden expectations of what a relationship should look like and rarely talk about it, and then they end up disappointed." The visions both of you have may be very different, and if they are you should work on creating a vision that is mutual, realistic and open to change, Schaeffer advises.
2. Continue dating
Not many relationships can maintain the passion and frantic pace they start off with. But that doesn't mean you need to worry about where you stand or think about ending things -- instead you need to do what you can to keep that spark going. "The fires of romance need to remain alive, and a special time should be set aside for it," says Schaeffer.
She suggests alternating who arranges date night and making certain that, whether you're having dinner at home or at a restaurant, there are no cellphones or other disruptions during the date. The more in tune you are to each other, the easier it is to maintain a strong, meaningful connection in the long-term.
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3. Do things that are thoughtful
One of the best ways to keep a relationship going strong and to avoid resentment down the road is to put effort into small acts of kindness. "Being thoughtful actually brings out the best in us and stimulates our bonding chemicals," Schaeffer explains.
It's easy to get into the habit of only being thoughtful on special occasions, such as birthdays or holidays, or when you want to make up for wrongdoing, but thoughtfulness should really be a relationship habit. "Think of something that stretches your giving capacity and give for the sheer pleasure of giving," she advises.
4. Balance commitment with adventure
Being in a long-term relationship doesn't mean getting complacent and spending more time cuddled up on the couch than going out and finding new experiences. Keep your relationship going strong by making time to have fun together, Schaeffer says.
"We have both the need to feel the security of a home base and the need to explore and feel excitement. If we overemphasize one we get out of balance and we feel bored or angry," she explains. To maintain a certain level of excitement, make a point to try new things as a couple, from learning a new language to travelling to trying out new cuisines.
5. Keep your sense of self
You might feel as if spending time with your new love is the only thing you want to do -- and that's OK at the beginning -- but it's also important to remember that you're an individual with your own needs and personality. "It is not uncommon for a person to become who they think the other person wants them to be versus who they truly are," Schaeffer says. Though that might seem like a good way to ensure your relationship lasts, if your partner doesn't like you for you, there's no point in moving forward. "A healthy relationship has three entities: an 'I', a 'you' and a 'we,'" she explains.
Relationships take work. While the beginning phases of a relationship are a whirlwind of romance, making things last means putting in some effort. Make sure your new love lasts by communicating effectively, having fun and doing what you can to keep the excitement alive.
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