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Six Ways to Make Your Marriage Last

What differentiates marriages that last from marriages that don't last?

Key points

  • One of the primary reasons to stay in a long-term relationship is that it’s fun.
  • No matter what, set aside some “us” time every day, simply to talk and connect.
  • A difference of opinion need not become a smoldering resentment that undermines your relationship.
Yurey Golub/Shutterstock
Source: Yurey Golub/Shutterstock

In today’s world, we hear a lot about relationships, and much (maybe most) of the talk centers on breakups and divorce. For example, the odds of a newly married couple staying married for 20 or more years are approximately 1 in 2. This means that half of all couples who get married don’t last until the proverbial death do us part. Often, they don’t make it anywhere near that. That’s a pretty daunting statistic for those of us who believe in true love.

What we don’t tend to hear about is the flip side—the couples who stick together through thick and thin. We also don’t hear about what differentiates the couples who last from the couples who don’t, so I’ve decided to write about that here.

The characteristics of long-lasting relationships

Over the years, I’ve noticed that successful, longer-lasting couples tend to share most (or all) of the following traits and behaviors.

1. They enjoy each other’s company.

Let’s face it, one of the primary reasons to stay in a long-term relationship is that it’s fun. Often, when relationships are struggling, it’s not because the spark has disappeared, it’s because the fun has disappeared. If you want your relationship to last, make sure you and your partner spend some fun time together. Play games, get out in nature, do projects, or do whatever else it is that appeals to you. And make sure you have a few laughs in the process.

2. They talk to each other.

How much did you talk to your partner when you were dating? A lot, probably. Do you remember the hours-long phone and video chats, the endless texts, and just plain leaning over the table and talking during a romantic dinner? Well, that shouldn’t stop just because you’re married. It shouldn’t stop because you have kids, either.

No matter what, set aside some “us” time every day, simply to talk and connect. Make it non-negotiable. Your relationship will thank you.

3. They trust each other.

Trust is a key element in a healthy relationship. If two people trust each other, if they know they have each other’s backs no matter what, that’s a solid relationship foundation.

Trust, of course, starts with open and honest communication. This means that if you need emotional or some other type of support from your partner, you need to speak up. Trust starts with you and your partner being vulnerable enough to share your needs and wants with one another—without judgment or fear of reprisal. One way to enhance relationship trust is to always be vulnerable for at least a moment or two during your daily “us” time.

4. They’re OK with an occasional disagreement.

In any relationship, especially long-term intimate relationships, conflict is inevitable. The good news is that it doesn’t have to ruin your day or your long-term relationship. In fact, most healthy couples find they must “agree to disagree” at least occasionally, and they’re fine with that.

So it’s OK if you and your partner are not always on the same page—as long as you can amicably disagree at least most of the time. A difference of opinion need not become a smoldering resentment that undermines your relationship.

5. They respect one another.

In the best relationships, each person is free to be himself or herself. It’s OK to have your own friends (along with some mutual friends). It’s OK to have your own interests (along with some mutual interests). It’s OK for each person to learn and grow; in fact, individual learning and growth are celebrated and unconditionally supported.

Most importantly, each person’s contribution to the household and family is viewed as special, meaningful, and needed. Neither party feels put-upon, undervalued, or exploited in the relationship, and the lines of communication are always open regarding growth, change, and roles within the relationship.

6. They have realistic expectations.

No person or relationship is perfect. In a healthy relationship, both partners accept and respect each other, warts and all. Both partners understand that no person can consistently live up to another person’s fantasy of perfection. And that’s OK. You can still be there for each other, providing support, and you can do it without criticism and other forms of negativity. In fact, you being there to fill in your partner’s weak spots, and vice versa, is what the best relationships are all about.

If your relationship displays most of these traits most of the time, you’re probably pretty happy in it, and your partner likely feels the same way. If not, then it may be time to step up your relationship game. Use the list above to identify any shortcomings, and then sit down with your partner to discuss how the two of you can have more fun, improve your communication, and support one another. You’ll be glad you did.