3 Signs That Your Relationship is Built to Last

... including one that you probably wouldn't expect.

Posted Apr 14, 2015

Phase4Studios/Shutterstock
Source: Phase4Studios/Shutterstock

What is the secret to a happy, long-lasting relationship? Psychologists and relationship experts are always scrambling to find the answer to all relationship woes. While we don’t quite have the holy grail of healthy relationships yet, researchers have found some amazingly accurate tell-tales of thriving relationships—and not all of them are what you’d expect.

So what are 3 ways to tell if you and your partner are on the right path?

1. Bidding

Dr. John Gottman, well known for his work in marital stability, is credited with the idea of “bids for attention.” In her recent article, “Masters of Love,”  Emily Smith outlines the basic premise of Gottman's “bids" and how they play out in modern-day relationships. The bids are classified by a response of either “turning away” or “turning toward” your significant other. For example, if a wife tells her husband something that is interesting or important to her, and he responds with uninterest and nonchalance, he is essentially “turning away.” This type of behavior is detrimental to a relationship and conveys a lack of support and attention. “Turning toward” your significant other during bids for attention creates a commonality, showing that you are both interested. This promotion of conversation and connection can increase the strength and prosperity of a relationship.

2. Bickering

Contrary to what some may believe, even a “good” relationship is never all smiles and flowers. In fact, based on recent research, a couple that bickers but can resolve their conflicts actually has an increased chance of maintaining a long-lasting relationship than a couple that does not bicker at all. It might seem nonsensical, but consider the alternative: Couples who don’t bicker hold it in, leading to pent-up emotions and, eventually, more explosive fights. A healthy amount of  bickering allows for an open flow of communication between partners, whether it’s the right way to cook dinner or how to plan a night out.

A key factor in healthy, long-lasting relationships is frequent and productive communication, according to Gottman. And research shows that the severity of a couple’s fights is not what makes or breaks their relationship, but the way in which they make up. Ignoring a fight is one of the worst ways a couple can deal with a disagreement that clearly needs more attention. Being able to openly communicate about what the problem is, and to move forward together, will provide for a stronger, more intimate relationship going forward, and can also be an eye-opener to how a fight can actually do more good than harm.

3. Kindness

No long-lasting, happy relationship is possible without kindness—from both parties. Kindness enhances love in your relationship, while also providing your partner with validation, comfort, and understanding. Active kindness in a relationship provides stability, leading to a longer, more satisfying connection. Again, kindness does not mean never showing anger or annoyance, but it does mean that we are careful in the way that we display these moods to our partner. As active members of a relationship, each partner must be aware of the other’s feelings and remain conscious not to cross any boundaries that could potentially harm the relationship. Being kind may seem like a pretty obvious trait to possess in a relationship, but it is really the actions through which we show our kindness that matter most.

In the end, there is no great secret to a lasting relationship: Success comes from mutual effort and genuine interest from both individuals, along with an openness and willingness to see a point of view other than your own. While sharing thoughts and ideas may cause bickering, remember that not all disagreement is bad, and in the end it's how we communicate that strengthens our bond.

Wikimedia Creative Commons
Source: Wikimedia Creative Commons

Dr. Jonathan Fader is a clinical psychologist who runs Union Square Practice in New York City. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

About the Author

Jonathan Fader, Ph.D.

Jonathan Fader, Ph.D., is a psychologist and an assistant professor of family medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

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