Isn’t falling in love fun? It’s all roses and laughter, late night sexcapades and staring into each other’s eyes. But staying in love? That’s another story. As the years pile up, so do the utility bills, the misinterpreted text messages and even the occasional fight in a grocery store parking lot. So how do those “married for 70 years and still madly in love” people do it?
Here’s a secret — they aren’t any more in love than you are. They just know how to ride out the rough patches as a team, and they use a variety of skills and strategies to make it happen. Want to learn how to make a relationship last? You’ve come to the right place.
If you want a lasting relationship, your work starts while you’re still single. Think about it — a relationship is built upon the people in it. If each person is expected to provide half of the strong foundation, they need to be strong and stable themselves. So before you enter a relationship, ask yourself these questions:
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, it may be time to step back and do a little work on yourself before you pair up.
Everyone wants to believe their relationship is completely unique, but the truth is many couples fight about, and break up over, the same stuff. In fact, there are even infographics about it.
While it’s easy to point your finger at your partner as the root of all your relationship woes, your love will last a lot longer if you learn to pull your weight. Here are some things you can do to make a relationship last:
Don’t drink too much. A partner who drinks too much is one of the most common reasons listed for a breakup. Sure, drinking can be fun, but if you’re blowing a ton of money on booze, not taking care of your responsibilities and flying off the handle with only the slightest provocation, you aren’t exactly going to be a joy to date. If you don’t believe us, watch a season of Shameless and ask yourself, “Do I really want to be the Frank Gallagher of my own love life?”
Quit gambling. There’s nothing romantic about pawning your boyfriend’s flat-screen so you can pay a loan shark. But on a more basic level, compulsive gamblers (like all addicts) often put their own needs before anyone else’s — and that’s a sure-fire way to kill any healthy, happy relationship. So ask yourself what’s more important — horse racing or the person you love?
Be honest about kids. Would you rather have the black plague than a house full of kids? Has being a dad been your biggest dream since you were a kid yourself? Be honest and upfront about how you feel about kids. Sure, you can always change your mind, but most people don’t — which is why this topic is responsible for a LOT of breakups and divorces.
Stop treating your partner like a servant. Expecting to be treated with love and respect is one thing, but demanding to be waited on hand and foot is another. It’s not your partner’s job to constantly shower you with gifts and compliments and to attend to your every waking desire. So take it down a notch if you want your relationship to last.
Take an interest in their hobbies. Would it really kill you to watch a Van Damme movie for once or take an hour-long walk to catch some Pokemon? You probably won’t be psyched about every single thing your partner finds fun and exciting, but stepping out of your comfort zone, trying new things and showing them you love to spend time with them no matter what you’re doing is a great way to strengthen your bond.
Most people view relationship problems and arguments as signs of an unhealthy relationship, but fair fighting can actually be a relationship builder, not breaker. “Fights can be really healthy, and an important form of communication and clearing the air,” says couples therapist Lisa Blum, Psy.D. So if fighting happens (and it will) that’s okay — it’s HOW you fight that matters.
Avoid Name Calling
You’re not a playground bully, so don’t act like one — even when it’s really, really tempting to go for a low blow. You can’t take back what’s been said, and over time personal insults can erode the sense of trust and respect you’ve worked so hard to build.
If your partner hits below the belt, redirect the argument to the real issue at hand. “Never return fire,” says Joel Epstein, author of The Little Book on Big Ego. Even if your partner says something offensive to you, “be nice in the face of nastiness.”
Don’t Take It Personally
Sure, some fights are about who you are as a person — but most of them are about other things like bills, car maintenance and other joys of adulthood. If you want to know how to make a relationship last, learn how to handle constructive criticism without taking it personally.
Even if your partner is upset with your behavior, it doesn’t mean they don’t love you — they do! If they didn’t they wouldn’t waste time trying to resolve issues with you. Relationship therapist Dana Ward explains, “Fighting is normal. While some couples may think fighting is the sign of a bad relationship, it is actually is very important. The key is fighting with a purpose.”
Remember that, and try to resolve the conflict without seeing every argument as a personal attack.
