Here's How To Make Your Relationship Last If You Want To Go The Distance
It's easy to fall in love when you find someone you totally click with. You share the same passions, humor, and values. They always make time for you and you love having them around. And when your loved ones ask if you can see yourself with them long-term, you offer up a resounding, "Hell yes." For these reasons and probably more, you want to make your relationship last. But it can be hard to connect the dots from "made it past the honeymoon stage" to "happily, steadily dating," or even "married."
Of course, being romantically compatible with your partner — aligned on religion, politics, where you see yourself in five years, whether you're messy or neat, and the rest of it — aids in relationship longevity. Equally helpful is both partners' willingness to compromise and work through incompatibilities together. But there are other best practices you and your partner can adopt to help you go the distance, too.
I spoke to James Guay, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and Dr. Martha Tara Lee, a relationship counselor and clinical sexologist, about what you and your SO should keep in mind if you're looking to make your relationship last.
Make Sure You Both Feel Loved
“Relationship satisfaction means that people in the relationship often feel that they’re heard, that they’re valued. There’s an investment and collaboration with each other," Guay tells Elite Daily. “It can be consistently stating your love, affection, and attraction toward the other person or people. It’s letting them know that you value them, even though you may have other priorities."
Similarly, Lee says kindness is key for relationship longevity. "The couples I've witnessed that are able to ride the storms of life are the ones who remember to be nice to each other, even when they don't feel like it," Lee tells Elite Daily. "We don't always feel like being nice all the time but we need to remember that little gestures of kindness are necessary in building up goodwill."
Spend Quality Time Together
Nurturing your intimacy can also go a long way if you're looking to date someone long-term. Planning dates with your partner and making sure you’re "feeding the relationship" on a daily basis are key, Guay says. "By that I mean, having positive experiences — good quality time. Even if it’s a busy day and you’re checking in for 30 minutes just to catch up and enjoy each other’s company," he says.
Keep The Sexual Spark Alive
Unless you're asexual or otherwise unable to have sex, Guay recommends loving on your partner sexually to feed your long-term relationship. "Because if we’re just sort of co-existing — or just working on the love, affection, and togetherness — that often corrodes the passion or the sexual interest in the relationship," Guay says. Make sure there’s a freshness, creativity, or element of adventure in your dynamic.
In her practice, Lee often sees couples who've nailed "the foundational blocks of commitment and intimacy," but forget to breathe passion into their sex lives. Lee's reminder: "When we nurture ourselves with the new, exciting, scary and even forbidden, there is a new infusion of energies into our lives, and we grow." Her main tip is to be mindful of how everyone's idea of "passion" differs. That means you should experiment with what feels best for you and your partner.
And as much as tending to your intimacy and closeness as a couple is crucial for making your relationship work, so is having some space away from your partner. "It’s valuing two seemingly disparate needs," Guay says. "One, for togetherness, companionship, and being best friends, that closeness and those needs — while also recognizing we have needs for autonomy and independence." Integrate both into your relationship.
Don't Shy Away From Conflict
Conflict is necessary because it gives you the opportunity to learn about both yourself and your partner, and figure out how you can compromise in the future. It follows that part of maintaining a healthy relationship is not shying away from disagreements. "Conflict can be even just stating differences of opinion. It doesn’t have to be this whole, blown-out argument," Guay says.
If the idea of disputes erupting into arguments makes you nervous, schedule "state of the union" conversations: quarterly, bi-annual, or yearly check-ins to bring up issues with your partner.
When it comes to disagreeing, Guay suggests approaching your conversation with "I" statements and leaving accusatory language at the door. “Ultimately, you can do this from a place of vulnerability," he adds. Some language you can use is, "Hey, how is this working for you? It’s working for me in this sort of way and these are some of the ways that I’d like to improve our relationship. Are you game?"
“Even if there’s something that’s lacking, you can acknowledge the things that are going well: the love that you do have, or the fact that you do believe that there’s hope for your relationship, which is why you’re having that conversation in the first place," he says.
Of course, productive conflict is different than fighting with your partner all the time. Every relationship has it's ups and downs. "But hopefully, there’s some semblance of, ‘This is a temporary period of time where we’re struggling,' or there’s progress moving forward," Guay says.
With thoughtfulness, dedication, and vulnerability in mind, you've got all the tools you need to help your relationship last long-term.
James Guay, LMFT specializing in high-conflict couples and developing communication skills
Dr. Martha Tara Lee, relationship counselor, clinical sexologist, and owner of Eros Coaching