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The Ingredients of Successful Long-Term Relationships

There aren't secrets to successful relationships, only essential ingredients.

Key points

  • Knowing the essential ingredients for a successful relationship is crucial.
  • Daily appreciation, touch, and laughing are all parts of a good routine for success in a relationship.
  • Knowing how to argue well is an important skill to maintain a good relationship.
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People tend to be in awe of successful long-term relationships. They are perceived as magical. For some people, the idea of a good relationship is unimaginable and unattainable. I often hear that "relationships are hard." What if I told you that there aren’t any secrets to successful long-term relationships?

Indeed, I think most people could maintain long-term relationships, if only they knew how. Unfortunately, school curriculum doesn’t include learning the relationship skills needed. Many people end their relationships because they believe there are no other ways.

I’m not suggesting that all relationships should be repaired. Of course, some people are just not supposed to be together. For these people, a separation is the best outcome. But, many people resort to breaking up what could have been good if only they knew how to maintain it.

Here are some essential ingredients to maintain a good long-term relationship.

1. Daily appreciation

It may sound simple but you’ll be surprised how easy it is to take your partner for granted and to stop seeing what they do well. Focusing on the negative traits of your partner is easier when you’re exhausted; if you’re tired because of a bad night’s sleep, unhappy at work, or overwhelmed with raising children. Even when you’re grumpy, find at least one thing that you appreciate about your partner, and express it to them. Nurturing a habit of daily appreciation for each other is a simple way to maintain a smooth relationship. It is like water to a plant.

2. Kiss

This may also sound obvious, but I hear so often couples telling me that they stopped touching each other because they’re too busy or preoccupied with other things in life. A kiss is not a peck, a kiss is a proper intention to show romantic affection to your partner. Make it last for one minute, a lips-to-lips, slow, intentional kiss (tongue is not needed). Make it twice a day, when you say good morning to each other, and the last thing of the day when you say goodnight. You will be amazed how investing those two minutes a day can change the overall dynamic of your relationship.

3. Hug

Hugging is part of being more mindful of touch, like the kiss. A hug is one of those fundamental behaviours that we find soothing. If you hug your partner long enough, about one minute, and breathe together, you can actually regulate each other’s nervous systems. A daily hug can be an affirmation of being ‘home’ in each other’s arms, it can be a place of rest and peace. It can communicate non-verbally ‘I’m here with you.’ It is a profound human experience but one that is often forgotten or dismissed. Just like to kiss, make it part of your daily routine and see how that one-minute hug can enhance your relationship.

4. Awareness of each other’s Love Languages

Gary Chapman wrote the book The Five Love Languages. It is very useful to know about it because it can help you understand your partner’s loving intentions as well as accepting they might be different from yours. The Five Love Languages are: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. If your love language is quality time, you might want your partner to sit with you and enjoy a lovely cup of tea together, and you can be irritated when you notice they are never available to sit down with you because they’re busy doing things around the house. What you might not realize is that their Love Language could be ‘acts of service’; continuously fixing the house might be their way to show you they love you. Often you will hear your partner’s love language in their complaints. If you hear your partner say something like: ‘you never say anything nice about what I wear!’, don’t think they’re nagging, instead, hear: my Love Language is ‘words of affirmation’. Knowing your Love Language and your partner’s can make it easier for you to navigate irritation, frustration, and arguments.

5. When life is challenging, become a team

Life can be very difficult at times. We will all experience adversities: a difficult boss, the loss of a friendship, an unloving parent, a bereavement, an accident, a disease, only to name a few. Everybody deals with adversities differently, and it is likely you and your partner will have different ways of operating in a crisis. Don’t impose your own way of doing things on your partner. Accept that you both do things differently. Recruit your partner as a team, learn from each other, and surf the adversities with both of your strength points.

6. Argue well

A couple who never argue is not the sign of a good relationship. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. It can indicate an avoidance of looking at issues, which only fester and become toxic over time. Arguing with your partner is good. But you need to know how to argue well so that it can be constructive rather than destructive. A good argument is when you can express your point assertively but with kindness. Don’t forget that even though your partner is really irritating you in the moment, they are still the person you love. You need to know how to listen to your partner’s point of view properly, give up the need to be right, and, together, you can brainstorm a resolution. It’s not easy to do, it takes practice. Destructive arguments without appropriate repair hurt and erode a relationship. There are so many of those arguments a relationship can sustain before it starts to wilt. Knowing how to argue well is one of the key ingredients to a successful long-term relationship.

7. Relax with sex

Don’t be bogged down with common sex myths like ‘we must have sex once a week’ or ‘we should orgasm through penetration every time.’ These thoughts, and many others, only serve to create anxiety about your sex life. If you’re unsatisfied with your sex life, talk to your partner calmly about it and use the skills of arguing well by recruiting your partner as a team to find a solution. By the way, there is no normal in people’s sex lives, as long as it is consensual and legal.

8. Laugh

Laughing is crucial, not only to maintain a successful relationship but to actually live well as an individual. Sometimes it is important to be serious when the circumstances require it. But often, we can let go of taking ourselves so seriously. Make sure you have a laugh, often. It doesn’t matter if you laugh with your wit or an absolute basic ridiculous joke, just laugh. It brings lightness to your life, it brings aliveness to your relationship and it’s good for your health.

There is no doubt that people in long relationships face numerous challenges and adversities. But good and long relationships aren't fairy tales. If you use those ingredients often, you can grow old with your partner, enjoying your relationship.

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