Dating somebody means you connect with them and enjoy their company—it shouldn’t be hard work, right? But let’s face it, every couple goes through ups and downs. A strong relationship is not a one-time achievement, but a work-in-progress. It’s something you need to build and work on, every single day.
“Sitting back and waiting until problems arise, is a bad idea. It is better to nurture your connection on a daily basis, so that you are far less likely to be overwhelmed during rough patches” suggests Patricia Johnson, co-author of Partners In Passion.
In a nation where nearly 50 percent of the marriages fail, what does it take to commit and stay connected? Experts let us in on the secrets of couples in long-standing relationships:
- They Stay Curious: Strong couples, all of them, are interested in their partner’s world. “Couples who remain happy together for the long haul see their partners as interesting people, who they never stop trying to learn more about,” says psychologist, Leslie Becker-Phelps. “Keep up with each other’s lives. Know the little things and the big things, like who’s your partner’s best friend, what is his or her current read, when is his next appraisal due.” Be engaged and involved with each other.
- They Communicate: Verbal communication plays a major role in developing the capacity to relate. “The healthier the communication between people, the quicker they are at resolving conflicts,” says Lisa Bahar, marriage and family therapist.
- They Spend Quality Time Together: It’s important to be present, physically and emotionally. It is not big trips or gifts that make the difference, but the smaller, everyday moments that you spend with your partner.
- They Are Respectful: Interactions, even those with difficult or unpleasant elements, should remain positive and continue to reflect your determination to hold each other in high esteem. As psychologist John W Beiter says, “Learn to first understand, and then be understood. Do not interrupt or dismiss the feelings of your partner.” It’s important to respect them, even when you are in the bitterest argument.
- They Are Appreciative: Verbalizing your appreciation is key. “Gratitude creates positive emotions and also builds motivation to continue to please your partner,” adds Lisa Bahar.
- They Are Supportive: Partners in strong relationships encourage and support each other in their individual pursuits. They are most supportive when their loved one is sad or stressed. “Affirm your partner’s dreams, goals, and their existence,” says Congdon. Treat your relationship as an opportunity to bring out the best in each other.
- They Resolve Their Fights: Show that you love them with thier flaws. Rather than letting small grievances mount, talk it out. Psychotherapist Dr Fran Walfish urges you to “Express your feelings in the moment. Do not allow anger and disappointment to build up inside you. Say what you feel, clearly and respectfully.”
- They Indulge In ‘Me Time’: Give yourself constant and brief breaks to understand what you want from your life. “Take 10-15 minutes each day to be with yourself and relax. You’d be surprised how challenging this is when you have a spouse and children tugging at you all the time. Give yourself short, undivided, positive attention each day to nourish and fortify yourself,” adds Dr Walfish.
- They Kiss Slowly: As Congdon puts it, “Feel inspired to share time and space with your partner.” Take time when kissing your partner; do it mindfully, and enjoy the experience.
Do not strive for perfection. If you embrace the imperfections and learn from them, you are likely to have a long, loving relationship.