It was the 18th century French novelist George Sand who once said: “There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.”
Indeed, being in a loving romantic relationship can be an enjoyable, exciting and life-changing experience; a fact which is made painfully evident to the single among us on Valentines’ Day.
But what about the other 364 days in the year?
Keeping the love and sexual spark in a relationship all the year round is a difficult task, and while the rewards can be great, so can the obstacles that need to be overcome.
To give you a hand, Annique Simpson reveals five elements that are essential for a healthy and successful relationship and sex life.
Talking to your partner about your thoughts, feelings and needs in an honest and transparent manner is a great way of boosting the trust and closeness in your relationship.
Additionally, by discussing any problems or concerns you may be experiencing with your partner, you are giving them the opportunity to support and advise you if necessary.
But it’s not just about talking. To be a good communicator you need to be able to listen as well. This requires you to give the speaker your undivided attention – so don’t be afraid to pause the football match on Sky Plus or to put down the Blackberry when your woman wants a word.
Please note: listening is more than simply hearing the speaker. Sure, you may be able to repeat what your girlfriend just said to you, line for line, but if you haven’t processed it then its pointless her speaking in the first place.
One often forgotten, but incredibly important, part of communication is body language. The way in which your partner moves, and looks at and touches you can indicate their thoughts and feelings in a way that their words may not.
- Be direct, honest and clear when speaking to your partner about issues both within and outside of the relationship, as research shows that couples who use a direct communication style are more likely to see desirable long-term changes in their relationship.
- Actively listen to your other half. Maintain eye contact, be empathetic and non-judgemental, give them your full attention and avoid interrupting them.
- Pay attention to your partner’s non-verbal communication. Remember, what a person does not say is often as crucial as what they do say.
Our interests, desires and values are some of the various pieces of baggage that we bring to a relationship. For instance, your girlfriend may likeCaribbeanfood whilst you’re more of a pizza-and-chips kind of guy; she may want to spend Sundays tucked up in bed whilst you would prefer hitting up the gym.
Whatever the differences, it is vital that you have an open dialogue with your partner about what you both want and try and strike a balance between the two.
Contrary to what some people think, compromising is a not a sign of weakness and does not undermine your individuality. The ability to meet someone in the middle shows strength of character and will enable you and your mate to flourish both as individuals and as a couple.
That is not to say that you should compromise on everything. There will be certain things that you will be unable or unwilling to bend on and that is okay. We all have our limits and it is important that your partner respects yours and that you respect hers.
- Keep talking to your lover, even if you disagree on an issue. Failure to do so may cause resentment to build between you.
- Try and see things from your partner’s perspective. Remember, relationships are a partnership; not a dictatorship.
- If you are both struggling to reach an agreement, ask yourself whether it is honestly worth getting your own way in the situation. If it isn’t, why continue?
- When dealing with issues that you are both passionate about, evaluate the pros and cons together so that you can come to a compromise that you are both reasonably happy with.
There is no doubt that we live in a hectic world. The majority of us have work, school and family responsibilities that take up a large amount of our time, leaving us with little time and energy for the fun stuff in life, like romance.
Time is a precious commodity for a couple. Spending quality time with your other half can increase the intimacy in your relationship, is a great platform for effective communication and can help you both de-stress from your other, more mundane commitments.
That’s not to say you should spend all of the dedicated time moaning about your annoying manager or boring coursework. Always remember the real reason behind this quality time: to reaffirm and reinforce the love you and your partner have for one another.
- Have regular date nights in which you and your partner spend time together doing things you enjoy, such as going out for a meal, watching a movie or taking long walks.
- Try and keep your quality time as uninterrupted as possible. So that means no WhatsApp-ing/BBM-ing, no game console-ing and no my-boys’-just-popping-round-quickly-ing.
- Quality time should always be done face-to-face. Although there a now many ways in which you can spend time with your partner in the virtual world, nothing beats being in your loved one’s presence.
Trust is the cornerstone of any relationship. It is vital for intimacy and security between partners and is considered by many to be a sacred possession; one which they’re not willing to part with easily.
To earn someone’s trust you need to show yourself to be trustworthy. The more honest and reliable you are, the more your partner will trust and respect you. Behave dishonestly and your partner is likely to do the same to you.
Trust is a two-way street: just as you would like your lady to have faith in you, you should be trusting of her. Keyshia Cole’s ‘I Should Have Cheated’ is a perfect example of how relentless accusations can cause major damage to your relationship.
- Always be honest with your partner. Lies are easily told but are usually difficult to get over. Catching a lover in a lie can be an embarrassing, hurtful and trust-destroying experience, and often this damage is irreparable.
- Be fair. If you were cheated on or lied to by partners in the past, leave it there. All women are not the same: many can be trusted to be faithful and honest. Your partner is her own person: do not judge her by the mistakes made by your exes.
- Be trusting. If your partner does not give you a reason to doubt them – don’t. It only causes unnecessary arguments and casts doubt on your honesty.
Assess your compatibility
The excitement of dating someone can be immense and overwhelming. So much so, that logic and sensibleness often take a back seat to lust and infatuation.
Consequently, in their haste to reach their ‘happily-ever-after’, couples often neglect to check whether they’re truly compatible with one another.
Taking your time to get to know your partner is a good way of seeing assessing the common ground between you and is a must if you want a solid and successful long-term relationship.
Of course there will be things you and your partner won’t agree on and that is quite alright. Opposing views on preferred music genres or food can create stimulating debate and pleasurable experiences.
However, differing opinions on more serious matters, like family, fidelity or finances can often prove too great a hurdle to overcome.
- Allow your relationship to grow organically. The getting-know-you-stage is one of the most enjoyable and informative parts of a relationship. Rushing past or bypassing it entirely can create problems in later life.
- Accept that you may not like everything your partner likes and that this is okay, so long as it is something you are willing to be flexible on. If it isn’t, you will need to decide whether the relationship is worth continuing.
- If you begin feeling that you and your partner are no longer compatible then let them know. Life is too short to be unhappy.
And healthy sex..?
Let’s face it: life would be duller without sex. Whether it’s with a girlfriend, wife or a casual buddy, making love can be exhilarating and enjoyable – if done well.
But it’s not just the quality of your backstroke that can determine how great a sex session is. Sex without fear of catching a sexually transmitted infection (STI) can also make the act more pleasurable.
According to the Health Protection Agency, over 418,000 new cases of STIs were diagnosed in 2010, with chlamydia, genital herpes and genital warts each accounting for more than 70,000 diagnoses made in UK GUM clinics.
Contracting an STI can have disastrous effects on your health. Symptoms can include genital itching, pain and sores, infertility, or even death.
Thus, it is important that you engage in safe sex at all times. This can be achieved by following these top tips:
- Always use a condom during all kinds of penetrative sexual activity – even oral sex. Condoms not only protect you from getting an STI, they can also prevent unwanted pregnancies.
- Try to avoid having casual sex/multiple partners. Yes, variety can be the spice of life, but you don’t always know how health-conscious your bed partner is
- Get yourself tested for STIs and HIV at least once a year (if in a stable relationship) or whenever you start a new sexual relationship. Visit http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/STIs/Pages/VisitinganSTIclinic.aspx for more information.
- Make sure that you and your partner are both completely ready to have sex before heading down that road. Remember, sex is a mutual act; it only works if both parties are up for it.