Accepting the realities

At heart, a long-term relationship is about two unglamorous basics: partnership and compromise.

Don’t expect your partner to solve the problems of your dysfunctional childhood. That’s your responsibility. The same applies to you and your partner’s problems, but be supportive while he or she works through them.

Long-term relationships can offer you huge rewards, such as companionship, comfort and a secure base – but they aren’t easy.

Love does not conquer all. Sometimes your best bet is to cut loose.

You can’t tame a tomcat. If your partner is in the relationship unwillingly, it won’t work.

The truth about making it work

Apart from the fact that your partner’s family won’t shrivel up and disappear, they could one day be your children’s grandparents. Learn to deal with them.

You should be able to trust your partner on all levels. Don’t hide important things from each other.

Let your partner be who he or she is.

There are certain issues on which you’ll never agree. Learn to solve them or they’ll lead to major conflict.

Choose to be faithful to each other.

Keep going on dates, even when you’ve been together for years.

Tell your partner something you appreciate about him or her daily.

Don’t let an issue build up until a blow-up is inevitable. If something’s bothering you, talk about it immediately.

Know what your partner earns. If you’re both clear on where you stand financially, resentment and financial problems are more easily avoided.

Establish boundaries over which you won’t step during arguments, such as your family, childhood abuse, or time spent in therapy.

Always close the door when you’re using the toilet.

Have some secrets.

Let your partner have secrets too. For instance, don’t force him or her to disclose every detail from every past relationship.

Don’t issue idle threats, such as ‘I’ll leave you if you ever say that to me again.’ Either solve the problem at hand, or get up and leave.

Treat each other with courtesy, respect and kindness.

Respect your relationship’s boundaries. There are some things that should not be shared with friends.

Don’t ever give up your friends for your partner, and don’t expect your partner to give up friends for you.

Don’t try to win every fight.

You should always try to have fun when you’re together.

Never throw out a man’s skanky old T-shirts. They have sentimental value understood only by males, and you will never be forgiven.

Start as you mean to carry on. For instance, don’t fetch and carry for the first six months and assume your partner will start pulling his or her weight later on.

Don’t ever run your partner’s family down in his or her presence, or run your partner down when family is around.

Don’t get into the rut of constantly bickering with each other. The occasional loud argument is a healthier way of confronting issues.

Do enough without your partner to maintain your independence.

Be supportive and try not to be critical.

Don’t set impossibly high standards for yourself or the relationship.

Tell your partner upfront which little habits irritate you. If flossing teeth in the bedroom grates you now, you’ll seriously be considering poisoning his or her tea in 20 years’ time.

Surprise your partner occasionally.