Whether you’re single, dating or in a relationship, it can often feel like there are too many ‘rules’ to follow. From navigating social media (do you post a #CouplesGoals selfie or is too soon?) to the confusion of whether you should WhatsApp first or wait three days, everyone seems to have a different opinion on the hard and fast rules of love. But while there may not be a short cut guaranteed to make you find your dream partner or make your relationship stronger, we spoke to several love and relationship experts who revealed the best love advice they’ve given to clients. Notepads at the ready...
1. Practice Self-Love
Before investing in a relationship and expecting it to automatically work, it’s crucial to learn how to truly love and accept yourself first. This will ensure you’re not stifling the relationship by expecting your SO to look after every single one of your individual needs. After all, a healthy relationship is when you’re in charge of your emotions. Bharti Jatti Varma, clinical hypnotherapist and holistic facilitator at Illuminations Wellbeing Centre in Dubai, agrees: “A relationship should not be a crutch—something you need to feel complete. If you seek a relationship to fill a void or are coming from a place of need, that relationship will not give you the fulfilment you seek. Instead, your relationship should enhance your existing feeling of being whole and complete.”
TIP: Although it’s important to practice self-love, Dr Vassiliki Simoglou, Counseling Psychologist at the Maple Tree Center, Dubai, and Assistant Professor at Zayed University, UAE, warns against being too self-centred or too self-sacrificing. “A relationship begins to suffer when you’re unable to find that balance.”
2. Don’t Wait For Prince Charming
It’s all too easy to assume the love of your life will whisk you away for that happily ever after. But this myth could keep you from accepting love and realising that love isn’t a fairy-tale. According to Ava Khan, a life and spiritual coach based in Dubai, you can’t expect someone to “magically breakdown your castle walls and rescue you. You have to do that yourself by opening your heart and letting them in. You have to give them the chance to understand you and to be there for you.”
3. Don’t Smother Your SO
Sure, spending quality time with your SO is important, but don’t be too possessive. Instead, allow your partner the space to be himself as this will make your bond stronger.
Reenu Sahore, a Dubai-based relationship expert and life stress coach, says to think of relationships like holding sand in your palm. “Hold it with an open hand, the sand remains in its place but the moment we close our hand and try to hold tight, the sand trickles through our fingers and most will be spilled. If we hold relationships loosely, with respect and freedom for the other person, it is likely to remain intact. But hold it too tightly, too possessively, it slips away.”
TIP: Leading separate lives with different hobbies and interests not only gives you the chance to maintain a sense of independence and enjoy personal time away from each other, it will also make you more excited to see each other. As the old saying goes, distance makes the heart grow fonder.
4. Set Boundaries
It’s easy to lose yourself in relationships and focusing on your SO’s wants instead of honouring your own needs and goals. But this could come at the cost of your personal happiness and goals. Reenu recommends establishing ground rules in a relationship. “This allows both partners to feel comfortable and develop positive self-esteem.” Reenu recommends discussing boundaries and having an upfront conversation right at the beginning of the relationship, from whether you’re comfortable or not with checking each other’s phone, to demanding to know where the other person is at any given time in the day. “Be clear with your partner about what you want and your saturation point. We tend to focus on the other person, but acknowledging what you need will enhance the quality of your life.”
5. Maintain Physical Closeness
Cosy up! Successful partnerships prioritise physical intimacy—a study found that couples who had been together for more than 10 years and described themselves as still ‘intensely in love’ were the ones who showed the most affection towards each other. Who said rom-coms were unrealistic?!
TIP: Regular hand-holding can help build and strengthen feelings of closeness. “A human’s desire for touch remains necessary throughout people’s lives,” Reenu says.
All good things take time—and relationships are no different. Resha Erheim, counsellor at Life Works Foundation in Dubai, agrees. “A relationship is like a plant, you take care of it and invest love into it, it grows; you ignore it and neglect it,
it dies.” This also applies if you’re single—after all, what you seek is what you get, advises Khaled Ghorab, a coach and relationship expert based in Dubai. He encourages clients to imagine the kind of relationship they desire instead of the frustration of not having the right partner yet. “ If our standards are low, we get a love at that level.”
TIP: Be patient with your partner’s mistakes and the time your relationship takes to grow. But if it still doesn’t work out, take comfort in knowing you gave the relationship your all, rather than ending up regretting giving up on it too soon.
7. ...Be Responsible for Your Own Happiness
Ultimately, while relationships can be exciting and fun, your partner’s job isn’t solely to make you happy. After all, your SO will have ups and downs in his life, just like anyone else. Anne Jackson, certified relationship and development coach in Dubai agrees: “If you’re looking for someone to ‘complete you’, you’re looking in the wrong direction for lasting happiness. It’s easy to feel good when your partner is acting in a way that you want—it’s possible in the honeymoon stage, but impossible to sustain a good mood and direct affection only onto one person all the time, forever.”