There are thousands of articles and magazine interviews out there that promise to bestow us with a magic set of tools for sustaining a long-term relationship.
But is any of it true?
Is there a secret to having a successful, long-lasting relationship?
Broadly, the secret to having and keeping a relationship long-term is that there is no secret.
Many of us struggle with the concept that relationships can be hard work, but for the most part, it takes a lot of time, patience, and trust to keep a relationship from failing.
Why do most relationships fail
It might be easier to explain why many relationships fail instead of what makes them work, although there are some things that we can do to keep the sparks alive with our significant other.
First, let’s look at the mechanics of a relationship breakdown. Why do they happen in the first place?
Is it because we forgot to stick to the sequence of magical tricks and trades that all those glossy magazines have seduced us into believing are true?
Many questions arise when a relationship starts to go wrong, most of which remain unanswered and can only add to the difficulties most people experience during a breakup.
Some people refer to the above as ‘a lack of closure’, but often it’s a lack of much-needed answers on one or both sides.
There is no telling what makes a relationship last or not, but mutual love is an excellent requisite for a lifelong partnership.
Research shows that although there is no magic ingredient to having a sustainable relationship, some warning signs may be present during the beginning phases of dating that a relationship might be doomed.
A lack of patience or tolerance
When the initial haze of love dissipates and couples begin to recognize one another’s flaws, it can often present a fork in the road.
The honeymoon phase is over, and the reality of being part of a couple starts to creep in.
Here, arguments can erupt, often signifying a make-or-break situation for the relationship.
During this phase, couples may start to notice their compatibility or lack thereof, indicating whether they can continue with the relationship.
Tolerance of one another is critical when the initial flames of passion start to cool down, and this stage of a relationship is often the deciding factor to whether a couple will last.
Getting into a relationship for all the wrong reasons
It can be incredibly tempting, especially after a difficult breakup, to want to rush into a new relationship as quickly as possible.
However, there are many reasons why this can be a bad idea.
The grieving process
Broadly, rushing into a new relationship before the old one hasn’t even had a chance to go cold can often disrupt the grieving process.
Such a process can be challenging, but it is necessary to figure out where you both went wrong and how to ensure that old relationship patterns do not emerge in new relationships.
It’s healthy to grieve a relationship before moving on, even if it was only short-term; thus, people going through a breakup must allow themselves adequate time to mourn.
A lack of communication
A lack of communication sounds like a plausible reason for a relationship breakdown, yet many of us do not evaluate how we communicate with our partners.
In the early stages of dating, communication gets cranked up to the highest level; partners constantly text each other and check-in to see how the other is doing.
During the initial phase, people use any excuse in the book to stay in regular contact with the person they are dating.
However, many people become complacent when a relationship evolves and progresses into something more steady.
The consistent communication present at the beginning is the first thing that takes a nosedive.
Relationship experts explain that healthy communication is vital between couples to keep the burning flames of love alive.
Relationships can be hard work.
Many people have a hard time believing that relationships can sometimes be hard work.
That’s understandable since the above knowledge can suck the romance out of what should be a romantic interlude between two people.
A magic toolbox
However, “hard” and “work” signifies dedication, patience, tolerance, and trust, and both are keywords here.
If we look at the ‘magic’ behind what makes a relationship thrive, perhaps the above adjectives, as practical as they seem, are romantic because they denote that two people care enough about each other to put in the hard graft.
The grass is not always greener.
Many of us believe that the grass is always greener on the other side.
The above could be because too many of us focus on the social media version – the picture-perfect couple who always look fantastic and happy.
We don’t see the stuff in between, those things that make a relationship challenging – the misunderstandings, conflict, and tension that can arise even in the best relationships.
According to research, fifty percent of marriages end in divorce.
Some may argue that such statistics exist because of a couple’s unwillingness to ‘do the work’.
So, what are the secrets to a long-lasting relationship?
As mentioned, there are no secrets to a long-lasting relationship as such.
However, there are some things that you can do to influence the longitude of a relationship.
1. Choosing your battles wisely
Choosing the type of relationship battles to engage in is critical to our wellbeing, but some variations exist.
The above is dependent on many factors, but broadly, not every shard of tension or conflict in a relationship needs to turn into a heated argument.
When two people get married or are in a relationship, there is one thing they discover for sure – they are two entirely different people.
Couples inhabiting the same space over long periods can be challenging, even for the most in-love pair.
Indeed, when couples prepare themselves for battle, they might consider what kind of arguments are worth a full-blown meltdown.
For example, if someone leaves the toilet seat up every time they visit the loo, is it worth hours of conflict and tension?
Or wouldn’t it be less draining on your resources to preserve your energy for bigger things, like where your children should go to school, where to put your finances, or what kind of health plans to put in place?
2. Being open about your needs.
Being open about your needs does not signify weakness or vulnerability.
Yet many people hide what they need from each other, especially at the beginning of a relationship.
The capacity to be realistic about your needs compared to your partners is one of the best ways to ensure that you get them met.
Your needs will likely diverge significantly from your partners.
However, expressing what you need from your other half is crucial in those moments, as long as the process gets done respectfully and with your partner’s feelings in mind.
3. Be sure to compromise.
Another term that often comes up in relationships is compromise.
Successful relationships involve a certain amount of giving and taking.
However, conflict arises when the see-saw of giving and taking becomes lopsided.
For example, one person in a relationship feels they give too much and becomes resentful of their partner.
Many people believe that ‘love’ is enough, but this couldn’t be any further from the truth.
Love makes two people commit to each other – it’s an integral component of what starts a relationship and what makes people want to continue, but many other factors work to sustain it.
Cultivating a happy, long-lasting relationship requires a lot of giving and taking, and compromising with our partner is one way to ensure that love lasts.
Every relationship, whether romantic or not, begins and ends with trust.
Some may argue that aspects of love get built on trust.
The ability to stack all our cards on one person hoping that they won’t shatter our hearts into a thousand pieces, is built on that one piece of understanding.
Trust is an integral component of a long-lasting relationship; without it, there is nothing.
Trust is more about you than them.
Moreover, there is no way of telling whether someone will break our trust, but relationship experts say that trusting someone is more about who we are than another person.
What most of us want is the ability to trust another person.
However, we should go about this without worrying too much about the outcome.
Essentially, if someone proves they cannot get trusted, then at least you know you did your best, and that is always enough.
Forgiveness is perhaps one of the most significant aspects of a relationship.
Whether it’s your sibling, parent, best friend, co-worker, or spouse, we are all individual beings, meaning that conflict is inevitable throughout our relationships.
To err is human
As English poet Alexander Pope said in his An Essay on Criticism; To err is human, to forgive is divine; a quote that should get laminated on the walls of every marital household.
Broadly, when we forgive, we make space for mutual understanding and may increase the longitude of our relationships.
If you would like to understand more about improving your relationships and mental health, please get in touch with a specialist at Tikvah Lake Recovery who can help.