Work on these key skills to develop a healthy, happy partnership that lasts.
Whether you’ve been with your partner for as long as you can remember, you’re in a new relationship or you’re still looking for ‘the one’, the desire to navigate life with a partner by your side has led many in search of the secret to lasting love.
Qualified CBT therapist Navit Schechter shares the 8 key ingredients to a healthy, happy and lasting relationship with yourself and your significant other:
Communication is the first step to a successful union. Relationships often become unsatisfying, or even fail, when one or both parties are unable to express how they really feel and then become disappointed when their needs aren’t met. Equally, if you’re unable to communicate your needs respectfully, small problems and disagreements can exacerbate and turn into bigger issues and resentments.
But how can you achieve this? Communication is more than just trying to talk things through to avoid a heated row. Healthy confrontation and real communication involves the following:
- Clearly expressing how you feel and what you need from your partner in a respectful way.
- Taking the time to really listen to and understand what your partner is telling you, even if it is difficult to hear.
- Effective communication can only happen when both sides can let go of needing to win the argument.
- Even if you are not in agreement with your partner, when you try and understand how they are feeling it shows them that you care and are willing to work on any problems you might have.
2. Being honest
Honesty in a relationship is fundamentally important to its success. Being honest doesn’t mean needing to share every thought and feeling, but it does mean being upfront and truthful and not giving false information.
Sharing honest truths will help you and your partner foster implicit trust and allow your relationship to thrive.
When you are honest with your partner, they know that they are able to trust you and the things you say, which is essential for a relationship to function and thrive. It also strengthens feelings of love, allows your partner to invest in you and your commitments and creates a sense of comfort and freedom in the relationship.
Although it can be hard to do at times, sharing honest truths gently and not giving false information, will help you and your partner foster implicit trust and allow your relationship to thrive.
Long-lasting and happy relationships are based on friendship; enjoying each others company, shared interests, laughter, conversation and liking your partner for who they are. The stronger your friendship, the more likely you will be able to jointly navigate times of tension and conflict while staying invested in the relationship.
Spending time together doing the things you both enjoy such as games night, cooking a special meal, going for a walk or whatever works for you, can all strengthen your friendship bond. Being thoughtful to your partner, showing them gratitude and appreciation, laughing together, crying together, not being critical or trying to change them and not taking your partner for granted can also help to maintain the friendship and strengthen the foundations of your relationship.
4. Your relationship with yourself
We all need to take time for ourselves and to do things that give us a sense of happiness, purpose and fulfilment, irrespective of our relationship status. Having different interests and time away from our loved ones can help to maintain interest and perspective when there are problems and conflict. Moreover, not being able to pursue your own hobbies and interests can impact how you see yourself and, in some cases, your mood and self-esteem.
Living in line with your values and doing the things you find enjoyable and important is essential.
Living in line with your values and doing the things you find enjoyable and important is essential. This might involve finding a new hobby or reminding yourself of the things you used to do before you were in a relationship. If you struggle to achieve me-time, to make it more likely to happen schedule your plans in advance and let everyone around you know of your intentions.
5. Being supportive
As well as making time for yourself, prioritising time and attention for your partner and being prepared to go out of your way for them can also help to maintain a healthy and long-lasting relationship. Whether it’s being there for them emotionally to listen to their difficulties, or celebrating their successes and supporting them practically when they need your help, showing up for your partner when they need you is key.
When we are able to consistently support our partner in the way they need, they feel supported, less alone and will feel able to rely on you, all of which helps to build connection and trust and allows you to feel the benefits of being there for someone else too. This might involve pulling your weight with the housework, scheduling date nights when you both have time to talk, or simply asking them what they need and how they are doing.
6. Taking the rough with the smooth
All couples will go through difficult patches – it’s the nature of relationships. There will always be ups and downs in life, and sometimes it might feel easier to step out of the relationship or jump ship altogether rather than deal with the problems you’re facing. Those who expect that there will be difficulties and are willing to work through these with their partner are more likely to commit to doing what it takes to create a long and happy relationship.
Taking the rough with the smooth doesn’t mean staying in a relationship that is toxic, abusive or that you no longer want to be in.
Taking the rough with the smooth doesn’t mean staying in a relationship that is toxic, abusive or that you no longer want to be in. It means voicing issues and approaching them with the intention of creating a better relationship rather than avoiding them and burying your head in the sand. This can be very hard to do and takes persistence but the rewards of a long and satisfying relationship will more than compensate for the effort.
7. Being intimate
Being intimate with your partner means nurturing a closeness and loving familiarity with them. It can refer to friendship and enjoying each other’s company as well as the spark that makes your relationship feel special and exciting. When we maintain intimacy with another person we feel special and cared for and it shows them they are special to us and cared for too. It also helps us better understand and respond to our partner’s needs. The following can all help sustain intimacy in a relationship:
- Spend time together.
- Pay attention to your partner and their likes and dislikes.
- Take interest in the small details of your partner’s day.
- Find out what makes them feel loved and valued.
- Be affectionate and connect physically through touch or sexual relations.
8. Being on the same team
Focusing on your similarities as well as your shared values and goals will help your relationship stay strong and happy, while navigating the challenges of life. Many of the issues that come up for us when we’re in a relationship are highly emotive as they are linked to our sense of security and survival.
For example, your perspective on how you make and spend money or how you want to bring up your children. It’s important that you and your partner are either on the same page when issues arise, or that you are aware of your reactions to any differences so that these don’t become a source of contention and division.
If you desire a happy, fulfilling and long-lasting relationship, then the following steps will help you to create that when you’re with the right person:
❤️ Get to know your partner
Learning how each other works, and adapting your relationship accordingly, will help you stay on the same team. For example, if your partner isn’t able to talk when they’re feeling stressed or annoyed, leave them for a few hours until they have calmed down before trying to sort out the issue.
❤️ Talk about your goals and expectations
Sharing how you see your relationship and what your life goals are rather than assuming that these are the same as your partner’s can also help maintain unity.
❤️ Prepare to compromise
Picking your battles and learning where to compromise when you can will also strengthen your team bond.
Is your relationship right for you?
If you and your partner are experiencing difficulties and want some guidance and support in dealing with them, then a relationship therapist may be able to help. If you’re not with someone who wants these things too, no matter what you do, you won’t be able to create the relationship that you want.
‘Forever’ should never be the goal if you are in a relationship that no longer works for you. Whether you are in a long- or short-term relationship or are happily single or solo and searching for ‘the one’, the person that it’s most important to have a happy, long-lasting relationship with is yourself.
Further help and support
For additional relationship help and support, try one of the following resources:
- Relate– Relationship counselling support for couples and families.
- Spark– Free, confidential relationship help.
- Samaritans– Free, 24/7 emotional support to anyone in distress.
- Marriage Care– Marriage guidance and support.
- Care for the family– Marriage support.