So you see love as a “collaborative work of art”. You’ve been discerning about who to spend your time with and found someone generous and giving, someone with whom you can be your truest self.

You’ve won! Here’s your medal! You can relax now!

Of course, life’s not really like that: nor is love. It’s not a finite game with a definite ending (and winners and losers), but something infinite which encourages ongoing participation.*

That’s easy when you’re in the first flush of romance (what psychologist Dorothy Tennov has labelled limerance, where every little thing your partner does is magic).

But that stage fades quickly and, without the right foundation, some mistake that shift in stages (from blending to nesting, ready for self-affirming, collaborating and adapting) for the dying of love.

So how do you ensure that the work of art you’re collaborating on continues to evolve and engage?

I love marital therapist and author Andrew G Marshall’s book I Love You But I’m Not In Love With You as a user’s guide to relationships. Don’t be put off by the title, aimed at long-term couples deciding whether to renew their vows or break up; it’s a rich resource when it comes to love, intimacy and relationships.

Because if you know what to expect, you have more choice over how to respond. You’ll also know whether to quit or sit as you go though what psychotherapist Ken Page calls “the wave”;

“You’re dating someone caring and available, and there has been at least a spark of attraction for you. And yet:

• You can’t find the sense of affection and desire you once had.
• You keep getting irritated at them or bored by them.
• Their flaws make you quickly lose respect for them, even if you don’t show it
• You start yearning for the excitement of the hunt
• You feel like a fraud, pretending you’re still interested when inside you just don’t feel it anymore.

How many people do you know who’ve been in a new relationship, only to have their partner flee for no valid reason? Have you ever done the same to someone? Most of us have.

.. So what do you do when the Wave hits? The main thing is to recognize that it is just a wave. And waves pass.

In most cases, your affection just went temporarily underground. Even though you can’t feel it, its probably still there. If you can just give yourself a bit of space – you’re allowed! – and keep a sense of good will toward the person you’re dating, the feelings almost always come back.

And when the Wave passes, you’ll probably find an added benefit. You’ll have a clearer view of who this person is and what you feel for them.”

So the wave has passed, and you don’t have time to read a whole book. What you really want is the crowdsourced and curated relationship advice of around 1,500 people who’ve been married for 10+ years and who are still happy.

Luckily Mark Manson, best-selling writer of the legendary blog post (and now book) called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, has your back. As a newlywed, he recently asked his readership,

“.. what lessons would you pass down to others if you could? What is working for you and your partner? And if you are divorced, what didn’t work previously?”

The response was overwhelming. Almost 1,500 people replied, many of whom sent in responses measured in pages, not paragraphs. It took almost two weeks to comb through them all, but I did. And what I found stunned me…

They were incredibly repetitive.

That’s not an insult or anything. Actually, it’s kind of the opposite. Not to mention, a relief. These were all smart and well-spoken people from all walks of life, from all around the world, all with their own histories, tragedies, mistakes and triumphs…

And yet they were all saying pretty much the same dozen things.”

To whet your appetite for the article, here are those dozen things;

  1. Be together for the right reasons
  2. Have realistic expectations about relationships and romance
  3. The most important factor in a relationship is not communication but respect
  4. Talk openly about everything, especially the stuff that hurts
  5. A healthy relationship means two healthy individuals
  6. Give each other space
  7. You and your partner will grow and change in unexpected ways; embrace it
  8. Get good at fighting
  9. Get good at forgiving
  10. The little things add up to big things
  11. Sex matters .. a lot
  12. Be practical and create relationship rules
  13. Learn to ride the waves [sound familiar?]

Grab yourself a cup of tea, sit down and read the full blog post here;

Because good art deserves to be properly looked after.

* See Chapter 10 Failure Immunity of Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, to discover how seeing your life as an “infinite game” can even help immunise you from failure.

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