Limber up! If you want your relationship to go the distance, then you need to know how to tackle heart hurdles…
This romance malarkey is no walk in the park. If you’re not paying attention, you can go from kit-off to call-it-off at the slightest hiccup.
“Recognising and then dealing with common problems, such as mixed messages and intimacy issues, is the best way to avoid them coming between you and your man,” says psychologist and relationship expert, Emma Kenny.
Yes, with relationships, it’s all in the preparation. From coming off the starting blocks to running through the happily-ever-after white tape, you have to tackle love’s obstacles head-on if you want to overcome the assault course of your relationship.
Did you know: 70,000 couples visit the charity Relate every year to get their relationships back on track.
Timeline One month
Heart hurdle The relationship rope wall
Butterflies flutter as you gaze at each other. But how do you go from kinda dating to proper girlfriend and boyfriend?
“Communicating your feelings is very important in any relationship, especially at this early stage,” says Emma. You want to look cool, but if you don’t say how you feel, you won’t know where you stand, leading to insecurities. “Women can play out perfect scenarios in their heads, forgetting someone else is involved,” adds Emma. Find out if he wants to be your boyf before changing Facebook to “in a relationship”. An old-school “Will you go out with me?” will work a treat, and raise a smile.
You need A cool restaurant where you order dinner and dessert. The location shows your great taste, and a pud says you’re confident and not worried about calories – all reminders that you’re great girlfriend material as you ask the question.
The ‘L’ word
Timeline Six months
Heart hurdle The taking-the-plunge pool
You’re comfortable snuggling in bed wearing just your pants, without worrying whether your bum looks big. Then, one day, it hits you like a lorry-load of Love Hearts. You’re in love!
“A big problem for couples is when one person says: ‘I love you’ and the other doesn’t say it back,” says Emma. “But not everyone is in the same place at the same time. If your partner isn’t ready to say it now, it doesn’t mean he won’t ever.” But make sure you’re not just saying it so he’ll say it back.
Discuss your feelings with a friend to make sure they’re the real thing. If he is The One, blurt it out when the urge arises. Spontaneous declarations are genuine, so more likely to be well received.
You need The Wikihow Love Survival Kit, free from iTunes. This will help when your bezzie isn’t around. A quiz works out whether you’re in love and explains how to tell him it if you are. It even has advice for if it all goes wrong!
The Terrible Twos
Timeline Two years
Heart hurdle The wobbly log bridge
You’re best buddies, still fancy each other rotten, but out of nowhere your sweetheart bubble suddenly bursts. He’s not half as romantic as your BFF’s boyf and seems to spend all his time on the Xbox rather than dreaming up X-rated weekends away for you both. Surely love should run smoother than this?
This is a tough stage in a relationship, but keep calm and carry on. “The happiest people are content with what they’re doing right now,” adds Emma. “Measuring the progress of your relationship against other people’s can be a sign of insecurity, rather than a sign that you’re with the wrong person.” Every time you feel the urge to compare, scribble down 10 great things about you and him.
You need A magnetic photo frame. Pop your list in it and stick it on the fridge. You’ll see it every morning as you get milk for your cornflakes, andwill be reminded daily that your relationship is in a place called Ace.
Timeline Five years
Heart hurdle The parallel bars
You’ve got married/moved in together/had kids/all of the above. But how can you stop your inner princess screaming: “Now what?”
“Everybody goes a bit mental at this point,” says Emma. “The main problem is people’s fairy-tale expectations about marriage, family life and long-term love.” Once you’ve got the big events out of the way, the day to day of a relationship can be pretty, well, boring. And busy. And as stuff like routine, work, kids and housework take over, it all gets in the way of you hanging out with your partner for quality time. The result? You lose intimacy. “Intimacy, love and romance are the key ingredients for a good relationship,” says Paula Hall, sex therapist for relationship charity Relate.
You need Memories. Take an hour to remember how you got together. If you can, visit the site of your first date or get old love letters out. Nostalgia will help you build that intimacy back up, and get you in the mood for some sweet loving.
The sex home run
Timeline 10 years+
Heart hurdle The zipline finale
After a decade of dirty socks and snoring, keeping the bedroom fun alive is tough. The number-one reason for break-ups is affairs, with unsatisfied spouses seeking thrills elsewhere, so keeping the flame burning is vital. A simple way of doing this is to list your top three fantasies – just sharing sexy thoughts can spice up your sex life.
Research shows 41.3 per cent of couples have tried spanking* as it can be a good way to rev up your sex life. But you don’t have to go full-on Fifty Shades Of Grey – just affectionate touches boost your levels of oxytocin, a hormone that boosts bonding. If you aren’t touchy-feely, start with hand holding in the park, move on to arm touching during dinner, then snog like teens when no one’s around.
You need The 69 Positions – Sex Positions Of Kamasutra Guide app (69p, iTunes), which includes positions to make you feel closer to your partner, plus acrobatic stuff.