Don’t get into a relationship thinking: what’s in it for me? Always ask yourself what can I mean for this other person. See a relationship as an alliance to serve something bigger than yourself. Never think the relationship can be undone. If this relationship is to become something that adds something beautiful to the world, the first rule is: it can’t be undone. If you leave the option of breaking up all too visibly on the table, then break up now, save yourself some time.
If you’re not in that relationship to make that other person happy, then you will hit walls soon enough. If your partner’s happiness is not what gives you the most joy, leave immediately. Give them a chance to be with someone who will prioritize their happiness.
In order to be like that in a relationship you have to be in place in life, where you have learned to provide for your basic needs all by yourself. Your basic stability cannot depend on your partner. You can have weak moments, weak periods, for sure, but fundamentally, you do know how to take care of yourself. Learn that first, then get into a relationship. At least if you want that relationship to last. Don’t get into a relationship just because you’re afraid to be alone. Go get comfortable being single, before you commit to a relationship.
How to know if you are doing well? You can’t put a number on this, but if you need to hear a number: about five nice gestures a day to give your partner an endorphines boost is a good basis to bond more closely. Seeing the joy of your partner should be the only reward you’re hoping for. (Hoping for, not expecting)
Things get tough when you both have radically different relationship goals. Like if one partner wants to have children and the other one does not. If your priority is the other’s well-being you will figure it out. Always assume that a relationship is like a self-correcting system, if you don’t mess with it -like trying to make it cater to your needs- it will adjust and a solution will be found. A relationship is like water, it always finds a way and seeps through everything eventually, unless you throw barriers in front of it.
So the rules, assuming you are not with someone just out of fear to be alone:
1. See the relationship as something bigger than you and the other, as something that is here to serve something, be a beacon of something good. For this to work you need stimulate the other’s growth any way you can
2. Always assume it ends up correcting and adjusting itself if you let it and don’t try to set it up so it mainly serves your needs
3. Always assume it’s forever, if breaking up is a real option in your mind, then break up now
4. If the other person’s happiness is not your source of joy, then you shouldn’t be with that person
5. The principle ‘what’s mine is yours’ should apply, not just materially, but also as to thoughts, share thoughts and ideas without restraint
And bonus hint:
If you have a clash in values, but you have been together for quite some time, it’s very likely you are not having a real clash in values, you are just misinterpreting and underneath the motivations do lurk similar values. If you are together for quite some time, there necessarily needs to be some common ground, even if you lose sight of it for a while. It takes active work to destroy that common ground…