Want to know how to make a relationship last? We all do! We’re always hearing about the high divorce rate, but what about couples who marry and stay together – happily – forever?
Lasting love doesn’t only exist in fairy tales. Figuring out how to make a relationship last is hard work. Statistically, partners who make it past 10 years are likely to stay together. The secret? Relationship counsellor Barbara Bloomfield says, “Factors that make a good relationship are trust, communication, commitment, shared values and personality.”
How to make a relationship last
“When we think about trust, we think fidelity and affairs, but it’s more than that,” suggests Barbara. “Trust is about your partner being authentic; the person you thought they were and fell in love with. I see couples dealing with secrecy issues – not paying the bond, spending savings on gambling, hiding that they’ve lost their job.
The problem is they don’t trust you enough to share who they really are, putting on a mask instead.” Broken trust can only be rebuilt with mutual honesty and forgiveness for past behaviour. “Trust is a relationship cornerstone measured by actions, not words,” says Barbara. “Each time your partner carries out a promise, even if it’s just fixing the bathroom door like they said they would do, they’re building faith in your shared future.”
“Some people find it hard to explain how they’re feeling; others don’t ask questions they need to, to understand their partner’s point of view,” says Barbara. She suggests taking time to observe how you talk and listen to each other, then trying the ‘good news sandwich’.
“Tell your partner how much you appreciate something they’ve done, then say what is upsetting you, and finish with another positive point. Your partner will be more motivated to act on your comments if they don’t feel attacked.” She also recommends talking about an issue – no blame or interruptions – for five minutes; then the other person gets their say. “The focus is on listening,” she explains.
“For some, commitment means embracing ideals of duty and loyalty; for others, it’s committing to raising your children. Ultimately, it’s the contract you’ve made together,” says Barbara. Problems come when the deal is unspoken and you assume your partner has the same outlook as you, only to be brought up short when they act differently.
“Planning your future and what you want your marriage to look like in five or 10 years’ time is crucial. You need to understand each other’s relationship deal-breakers and why they’re so important, whether it’s weekly visits to your parents or being able to holiday alone sometimes. And you may need to compromise so you meet somewhere in the middle,” says Barbara. Check in with each other every six months, to see if anything has changed around what you want.
“Setting goals, like going on a gap year or moving house, can give you something to look forward to so you develop your relationship together,” says Barbara. What doesn’t matter is if your partner has different political views or you can’t agree what to watch on TV. “It’s more about having a joint belief about what your relationship should be,” clarifies Barbara.
“You need to have plenty to talk about, so don’t be afraid to look outwards, to join groups, meet other people and be interested in the world. You can bring that energy back to your own relationship.” And don’t worry too much about differences of opinion. They can have beneficial results. “A good sex life is built on grit,” adds Barbara. Couples who are too cosy may not be that sexually compatible.
“The classic view of attraction is that we see a quality in the other person that we want, and in that way we balance each other – shy versus sociable; ambitious versus laid-back,” Barbara points out. However, the traits that drew us together in the early years can become exaggerated as we get older, turning us away from our partner. “It’s easy to get into the habit of being negative, so remember the quirky, individual personality you fell in love with. And try hard to be thoughtful and kind,” suggests Barbara.
“Spontaneity and fun can be lost in everyday routine, so sometimes you have to push yourself and your partner to try new things. Every time you have a great experience, you’re paying into the bank of your relationship, reinforcing why you got together.”