When you tell people you’ve been with your partner since high school, you get asked one of two questions: “Don’t you want to sleep with other people?” and “How have you stayed together for so long?”

The answer to the first question is no; the answer to the second question is a little more complicated.

It’s hard to pinpoint how I’ve been with my partner for so long because it feels like an effortless relationship. There’s hardly any pressure to act a certain way or to do certain things, and just like a family member, my relationship with him has become something that has just always been there (and ideally always will).

Throughout my relationship, I’ve come to realise there are some things that we should all stop doing. These are things that I’ve sometimes done myself, or things that I’ve seen tear relationships apart.

RULE #1: Stop making so many rules

Of course a relationship needs to have boundaries. There are obvious ones like not sleeping with other people, not treating each other like crap and not eating each other’s left overs, but I’ve seen a lot of relationships suffer because of tedious, unnecessary rules. I’ve witnessed couples get in huge fights because one of them didn’t sign off their text message with a love heart. Somewhere along the line, one of them had created a ‘rule’ where if you didn’t sign off every single message with a heart, it meant something was wrong. This created a completely unnecessary fight that would have been avoidable without the completely unnecessary rule.

RULE #2: Stop having huge expectations

It’s important to remember that your partner is human. We’re all not characters in romantic movies, so you can’t expect your partner to sweep you off your feet every second of every day. Start looking for the little gestures that show they care. Although my partner isn’t a romantic (and neither am I), every now and then he unknowingly shows me he loves me. He might buy me my favourite chocolate bar when he’s paying for his petrol or sit through a full episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Although he isn’t planning huge extravagant surprises, keeping my expectations at bay means I’ll be pleasantly surprised at the little things when I least expect it.

RULE #3: Stop trying to change who they are

My partner and I have barely anything in common. We don’t like a lot of the same TV shows, foods, music or even people, but we don’t try and force any of our interests onto each other. You fell in love with your partner for a reason, so why would you want to change who they are? Although these differences can be a little annoying sometimes (especially when you’re trying to pick a movie), use them to expand your experiences and knowledge. Sit through a cricket came, even just once, and see if you like it. Try eating seafood one night even though you swore you’d never eat it again when you’re a kid. You might decide that you actually like these things, or you might hate them and have a funny story to tell a few years down the track. Accept that you’re two different people; it’d be a little boring if you dated someone who’s exactly like you.

RULE #4: Don’t lose yourself

I’ve seen way too many people get completely absorbed into their relationships and lose who they are as a person. These people get so overwhelmed with having a perfect relationship with their partner, and they end up compromising their relationships with family and friends in the process. After these people break up with their partners, they end up being completely lost, not knowing who they are without the other person.  One of the most important goals in my relationship is to maintain who I am and not compromise that for a second. Of course after years of being together you’re going to change slightly – that’s the nature of being human. However it’s important to continue to have your own life – your own ambitions, interests, hobbies and friends. This enables you to be a strong individual and your partner should respect that.

RULE #5: Stop trying to be like everyone else

One of the biggest things I’ve learnt in my relationship is that it’s pointless to compare yourself to others. Stop trying to show everyone else that your relationship is perfect – chances are it isn’t. Although another couple may prove their love to each other by posting on each other’s Facebook wall, this doesn’t mean you have to. What works for one couple might not work for another, so there’s no point stressing about what everyone else is doing in their lives. Do what’s best for you and you’ll have a relaxed, stress-free relationship.


Iona is a Wellness Coach specialising in relationships and dating. She works with single women to write their own love stories.