Research indicates that most Americans have few people they would consider close friends, and nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. Close, intimate, and lasting relationships are hard to come by for many people in our society. What are some of the most important traits of lasting romantic relationships and friendships?
Below are five qualities of successful, enduring relationships, with excerpts from my reference guide 7 Keys to Long-Term Relationship Success. These attributes are the physical, emotional, and psychological “pillars” which often make a relationship last.
1. Mutual Trust
"For it is mutual trust, even more than mutual interest that holds human associations together. Our friends seldom profit us but they make us feel safe. Marriage is a scheme to accomplish exactly that same end."
― H. L. Mencken
Mutual trust is perhaps the single most important pillar of long-term relational success. Without trust, a relationship often lacks the safety and security necessary for the long haul. In romantic relationship and friendship, consider the following questions:
- In general, is your partner reliable and dependable?
- Does he or she keep important promises and agreements?
- Can you count on your partner as a “rock” in your life?
- What about you for your partner?
2. Mutual Respect and Effective Communication
A healthy relationship is not possible without mutual respect. One of the most important indicators of respect or disrespect in a relationship is how two people communicate with one another.
Disrespectful communication is often expressed via repeated negative judgment, criticism, or sarcasm regarding the worth of an individual. In communication studies, this is known as being “tough on the person, soft on the issue”. An effective communicator knows how to separate the person from the issue (or behavior), and be soft on the person and firm on the issue. An ineffective communicator will do the opposite – he or she will literally “get personal” by attacking the person, while minimizing or ignoring the issue.
3. Affection and Intimacy / Shared Connectedness
Authors Ronald Adler and Russell Proctor II identified four ways with which we can feel closely connected with another. The four dimensions of intimacy are:
Physical – Eye contact, pat on the back, hugging, kissing, high-five, open body language, sitting and walking together in companionship, etc.
Emotional – The ability to effectively express and validate one-another positively and affirmatively, and to say “I’m sorry” when necessary and appropriate.
Intellectual – The ability to engage in discussions or endeavors with a partner whom one finds intellectually stimulating.
Shared Activates – Interactions that build a positive memory bank of shared experiences. Examples include playing, cooking, dancing, exercising, art-making, traveling, worshipping, and problem-solving together. In this dimension, it's not just the activity that matters, but whether two people are able to bond while interacting with each another.
Positive and lasting romantic relationships and friendships usually have at least one, and often several dimensions of affection and intimacy through which partners bond with one-another.
4. Mutual Assistance and Support (Especially When Times Are Tough)
A key trait I’ve noticed about enduring romantic relationships and friendships is whether the partners are willing to offer each other strong support during difficult life moments. A true test of a relationship is whether two people have each other’s back when times are tough.
Consider the following:
- In difficult life circumstances, would your partner be there to support you more than usual, or less? What about you for your partner?
- Does your partner’s support make you feel stronger and less alone?
One of the most important and distinguishing qualities that separates a close, potentially enduring relationship from a casual relationship is the irreplaceability of the association. In a close romantic relationship or friendship, there would be a significant void in both partners’ lives without the companionship and support of one-another.
A simple question that may measure the irreplaceability of a relationship is whether two individuals are willing to invest the time, energy, and effort to make the romantic relationship or friendship a priority.
For more tips on successful long-term relationships, see references below.
© 2021 by Preston C. Ni. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright violation may subject the violator to legal prosecution.
Ni, Preston. 7 Keys to Long-Term Relationship Success. PNCC. (2013)
Ni, Preston. How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People — 2nd Edition. PNCC. (2006)
Ni, Preston. Communication Success with Four Personality Types. PNCC. (2006, 2014)
 U.S. Adults Have Few Friends—and They’re Mostly Alike. Barna. (2018)
 National Survey of Family Growth, PolitiFact. (2012)
 Ronald Adler and Russell Proctor II. Looking Out, Looking In, 13th ed. Wadsworth. (2011)