Nearly everyone in a relationship desires a healthy long-term romance, but not many know how to achieve it. The definition of “healthy relationship” varies depending on the person you ask, because everyone’s needs are different. However, there are several universal keys to maintaining a relationship.
Here are some of the most important secrets to achieving a healthy and long-lasting relationship:
1. Keep Open Communication
Effective communication is one of the most important aspects of a healthy relationship. Communication increases positive emotional connections and feelings of safety and happiness.
To maintain open communication:
- Express your needs rather than having your partner guess. Explain how you’re feeling, what you want in the relationship, the way you experience connection (love language), and your boundaries.
- Understand your partner’s nonverbal cues, also known as body language, to learn how they truly feel about a situation. For instance, if your partner were to say they’re “fine,” but turn away with an angry expression, you should be able to deduce they are not.
- Practice your listening skills to ensure your partner feels understood and valued. Listening and truly hearing your partner creates a deeper connection.
2. Spend Quality Time Together
In today’s digital age, it can be difficult to look up from your phone. But if you’re interested in maintaining a healthy, long-term relationship, you’ll want to put the phone down and spend face-to-face quality time with your partner. Such interaction increases connection and appreciation for one another.
To ensure you spend quality time with one another:
- Carve out time each day or week to spend time together, whether it’s a scheduled date night or several hours after the children go to bed. Put electronic devices aside and focus on talking to and enjoying each other.
- Try new things during this special time together. New experiences—whether it be dance classes or restaurants you’ve never been to—keep the relationship exciting and interesting.
3. Set Realistic Expectations
Most times, unmet expectations lead to conflict within relationships. By setting realistic expectations, you can save yourself from unwanted hurt and disappointment. Now, this doesn’t mean you should lower your standards or not expect much from your partner. It just means your partner can’t be everything you want them to be, nor will they always say or do the right things. In short: Your partner is not perfect. Accept your significant other for who they are and don’t try to change them.
4. Resolve Conflicts in a Respectful Manner
Because no relationship is perfect, each undergoes its own fair share of conflict. When disagreement occurs, it’s important to get through it with respectful conflict resolution and communication.
Here’s what you should do:
- Take your time. When you feel a flood of negative emotions toward your partner—whether it be anger or annoyance—don’t immediately jump into argument-mode. Walking away to calm down before engaging in a heated conversation can save you from saying things you’ll regret later.
- Use “I” statements to convey how you feel instead of placing blame. In addition, remain focused on the current issue at hand, avoiding discussion of previous missteps.
- Take responsibility for your mistakes by apologizing.
5. Be Prepared to Put in Work
Relationships aren’t all giggles and stomach butterflies. There will always be highs and lows, good times and bad. At times, one partner will be under more stress than the other. The cause can range from death of a relative, loss of a job, or health problems. Whatever the cause, such stressors put a strain on the relationship as coping mechanisms turn into conflict.
During times of severe relationship stress:
- Don’t take your emotions out on your partner by snapping at them or starting fights. Instead, turn to healthy stress management techniques such as exercise, meditation, or therapy.
- Avoid forcing your partner to find a quick solution. Work with them through the stressor at their pace. For instance, if they lost a job, don’t force an immediate search. Let them take several days to recover from the loss.
- Seek professional help if the stressor is too difficult to overcome together.
Find a mental health professional near you.
6. Learn How to Compromise
As The Rolling Stones song goes: “You can’t always get what you want.” Because relationships involve two individuals with their own backgrounds, emotions, and experiences, it’s likely you won’t always agree, nor want the same things. This is where compromise comes in. Healthy relationships are built on each partner’s ability to give and take. Recognize what’s important to your partner, and vice versa. If you try to “win” for the sake of “winning,” this can build resentment or anger, leading to an unbalanced relationship.
7. Have a Sense of Yourself Outside the Relationship
Although putting time and energy into your relationship is important, it’s just as crucial to care for yourself. To flourish together, you both will need to have a sense of yourself as separate from the relationship. Your self-esteem and self-worth shouldn’t be dependent on your partner. Spend time with friends and family alone, and pursue your own hobbies and interests.
If you’re having a hard time maintaining a healthy relationship and considering divorce, join the DivorceForce community. The group will support you on your journey as you figure out next steps.
Gregory C. Frank is the CEO and Founder of DivorceForce.