Relationships are tough work.
Sure, getting into one is pretty easy, but staying in it? Keeping it going after the fighting? Making sure both of you are still sane? Now that’s incredibly hard.
Looking around me and seeing couples who have been together for so many years, I can’t help but wonder what relationship secrets they have that help them grow into a beautiful couple.
Maybe it’s strength of character. Maybe it’s just luck. Or maybe they’re just madly in love with each other in ways other people aren’t.
It turns out, the relationship secret all successful couples know isn’t that much of a secret at all.
In fact, it’s something shared across great, long-term relationships, according to a recent survey of 1500 happy couples.
Here are the 10 most common traits the survey found:
1) Get together because you love each other
Most people think they’re in love. Until they’ve had 3 children together, 20 years to spend, realizing that they don’t have anything in common at all.
Unfortunately, some people still marry for the wrong reasons.
Whether it’s loneliness or peer pressure, people get into marriage because they think it’s the right decision.
In reality, there’s only one reason why you should get together, and that’s because you love each other.
Get into a relationship because you love spending time together, that even the most mundane tasks in the world feel like an adventure.
At the end of the day, however, love shouldn’t be the only thing driving you two together; you should get together because of mutual respect and friendship.
2) Physical intimacy matters
Couples who have been together for a long time know very well that sex suffers when the relationship gets rocky.
Contrary to what people tell us when we first get into relationships, sex can actually mean the difference between a successful relationship and a divorce.
Physical intimacy keeps the relationship alive, even when things are becoming stale or unsatisfying.
The physical connection you have with your partner is organic, derived from a human’s natural instinct to mate.
When the heart fails, sometimes all it takes is a physical spark to ignite the much-awaited fire.
3) Discuss roles in the relationship
It’s the modern world, you say, and you’re probably expecting everything to be shared equally between the both of you.
But if we’re being realistic here, equality rarely happens in a relationship. You just can’t split chores and work in the middle without spilling over some responsibilities to some person.
One person is bound to clean more than the other; one person is bound to cook more than the other.
The earlier you accept this in the relationship, the easier it will be to navigate through your lives together.
Inequality in the relationship doesn’t mean you have to live an unfair life. The pragmatic way to deal with this is to divide tasks according to what you like or don’t like.
Discuss the things you enjoy and hate about everyday life and find common ground.
If you don’t like doing laundry, but your wife enjoys making everything smell like summer, then it only makes sense to let her take over the job.
Mold your roles according to who you already are as people and this will make your relationship better.
4) Give yourself some TLC
It’s common for people to feel like their partner is their entire world. And that’s forgivable, but only for a short while.
At one point, you should start realizing that you and your partner are still completely different people, no matter how many interests you share or how many similarities you may have.
Cultivating your separate interests, creating separate friendships, and allocating separate “me” time for each other will make you healthier, happier individuals.
In order for a relationship to work, there should be stability between two people. This means knowing who you are despite the relationship: knowing what you like, what you believe in.
This same rule applies to your partner. Accept your significant other for who he or she really is. A relationship’s goal must be to enhance each other’s individual identities, not destroy it.
5) Remember the importance of personal space
Falling in love with another person can get pretty scary. You’re always afraid that something wrong will happen even if real-life evidence tells you it’s been perfect.
Following this pattern, we start to imagine scenarios that make us resent our significant others: fictional tales of cheating, dishonesty, greed, and so much more.
This irrational fear motivates some people to violate their partner’s personal space, and that’s a big no-no from successful couples
If you want something to last for more than a decade, you need to understand the importance of personal space.
Needless to say, this leap of faith on your part entails trust and respect for your partner.
Trust them enough to know that they have nothing to hide and respect them enough to know that their personal space is completely safe.
6) Expect change and growth
Couples who have been married for a long, long, long time (think: 40+ years) always say the same thing: you’re not marrying a personality, you’re marrying a person.
This means that our partners, much like other people, evolve with time.
The creative, spontaneous person you met 10 years ago may not be the same person 30 years from now.
The careful, calculating individual you fell in love with 5 years ago may not be the same person a couple of years into the marriage.
Even as early as now, entertain the idea that your partner may change even the most fundamental parts of his or her self, and accept it.
It’s not always easy to come to terms with change, but that’s what communication and respect are for.
With these two qualities, you can still find common ground and build your way into knowing each other all over again.
7) Set realistic expectations
Most people still don’t understand that the “honeymoon phase” isn’t the end-all and be-all of a relationship.
A time will come when you no longer have that I-cant-get-my-hands-off-you feeling with your partner.
Know that it’s perfectly fine and, more importantly, it’s perfectly normal. Passion is bound to fade away.
Some days you feel like you’re bursting at the seams because you love your partner so much; other days you’ll look at them and think, “Eh?”
The point of being in a committed relationship is understanding the ups and downs of your journey together.
Even the three loves theory shows that the best relationships are those defined by complacency, security, commitment, and friendship.
What you want to achieve with your partner is not the passionate romantic love, driven by lust and physical intimacy, but deep unconditional love.
8) Never lose respect
Couples who have been together or divorced for 10 to 20 years say that the one thing that has saved their relationship is communication.
But it’s even more interesting that people who have stood the test of time for more than 40 years say, time and time again, that communication fails eventually.
When it does, the only thing that’s left between you is mutual respect.
We end up saying things that hurt the other person, and while it’s important to stay transparent in a relationship, our short bursts of anger and criticism can eventually lead to long-term damage.
But with respect, these short bursts of criticism will be seen under a different light. You will imagine each other’s intentions and see that they are for your (and for the relationship’s, for that matter) well-being.
9) Dive into things that hurt
Let’s face it: our partners will hurt us.
And sometimes, it happens deliberately. Setting a realistic expectation in your relationship means knowing that your partner can commit mistakes.
They can hurt you with words, threaten the relationship, or make you feel bad about yourself. They can criticize your deepest passions and make you question yourself.
What separates a good relationship from a bad one is having the mutual ability to draw the line and say, “We need to work past this.”
The only way you could work through your differences (what you like and don’t like about each other) is by talking through it, even if it hurts.
By confronting your significant other, you are building trust, and consequently, intimacy.
Talking about painful things allows both of you to create a co-dependent, interactive foundation for your relationship, which will make you all the more happier and healthier as a couple.
10) Learn to let things go
Actively fixing your relationship can give you the best results. But sometimes, trying too hard consistently can only lead to burnout.
Sometimes, the best response isn’t a retort or an opinion or a challenge, but a simple, “Yes, I love you. I’m sorry.”
At the end of the day, you should be able to swallow your own pride, especially if you’re preserving it at the expense of your partner’s feelings.
Neither of you should feel unloved and uncared for. Sometimes, the only thing a relationship needs to continue is not a generous gesture of affection but complete and total silence.
Can a relationship coach help you too?
If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.
I know this from personal experience…
A few months ago, I reached out to Relationship Hero when I was going through a tough patch in my relationship. After being lost in my thoughts for so long, they gave me a unique insight into the dynamics of my relationship and how to get it back on track.
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