What are the secrets to a long-term relationship, not only lasting but, being exciting and fulfilling?
Sadly, I don’t think it’s magic, which means there is some work involved, but there are things that people in relationships do to keep their relationship going strong for many years.
Here are four habits/ attitudes I’ve found in my clinical work that help to keep relationships running like a well-oiled machine:
Do things together
Having shared interests, values and experiences with your partner creates a solid foundation for your relationship.
Doing things together like taking walks to get coffee in your neighborhood, waking up and discussing your plans for the day or attending a class together expands your intimacy.
Couples who have been together for a long time know the importance of having these experiences in their everyday life.
Do things apart
While doing things together is good for building intimacy and showing investment in your partner, you have to balance that out with doing your own thing.
This is because seeing your partner as someone separate and independent from you often injects mystery into your relationship; that mystery breeds curiosity and being curious about your partner is what keeps you going back for more.
When you both consistently do things for yourself, it creates opportunities to get to know your partner all over again.
For many people, the trick to staying together happily is getting to see their partner with fresh eyes from time to time.
It's tempting to think that when you get married or pass a certain milestone in your relationship that all the work is over.
But relationships will change over time, because people change over time.
Practicing flexibility around what comes next for your and your S.O. is another way that long-term couples keep their relationship going strong.
It also makes it easier to be excited about a job opportunity your partner gets that could take you someplace new, or to spice up your sex life in a way you never thought you would have with your partner because your interests changed.
Couples that are excited to be around one another feel a certain sense of closeness.
That kind of closeness only comes when you are consistently connecting with your partner, showing your vulnerability to them, and recognizing their vulnerability when they show it to you.
I know it's strange to think of honesty, trust and safety as things that you do, but the truth is that these larger concepts in relationships are only maintained through small actions every day.
Couples that are still in love, years later, know how important it is to be open and show that you're still there for your significant other in small moments over time.
If you want to show yourself and your partner that you’re in it for the long haul, investing some time and energy into these principles is absolutely worth it. And if you find that some of these areas are hard for you (because something is blocking you mentally, you and your partner have different ways of thinking, etc.), couple’s therapy might be worth considering!
Until next time,