Relationships are inherently a part of the human experience. After all, humans are social animals. However, it can be easy to rush into a relationship without giving it the careful consideration needed to approach it with the long term health of the relationship in mind. This is especially problematic when it comes to marriage, because the increased importance of marriage makes it that much worse when things go south. Here’s what you need to know about building a strong relationship before you get married.

Working as a Team

The most important part of a relationship of any kind is that it should be a two way street. Taking too much and not giving enough does not make for a happy relationship, after all. Especially when it comes to a romantic relationship or a marriage, the individual members of a relationship need to feel like they can trust their partner, and they need to be trustworthy themselves. Sharing information is one key element of this equation, and keeping secrets and telling lies have been known to undermine countless relationships. Likewise, each member of the relationship needs to pull their own weight, and failing to do so can contribute to insecurity or resentment.

Any adult couple will be held accountable for building financial security, among other things, and this is even more important when your finances become legally merged during the marriage process. Before you start looking at engagement rings, you need to be prepared to approach marriage from the perspective of two parts of a whole. Even the act of buying the rings itself can be a test of this kind of teamwork, because the acceptable price range and style of the rings in question are factors that will need to be agreed upon and reflect the values of each member of the relationship.

Emotional Honesty

Another crucial aspect of a relationship is that of emotional honesty. While it may seem superfluous to many, failing to accurate and openly convey your internal state can have numerous negative side effects that can deteriorate the integrity of the relationship. No matter how tough you think you are, you’re a human being with feelings, and those feelings are valuable. The same is true of your partner. Likewise, you and your partner may feel anxious or hurt in such a way that you simply don’t feel like talking about. Even in these instances, it’s typically in your best interest to do so. Rational or not, this kind of guardedness can lead to resentment between you and your partner, because you can start to hold certain things against them if they’re left unresolved.

However, part of engaging in open and honest communication is being honest about your own limitations. It can be easy to blame your feelings on your partner, so you should always consider the possibility that you’re misreading the situation before you start slinging accusations. A good way to approach disagreements is to use the phrase “I feel like” instead of “you are” when airing grievances, because it leaves the door open for your partner to correct misconceptions or, even if you’re right in your assessment, see things from your perspective more readily than if they feel attacked.

Relationships Are Work

The fairy tale misconception of “true love” or “love at first sight” are simply that, the stuff of fantasy. In reality, a relationship needs to be built, and doing so entails a lot of hard work and a major time investment. You will argue with your partner, before marriage and during. However, you can use these disagreements as an opportunity for growth, and this applies to you, your partner, and the partnership between the two of you.

Building a relationship that will stand the test of time is no easy feat. However, the good news is that you’ll never have to do it alone. By the very nature of a relationship, it falls to both parties to build it together with each other’s best interest in mind. These tips will help you and your partner build that kind of relationship.