4 Golden rules of relationship success

Jun 22, 2011 at 1:13 p.m. ET

Relationships are tricky business. One minute everything is absolutely perfect – you're bursting at the seams with ooey, gooey love for your guy. Then the next minute, you're so frustrated with his inability to talk to you without keeping one eye the game that you want to scream. Sound familiar? Welcome to life in a relationship. Before you start worrying about the potential ups and downs, know that there are some golden rules to keep in mind that will help make everything easier.

Happy couple on hike

1If you don't like something – say so

We can't stress enough how important it is, especially in the early stages of a relationship, to speak up when something bothers you or you just don't like it. Whether he talks down to you when his friends are around, always leaves dirty dishes in the sink or does something in bed that he thinks you love but just feels weird and annoys you – tell him. Setting him straight before things get too serious is a way better option than blowing up at him years later when you could have just mentioned the issue when you first noticed it. He may not even realize he talks down to you when his friends are around or that you want to punch him when he leaves dirty dishes everywhere, or that sex move feels kind of icky – it's your job to tell him so you can move forward without the frustration.

2TV time does not equal date night

Date night need not be expensive but it should definitely NOT involve watching reruns of a show you never really liked anyway. Even just a little bit of effort can go a long way when it comes to having a fun, affordable night out with your guy. Whether you make a romantic dinner at home, go for drinks, see a live band or check out a baseball game, the opportunities are endless. The point is to make time to do something you both want to do as a way to relax together and get out of your normal routine. You don't have to go nuts trying to come up with new ideas every weekend, though. Just have a roster of five or six that you know you both enjoy and rotate them. Other things will come up to break up your usual dates – bands coming into town you want to see, new bars opening, etc. plus your activities will change with the seasons – hikes in summer, tobogganing in winter (should you live somewhere that gets snow).

3Absence makes the heart grow fonder

We're not suggesting you spend weeks or months away from your man just so you can miss him, but if you really want to make your relationship work, you need to spend some time apart. Being attached at the hip – while great at first – can eventually put a strain on your twosome, whereas having a few separate interests and different friends is a great way to create a healthy amount of space in your relationship. It can really suck if one person starts to rely too heavily on the other and constantly expect the center of attention. You don't ever want to feel as if you are responsible for your partner's enjoyment 100 percent of the time. Neither of you should feel like you can't go out solo or enjoy an activity the other doesn't like for fear of that person having a meltdown or getting sulky. Spending a lot of time together is natural, but spending ALL your time together should never be mandatory.

4Argue with words, not eye rolls

Sarcastic remarks, insults and eye rolls have no place in an adult argument. We all do it (some people roll their eyes so often they don't even realize they're doing it), but it's not a good idea to make this type of immature behavior a habit in your relationship. Think about it this way: As soon as your guy makes a sarcastic remark, you're going to spit one right back at him. The same goes for insults or hitting below the belt – this type of fighting gets you nowhere other than even more angry. Don't even get us started on eye rolling – it's totally passive aggressive and it definitely does what it's supposed to do which is frustrate the other person, but all it does is fuel the fire. Replace these unhelpful actions with constructive debate, compromise and good listening skills and you will fare much better.

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