I often shy away from writing about relationships because I’m in a very happy long-term one. It’s not terribly exciting for other people to read about it and no one likes a show off, so in the past I’ve limited my partner chatter to things like How to Survive a Long Distance Relationships and Open Door Toilet Going.

Anyway, recently I received an email from a reader asking for advice on what you can expect from a long-term relationship, and I realised there’s a bit of a demand for advice for people  like me. So I’ve patched together a little list of things that I believe to be true about long-term relationshipsI’m purposefully making this gender non-specific because I don’t think that gender makes a difference to successful co-habitation. I also don’t believe that all men are pigs and all women are naggers so on that note, here we go…

You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

If your partner was raised in a house where they did sweet F.A for their entire childhood because someone ran around after them all the time, it’s going to be pretty difficult to teach them to contribute to your shared household. I’ve heard countless people complain about how their partners ‘never do anything to help around the house‘. I totally agree that everyone should help around the house but clearly not everyone does and if you choose to shack up with someone who’s never scrubbed a toilet or doesn’t know how to make 2 minute noodles, I hate to be harsh here but I think you’ve made your own bed. Both literally and figuratively.

But Make Sure Your Old Dog Knows a Few Tricks

If your partner doesn’t know what the mop does but can do other magical things like get your car to start in winter or grocery shop to within 2 cents of your weekly budget then all is not lost! It’s really important that your partner shares the household responsibility with you in a way that makes you both feel valued and supported. For example Mr Smaggle never does our clothes washing, but instead of whining about how I always have to do it, I acknowledge the fact that he always takes the rubbish out and cleans up the kitchen after I go all Nigella in there making dinner. Just remember, contributing to the household doesn’t always mean cleaning the toilet.

Romance Is A Two Way Street

I don’t think that just because I’m the girl in our relationship that that entitles me to some kind of exclusive and regular romance treatment. I love it when Mr Smaggle makes me eggs on Sundays and draws a heart on it with BBQ sauce but he also loves it when I bring him coffee in the morning from his favourite cafe. If you’re feeling a little unloved in your relationship I think it’s important to cast your mind back and think of the last time you did something special for your partner. If you can’t remember then that’s the first problem you need to fix.

It’s Not All Sunshine and Roses

The person you are in a relationship with is (hopefully) human. This means that they have desires, needs, wants and feelings and you’re going to be around for that. If your partner snaps at you for no reason and is having an inexplicably cranky day, it’s not going to help if you snap back at them. Give them a cuddle, make them a cup of tea or take them for a walk.  Acknowledge that they aren’t feeling amazing and help them feel good again. It’s so much better than starting a fight that didn’t have anything to do with you in the first place.

Get Your Expectations Under Control

You need to forget the stereotypical ideas of romance. Flowers, expensive hotels, french Champagne. It’s all bullshit if you don’t also get any of the real romance.* I don’t think Mr Smaggle has ever bought me flowers and certainly not past our one year anniversary but he always makes sure I have the TV shows I want on my iPad before I go to bed and if I fall asleep on the couch I always wake up under a blanket and with my head on a pillow. I’ll take all of that stuff over a dozen impersonal roses any day. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female or dating a male or a female… or both. Everyone loves to be loved. That might mean a packed lunch to take to work, a sweet text at lunch time or a head massage in front of the TV at night. Little hint: True romantic gestures rarely cost a cent.

You Can’t Change The Terms of The Contract Without A Cooling Off Period

Obviously people change and times change but you can’t decide to suddenly join a rock band and be out until 2am six nights a week and expect your partner to be okay with that. Major changes in lifestyle, financial circumstances or living arrangements do affect your partner so make sure you keep them in the loop. Mr Smaggle and I travel quite frequently with work and we always discuss the terms of the trip before we go ahead with it. It’s really just good manners.

Make Sure You Actually Still Like Your Partner

I think the ‘secret’ to my successful long-term relationship is that I wake up every morning, look at my man and think ‘Shit yeah! This guy’s still here!. I just genuinely think he’s rad. It helps that he’s extraordinarily kind, generous and gentlemanly but he’s also just incredibly pleasant to be around. Sometimes I’ve had to counsel friends through relationships, pretending to offer advice when really I was just biding my time until they realised that their partner is just a master level douche bag. I’m not trying to be all smug like ‘Look at me I’m so awesome because my boyfriend’s not a jerk!.’ I’ve dated heaps of jerks. I’ve just realised that they’re jerks and now I’m with someone lovely. Don’t rule out the possibility of your unhappiness being a direct result of the fact that your partner is a shithead.

Are you in a long term relationship? What’s your advice to maintaining it?

* If your significant other sends you flowers weekly that’s beautiful. Just make sure you’re also getting the other good stuff like midnight chemist runs when you’re sick.