Young love doesn’t always last, but sometimes sweethearts manage to stay forever. If you’ve been with your sweetie since you were going to proms—or if you’re still going to proms together and hope to make it last long-term—you have a special challenge as a couple.
Keeping your relationship stable and fresh throughout the many changes that come with growing up is difficult. A proactive approach can help. Here are four good tips to keep in mind.
1. Let each other grow and change. Making love last from adolescence through adulthood requires a healthy sense of each other as evolving individuals. The National Institute of Mental Health notes that the teenage brain is “still under construction.” Research reveals that “in key ways, the brain doesn’t look like that of an adult until the early 20s.”
The upshot is that you’ll each be going through a massive transformation as you try to keep your relationship stable. It’s vital that you respect your partner’s evolution and likewise let the relationship grow and change as well.
2. Map your love. Couples who make it work long-term have what relationship expert John Gottman calls “a love map.” This means that they’re “intimately familiar with each other’s worlds”—they know what events in their partner’s past have shaped them, and are attuned to how new experiences influence them. They “get” each other in a deep and informed way.
Couples who get together young will share more formative experiences than average couples, so their love maps will be nuanced and provide a rich grounding for their life together. But, on the flip side, the very fact that they’ve known each other so long can make them complacent. Seeking to learn more about each other at every stage of your life together will help your bond stay strong.
3. Learn how to make decisions together. Over the course of a long relationship, you’ll be making thousands of decisions jointly, and the conflict that can inspire is a real danger zone for couples. Dr. Josh Klapow advises that couples proactively learn how to make good joint decisions with techniques like setting a goal for the decision to be made, staying on topic, being as specific as possible, and remaining open to compromise.
Klapow emphasizes that it’s also important to celebrate a successfully rendered decision, even with something as small as a hug. After all, deciding things together with positivity is a difficult task, and failing at it drives many couples apart. Especially when you’ve been together since you were young and may have fallen into deep grooves in your communication habits, continuing to improve your joint decision-making skills is a victory worth celebrating.