Don’t Hold Emotions In
Everyone does little things that annoy their partner. It’s important to pick your battles, but that doesn’t mean you should bottle up your feelings or ignore the things that upset you. If you do, you’re liable to become a powder keg of frustration — and the tiniest thing will set you off and cause a HUGE fight.
So if your husband never unloads the dishwasher or your girlfriend always pronounces nuclear as “nuculer” say something before it drives you crazy. If you feel petty bringing it up, make a joke of it and keep things light — it’s better than suffering in silence!
Ask Yourself: Am I Projecting?
You miss your bus. Your boss berates you in front of your entire team at work. You lose your wallet on your way home. Then, when you finally walk through the door your partner calls you “honey bun” which they KNOW you hate. Fireballs shoot out of your eyes and you rain down a barrage of screaming insults on them. This is called projecting, and if you’re not careful, it can happen a lot.
The best way to make sure you aren’t projecting onto your partner is to step back from your anger and ask, “What happened today? What’s really bothering me?” Once you’re able to pinpoint the causes of your frustration, try an activity that will calm you down before you interact with your partner, even if it’s just stopping to get a cupcake from your favorite bakery before you get home or taking a long hot shower once you get there.
Accept That Not All Fights End Easily
According to Greg Godek, author of Love: The Course They Forgot to Teach You in School told Bridal Guide that many couples become distraught when they have knock-down, drag-out fights that they can't resolve quickly — so they do their best to avoid having them.
"Don't think that just because you can't tie up the loose ends in a half hour like the couples in TV sitcoms, you've got a problem," says Godek. "Arguments are all about gray areas. In many cases there never will be a real answer, and that's okay." Sometimes a fight isn’t so much about finding a resolution as it is about admitting there’s a problem, venting your frustrations and feeling like your voice has been heard.
Like we said, fights don’t mean a relationship is unhealthy. They can be a completely normal part of being in a long term relationship. But of course, if things ever turn physical, get out. Don’t wait and try to work things out — violence often escalates and things are much, much more likely to get worse than they are to get better.
Abuse isn’t always easy to spot, so if you think you may be in an abusive relationship, check for these signs. Then if you can, get out of there! You can still have a loving, long term relationship, but you should have it with someone else!
For most couples, sexual intimacy is a vital part of a healthy relationship. That’s why “sexual incompatibility” is listed as one of the major causes of breakups. But what exactly does that mean? It’s not as simple as “bad sex.” Sexual incompatibility can take many forms, and to make a long term relationship work, you need to deal with each one in a different way.
One of you wants to get busy three times a day while the other is happy with some loving once a week. This may seem like a deal-breaker, but these tips can help:
Most importantly, never guilt trip a partner into feeling like they “have to” satisfy your needs. Not only is this unfair to them, it could cause resentment in the relationship. Think about it, do you really want them to feel like having sex with you is a chore?
“We should all be teaching one another,” says Jessica O’Reilly, ASTROGLIDE’s resident sexologist. “No one is born a great cook—it’s a skill you cultivate. We really should treat sex the same way and draw from a variety of sources, bearing in mind that there is no right way to cook or have sex—we each have very different tastes.”
If you’re a guy who worries his skills may not be up to snuff, check out our complete guide on how to be a sex god. (Ladies — we’ll have one for you soon!)
If it’s your partner’s moves that are lowering the bar, here are a few tips that might help:
As with all relationship problems, the key to fixing this one is communication. So speak up about what you love and what you don’t, and be willing to refine your techniques if your partner has their own suggestions.
Sex is a two (or three, or four…) way street. The point is, if you feel like you’re the one calling all the shots and putting in all the effort in the bedroom, overtime the resentment can ruin an otherwise awesome relationship. It’s possible that your partner isn’t holding back on purpose. They may just need a little nudge. Try these phrases to motivate them:
For even more tips from Dr. Jess check out our post titled How to Turn Your Partner Into a Generous Lover.
Fulfilling a sexual fantasy can add excitement to a relationship and build trust. But the longer you’ve been together, the harder it can seem to broach the topic. What if you freak them out? What if your sexual fantasy changes the way they feel about you?
