Relationships are a lot like cars. For a couple to thrive for a lifetime, it is important to “look under the hood” once in awhile, to see if it might be in need of a tune-up. Even the best automobiles need a little tweaking, a small repair or a cleaning at some point. It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the vehicle – think of it as simply “routine maintenance”.

To stick with the car analogy, at the beginning of a new relationship, couples rarely worry because it is still under warranty. You just feel quite certain, in all of the newness and excitement, that the auto is in need of absolutely nothing, driving like a dream.

But wear and tear do start to creep up and that is why it is important to take care of the relationship each day, so that it will idle smoothly for a lifetime.

Here are 5 steps to a stronger, long term relationship that you can consider rules of the road:

Take Care Of Yourself
It may sound odd to begin with focusing on yourself instead of your partner. But to keep your self-esteem in shape, you need to take care of yourself! Make sure you make time for your passions and hobbies. Pamper yourself, eat right, get fit and give yourself some alone time to relax. We cannot be much good to our lovers if we aren’t physically and mentally healthy ourselves. So get on track and make sure you are taking time to care for yourself.

Make Time As A Couple
When your lover is your best friend, it might feel cozy and simple to just snuggle up and watch television each evening. But the connection is lacking in those types of activities – so it is time to start planning alone time, no matter how little time your schedule allows. Have a picnic dinner on a work night, go fishing at the lake some afternoon and when possible, get away for a night or two when you can. Over time, not engaging in activities that promote talking or laughing can put a strain on your relationship, leaving one or both individuals bored or restless.

Be Romantic
When it comes to romance, a lot of pressure can fall on the man. But in healthy relationships, both partners should be romantic so the relationship isn’t all give on one side, all take on the other. Romance doesn’t have to cost a thing. They are merely sweet, loving gestures that show your lover you care. Little love notes on the bathroom mirror, love letters in the glove compartment of your partners car, a foot rub after a long day, a tender touch when walking by – these keep the passion and spark alive in a relationship.

Time Together, Time Apart
All couples differ in how social they are, but it is important that neither person feels pressured to avoid friends or, the opposite, feels continually left behind. Find a balance where everyone’s needs are met as far as time as a couple, time alone and time with friends is divided, so there are no bad feelings.

Follow Your Dreams
Though a strong, long term relationship needs to be happy in the present, never let go of the dreams you both share. As a couple ages and they become tied to financial and family commitments, it can feel like you have no control over your destiny anymore. This can lead to depression, marital problems and many other relationship issues. But there is no reason to not be passionate about your future and plan toward it. When the kids are grown, if you dream of a little cabin in the mountains, save up for the land now! It will keep you young, inspired, excited and full of hope. Planning dreams with your lover will create a bond that will never erode.