There are sometimes really clear and defined reasons why a relationship has broken down – for example, if there’s abuse or a betrayal of trust then these are generally deal breakers.
However, for many relationships that don’t last, it can be a lot harder to put your finger on exactly where it went wrong – words such as: “We just grew apart…” or “We wanted different things…” or “We just weren’t in love any more…” all sound reasonable and plausible, but don’t actually help you learn from the situation, and don’t give you any insight into how you might take a slightly different and hopefully more successful approach in your next relationship.
We’ve learned most of our life-lessons from the movies. Let’s take a look at some classic films and see what insights they can give us about dating and relationships.
There’s nothing less sexy than feeling like you’re constantly being told off. Sure, your partner may be annoying. Sure, they may forget to take out the bins, or pick up their underwear, or a million other annoying habits that you’ve pointed out time and time again.
It’s frustrating, but that’s just the way that they operate. Nagging isn’t going to make them change - it will just make them resent you.
If there’s something that you’re trying to get your partner to do or to remember, why not make a game of it? Agree a financial penalty each time they forget, or make it into a bet and the loser has to cook dinner - change the dynamic and try and make it fun or a bit competitive.
It might be tempting to start a new relationship with a bit of a game-plan to iron out the rough patches that you think can be improved in your new partner. Let’s be honest, you’re kidding yourself – people don’t really change that much. They might pretend to for a little while to try and make you happy, but – deep-down – the person that you fell in love with is the person that you’re stuck with, warts and all. Trying to change them will just make both of you unhappy.
An alternative approach is to recognise that you both need to keep growing as people – find a hobby or interest that you both enjoy, learn a language, take a cooking class. But it has to be something that you’re both genuinely into - if your partner doesn’t want to go to salsa classes with you, don’t force the issue, find something that works for both of you.
You may sometimes feel that your partner wouldn’t survive for five minutes without you, but – let’s face it - they survived pretty well before they met you. Chances are, they’re a lot more put-together than you’re giving them credit for.
Don’t treat your partner like a child. Don’t assume that you know best and that your partner can’t make a decision without you. They’re not going to want to have sex with someone who reminds them of their mother.
Use open questions in your conversations - What have you got on this week? What are your plans for the weekend? Any thoughts on how you want to spend the summer vacation?
Open-ended questions empower your partner and create opportunities for you to make plans together, or to discuss why you’re going to be focused on different things that day.
The Devil Wears Prada
It’s almost too hard to resist, especially when your partner seems determined to wear hideous clothes. But you need to try your best to avoid telling your partner what to wear.
You can amuse yourself for days with snappy put-downs and Miranda Priestly quotes, but your partner isn’t going to find that game fun or sexy.
You don’t have to be all Anne Hathaway, but show your partner that you respect their decisions and that you love them for who they are. Let your partner’s friends be the ones to make fun of their fashion disasters.
Remember how much effort you used to make when you first started dating? Don’t lose sight of that – it’s that person who your partner fell in love with.
That’s not to say that you have to get up before they do every morning so that you can ensure that you’re Instagram-ready before cooking breakfast, but there are lots of attractive people out there all bringing their A-game – make sure that you’re keeping your partner’s eyes firmly on you.
Bringing your A-game to your relationship doesn’t mean that you have to spend your life at the gym, or eliminate carbs from your diet, it’s just a reminder that you shouldn’t let yourself get too comfortable.
Your partner wants you to have lots of energy, they want you to be active so you can do things together and enjoy spending time with each other. Keep putting the effort in so that you’re looking good and smelling great.
It can put a lot of pressure on your partner if every time you have sex you’re totally focused on your needs, demanding that your partner pleasures you exactly how you want it. Make sure that it’s 50/50 in the bedroom, and that there are plenty of times when you put all of your energy into making your partner feel amazing.
Also, throw a few surprises in. Things can get old real quick if you’re following the same routine every time that you hit the sack. Talk about what makes you feel good, find out what makes them feel good, explore your fantasies together.
You may not be as successful or wealthy or glamorous as you’d like to be, and your partner may not be the Instagram celebrity that you imagined spending your happily-ever-after with. But who cares? Stop comparing yourself to other people and stop comparing your partner to other people. Love your partner for who they are, not who you wish they could be.
Regardless of what you see online in your social media feeds, no one’s life is perfect - you just have to make the best of what you’ve got, with the people that you’ve got in your life, in the time that you’ve got available to you.
If you’re sitting there feeling a bit miserable because your partner hasn’t asked you out on a date night or planned a romantic mini-break, take control of the situation. Why don’t you organise it?
Suggest some ideas to your partner and see which ones rock their boat. Make it happen. Take charge and set the agenda.
As a wise old queer once said: “Time moves slowly for those who wait…”
Don’t expect your partner to be a mind-reader when it comes to sex. You have to be able to articulate what you like and what you don’t like.
Make it a positive conversation and experience for you both - if they’re doing something good then be vocal about it, make sure they hear how much you like it. If they’re doing something that isn’t really working for you, don’t make a big deal of it, take charge, change positions and find something that pushes your buttons.
If you’re worried that you’re not having sex as often as you used to, don’t assume that you know why that might be - talk to your partner, ask them if they’re happy with your sex life, ask them if there’s anything that’s stressing them out. Don’t assume that you can read their mind.
Exit to Eden
Try to avoid making sex feel like a routine. The minute that your partner feels obliged to have sex - that Thursday night is sex night, or that unless you’ve done it three times in a week you won’t be happy - that’s when it starts to become a bit of a chore.
Try your best to keep your sex life as spontaneous as possible. Sex doesn’t always have to be in the bedroom, with the lights out. Surprise your partner occasionally - keep them on their toes.
Real relationships are a long way from the romantic ideal that we fantasise about in the movies. Real relationships are hard work and they can be hard going.
Don’t judge the success of your relationship by what you see in films or how you perceive other people’s relationships to be. No one has got a perfect relationship, everyone has days or even weeks when they wish that they were single.
But the relationship that you have is the relationship that you’ve created. Treasure what you’ve built together, don’t consider it as failed just because no one is handing you an Oscar.