Michael Castleman, M.A, author of Great Sex: The Man’s Guide to Whole-Body Sensuality has these suggestions for couples who want to bring sexual fantasies into their bedrooms:
Remember that it’s okay to be nervous — you’re sharing a part of yourself that you might not be used to sharing. But when the payoff is increased sexual satisfaction, excitement and a stronger bond, isn’t it worth a shot?
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve added plenty of relationship-building tools to your tool box. But for even more solutions to common relationship problems, try some of these bonus tips:
“You want something special for your anniversary, but they may have no idea that a special dinner isn't what you had in mind. You want to go on a vacation together but don't express what type of vacation you have in mind. These are all real situations that require actual conversation and setting expectations,” says Stef Safran, matchmaker and owner of Stef and the City. So speak up about what you want and listen when your partner does the same,”
“Maybe you want to go to things that are out of his budget, maybe you both are fine with splitting things. Whatever you agree to, there is no set rule on how you choose to manage money in the relationship. We're not in the days of Mad Men anymore, so make sure that you have talks BEFORE they become issues,” says Safran.
“Don’t make each other responsible for each other’s happiness,” says Dr. Brad Reedy is a Co-owner and the Clinical Director of Evoke Therapy Programs. Sure, your partner should make you happy, but at the end of the day your mental health is your responsibility and no one else’s. Things like a fulfilling career, healthy social life and a positive self image will fall on your shoulders. Your partner can offer support, but don’t make it their “job” to make sure you’re happy 24/7.
“Great couples are supportive of each other in public. They don’t tear each other down in public. They handle private issues in private,” says Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills relationship psychotherapist.
“Strong couples spend time together,” says Walfish. “Life is busy for all of us. These couples schedule time together. They find things to do that each of them enjoy. And, they say no to other things that would keep them from having adequate time together.”
“Quite often, I hear people use the ‘they should love me no matter what’ mantra to justify acting like you couldn't care less whether or not someone is in your life,” says therapist Crystal Rice. “Sure, we shouldn't have to run to the bathroom and fancy up every morning so our partner doesn't catch us at our ugliest. And I certainly don't recommend holding your tongue so your partner never has to get upset. But that HAS to be balanced with caring enough to want your partner to see you often at your best, and for you to want them to feel their best.”
“Sometimes, it really would be nice if you doted on your partner like you did when you first met. It really does make them feel better to have you back them up, even when they're wrong. We must remember that a relationship is a choice, one we make every day we're in one. So why not make it a choice to sometimes, do what you know would make your partner happy, proud, and feeling loved.”
“Great couples learn to forgive. There aren’t any lingering issues that haven’t been resolved,” says Walfish. So once the storm has passed, close that chapter and move on — dwelling helps no one.
Your partner should get to see a side of you that no one else does. So let your walls down and be vulnerable once in awhile. “Practice courageous honesty about your thoughts and feelings,” says Reedy. That means talking about your frustration, your grief, and all the other feelings you may not share with your neighbors and coworkers.
Author A. William Benitez says, “Remember when your relationship started how you were constantly touching your partner. Is that still the case? In most long-term relationships the answer is no.”
“Touch is important to most partners. Touch the hair, hold hands, give a soft kiss, a pat, or a gentle back rub, all of these feel great. Your partner will appreciate them and feel your love. Do you even remember the last time you touched your partner? If not, now would be a good time to reach over and start touching again.”
Wayne Dyer once said, “Problems in relationship occur because each person is concentrating on what is missing in the other person.” If you want to know how to make a relationship last, do the opposite. Pick out one thing every day that you love about your partner, and thank them for it.
Whether you say, “You handling dinner every night makes my life so much easier!” or “Your T.V. commentary always cracks me up!” Take a moment to remind them why they’re special. When you do, you’ll be reminding yourself too, and keeping gratitude and respect at the center of your relationship is one way to help it go the distance.
How long have you been in your current relationship? Have any tips on how to make a relationship work? Share the love and tweet your tips to @ASTROGLIDE!
Images are for illustrative purposes only.