That’s a pretty strong statement right there, isn’t it?
Judging from the alarmingly high divorce rate, learning how to keep a relationship forever is almost like finding the philosopher’s stone, the secrets of the Egyptian pyramids or alien life in outer space. It’s practically impossible.
The truth is, though, that whilst no one can guarantee that your current relationship will last forever (or, even, that it should), people in long-term relationships often share common behaviours or attitudes, according to scientists.
In fact, did you know that Drs. John and Julie Gottman of The Gottman Institute could predict with 90% accuracy which couples in their study were heading for divorce and which weren’t?
Yep, you read that correctly.
They’ve already discovered what makes a marriage – or any intimate partnerships for that matter – last.
So, if you’re wondering how to keep a relationship strong and happy, then this post is for you.
Side Note: In this post, we’re focussing on three of the most important characteristics of a good relationship that you’ve probably always known but most likely never really paid any attention to.
If you want to delve into the research results, get more information on specific marriage strengthening exercises or discover what causes a relationship to fail, then I recommend getting their books now.
Probably the most important, the most well-known and the most often ignored secret of all is respecting yourself.
Because your most important relationship is the relationship you have with yourself.
In other words, if you want to be in a relationship where you are treated respectfully and lovingly as an equal partner, you need to show the other person how that’s done.
That means you don’t tolerate disrespect, cruelty, contempt, insensitivity or malice from your partner.
You don’t tolerate any of those because you’re a cold-hearted, self-centred snob but because you are a person who deserves to be treated with respect and love.
If something bothers you and you don’t want it to happen again, you need to address it.
If you need a break, ask for it.
Communicate your feelings openly but kindly and lovingly.
Inform your partner that how you’ve been treated is not acceptable.
The most important thing to remember here is that you’re supposed to “inform” your partner. In other words, you tell them how you felt or what the problem is. You don’t accuse, harangue or blame them. Nobody likes a nagger.
And really, if your goal is to fix the problem, the last thing you want is for the other person to be defensive, which is a guaranteed reaction if you were to accuse, harangue or blame them.
Think about how you’d feel if someone attacked your character, which is essentially what you’d have been doing. You’d defend yourself and you wouldn’t even listen to what they have to say. It wouldn’t matter if what they’re saying is true. In the face of defensiveness and anger, it’s hard to remember that your partner is NOT the enemy.
Remember that the golden rule is not just a trite saying. It’s probably one of the greatest truths of all time.
Lastly, it will also help you get rid of any resentments you may have – leading to a happier and calmer relationship.
Now, we’re not telling you to go on a rampage because your partner, after pulling a 70-hour week, hurt your feelings by collapsing on the bed instead of being all romantic on Valentine’s Day.
Obviously, respect goes both ways.
Respect your partner.
This can come in a variety of forms but what I really feel is important is to make sure that you value the other person’s feelings and thoughts in the same way you’d like your own feelings and thoughts to be valued.
Respect your partner as you would want to be respected.
For example, in some parenting groups that I’m in, you’d inevitably get a message from a stressed-out mum talking about a disagreement with a partner.
Along with commiseration, the mum also receives a lot of advice that basically tells her to do whatever she wants and forget the partner.
She’s the mum after all and it’s her body or her child or whatever it is they’re having a disagreement with. Some would even flatly state that she should leave the partner.
Now, I know I’m treading on dangerous ground here and really it depends on what the issue is of course. But, we need to remember that the people we’re in a relationship with are people we love. We’re with them because we love them and they love us.
That requires compromising. And compromising requires talking. Not shutting the other person down because what you want doesn’t mesh with what they want.
Obviously, if the issue is deeper, like gaslighting or domestic abuse, then the way you handle the situation would be different.
But in general and for the most part, we are loving people who are having a disagreement with equally loving partners. If you want your relationship to last, then you treat your partner with the same respect you require them to treat you.
Important: If you’re in an abusive relationship or think you might be, please get help now.
Another important thing to remember is that just because you’ve been together for years doesn’t mean that your partner can read your mind.
No one can read someone else’s mind with such accuracy (unless you’re a fictional character like Sherlock Holmes).
If you’re upset with your partner about something, don’t open your mouth just yet.
Because in the heat of anger, you are most likely to say something both of you will regret and which you probably don’t even mean.
Remember that in strong and happy relationships, both partners respect themselves and each other.
That means not using the other as a verbal punching bag.
Take a deep breath and remember that your partner is his own person. He probably doesn’t know that he’s done (or sometimes not done) something that really ticked you off.
Circle back to what we said in the previous sections.
Talk but not harangue. Refuse to cross the line from expressing your feelings to blaming or attacking your partner’s character.
Instead of: “You’re always so insensitive.” (Attack)
Say: “I feel as if I don’t matter when you do XXXXX. Can we do XXXXX instead?” (Emphasis on yourself)
If you need help expressing yourself assertively, especially when you’re in the throes of strong emotions, then you might want to read this PsychCentral post by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
To recap, knowing how to keep a relationship forever doesn’t require a lot really. You don’t need to be extra rich or particularly good-looking. Even (especially) among the ranks of the rich and famous, the divorce rate is exceptionally high.
All you really need to focus on are these three things:
Learn the skills you need to master these three things and you’ll soon find yourself in a strong, happy and lasting relationship with a person who loves and respect you.
What about you? Do you want to share with us any marriage strengthening exercises you use? Or maybe you have tips on how to have a healthy relationship with your spouse or significant other?
We’d love to hear from you so drop your comments below!