Long-term relationships often require a bit of maintenance. As time wears on, you can lose the spark that made the first few weeks or months of the partnership so entrancing.
Make sure to stay positive and assess if the relationship is worth the effort (it usually is). Consult relationship experts to receive personal advice, but if you’re worried about your long-term relationship, here are 10 common mistakes and how you can solve them.
1. You’re tempted to snoop through your SO’s phone
Snooping is a common problem that means you lack trust both in your partner and in yourself, as if you aren’t good enough for this person. You seek validation. If he or she catches you and the trust in your relationship is ruined. Bottom line, trust yourself and your partner without snooping. You both deserve some privacy.
Anna*, a junior at the University of California, Los Angeles, said she has known couples who almost broke up because one of them got caught snooping. As time wears on, you may worry that your partner is getting bored with you, but snooping (whether or not you find something) will only hurt the relationship. Have a conversation if you’re really worried she or he has a wandering eye.
2. You stand each other up
Oh it’s just a few minutes until I’m home – I can push back his or her call. Oh, no I have a paper due tomorrow – can we hang out tomorrow night instead?
It’s not malicious, but you just have a busy life as a collegiette and things can get in the way.
Jane*, a junior at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that no matter what happens in a relationship, if a person is right for you it’s worth holding onto and working out any kinks. She recommends you stick to the dates you set for each other, and try not to cancel on any proposed plans.
You may want to reschedule your dates and FaceTimes, but these all add up and signal to your SO that you don’t prioritize him or her. Instead, make sure to keep your appointments and show that you value them even in your busy lifestyle.
3. You said something you didn’t mean
If most of your communication occurs over text, messages could get misinterpreted as passive aggressive through hidden subtext. Definitely opt for in-person hangouts over written forms of communication to make sure your messages are being communicated correctly. Of course, hand-written cards are an exception because they’re adorable.
Clear up any miscommunications, because we all know how it’s easy to say something jokingly or sarcastically and not mean what you say. Gauge your partner’s reaction, because technology can make it easy to imply something you didn’t intend to.
4. You start to become critical of the other person
If you’ve been together a long time, you’ll start to notice more of their habits, both good and bad. Try not to critique each other or ask each other to change things beyond his or her control.
Talk through your pet peeves, like if you don’t like him leaving his socks around or she wishes you would watch a movie with her once and a while. Don’t dismiss the other person’s wants just because you no longer feel the need to impress your new beau. And – if you stop respecting your partner, that’s a surefire sign you should break up!
5. You forget to tell each other about big (or small) moments
We get it, there’s a lot going on. Not only is there more happening in college than in high school (classes, internships, jobs, parties, clubs, office hours…), but it’s also a big time in your life as you grow and change.
One common mistake is forgetting to tell your SO about either big or small moments in your life. Perhaps you tell your floormates, classmates, colleagues and sorority sisters — and then you feel you’ve told the story 100 times already. Maybe by the time you actually get to talk to your SO, the big news occurred a week ago and you forget, it feels too old or doesn’t really come up.
Collegiettes can also purposefully neglect to tell their partners about news because of the differences in their situations. If your partner isn’t at a university like you are, it may feel narcissistic or awkward to tell your SO about the exciting accomplishments or worrying problems in your life, especially if he or she can’t seem to relate to your situation.
Jane said since she and her boyfriend have been dating since high school, they now attend different schools and rarely get to talk or catch each other up. One of the downsides of the long-term relationship is not sharing those special moments, she said.
Have an honest conversation with each other about how much you want to know about each other’s lives. Your partner wants to know about the good and the bad, so hearing that from him or her will give you the courage to give those oh-so-important life updates.
You can try keeping a list of things that happened to you during the day or week so you don’t forget moments you wanted to share with your SO.
6. You don’t plan quality time together
Keep the spark alive by planning spontaneous day trips or surprise Chinese take out to show you still care. Don’t let your long-term relationship become careless or something that used to be fun. It still should be. It’s a common issue that after a few months, your time together tends to be watching TV, talking about school work or simply cooking a normal meal. Mix it up and follow the cliched advice of trying to have spontaneous adventures.
Set time aside for quality time together, whether it’s a fancy date out or a night in, Jane said. It’s how she maintains her long-term relationship – beyond online communication, in-person dates still matter.
7. You let your SO take over your life
There’s a balance between keeping your boyfriend or girlfriend in the loop and letting them dominate your lives. Remember that your priorities include school, friendships and career development and you can’t always be talking with your SO.
Anna’s friends in long-term relationships always worry that they are neglecting their friends and only spending time with their partner. Remember that your friends can be upset that you always choose your boyfriend or girlfriend over them, so there’s a need to maintain balance in all your relationships.
And don’t let them partners you too much from your school life. You can do both: study or hang out with friends during the day and still make it to an evening date.
8. You talk about your relationship too much
Rachel*, a freshman at Molloy College, said this hindered her relationship. Since both she and her boyfriend were really busy, when they finally DID get to talk to one another, they spent most of the session talking about their relationship and their communication (or lack thereof). They ended up taking a break.
Maintenance communication occurs when two people talk about how they communicate instead of discussing the topics of conversation themselves, which can be good in moderation but not when it dominates your convos.
It’s crucial to have down to earth conversations with your partner about goals, scheduling, wants and needs. This way both of your expectations are in the same place. Rachel said she expected to be Snapchatting, texting and FaceTiming a lot but her boyfriend didn’t realize he would be so busy during the school year.
9. You worry too much about the future
Rachel said one of her other biggest worries was the burden of wondering what the future would hold. What happens if they had to be in a LDR for a long time? What would their careers be that would mesh well together? Would they move to the same city after college? In retrospect, she said not to put too much pressure on yourself to worry about the future. It’s too challenging to plan all the possible scenarios. “Overall, trust is the biggest thing,” she said. “If they’re right for you, it will work out and you can’t worry about it.”
10. You think a perfect relationship exists
One of the hardest things is comparing your relationship to others’ relationships, to your past relationships or to how you felt earlier in this relationship. Remember that relationships aren’t perfect, and it’s impossible to achieve a perfect relationship where no work needs to be done.
Don’t think of your boring or rough patches in your relationship as a destination that will one day be over, because a new challenge will arise. Work through your issues, savor each other’s love and enjoy the now of the partnership.
*Name has been changed