A strong relationship is a marathon, not a sprint.
Some couples start off hot and heavy, but fizzle out over time. Others with a slow-but-steady burn can last decades or even a lifetime.
We asked relationship experts to tell us what common threads they notice among healthy, long-lasting relationships versus short, fleeting ones. See what they had to say below:
1. You can laugh at yourself and each other.
“I need to be clear here: I’m not talking about the scornful, contempt-filled laughter that is all about feeling superior and rejecting the other person. That can do serious damage over time. I’m talking about the self-effacing, I-don’t-take-myself-too-seriously sort of laughter that points out the quirks in ourselves, our partners, and our relationship while keeping it light. It’s when people can smile and rib one another about their favorite movie, shake their head and laugh about bad decisions they made in the past, and own up to their own selfishness from time to time.” ― Ryan Howes, psychologist
2. You find little ways to express your love every day.
“Having sex is easy. Being loving every day isn’t always. Showing your partner you care, appreciate, and value them can be done in many small, day-to-day ways. Little things add up, like making him a cup of coffee every morning or telling her you appreciate how hard she works. When these caring gestures become habits, it’s a sign a relationship is more likely to last.” ― Kurt Smith, therapist who specializes in counseling for men
3. You’re on the same page where it matters most.
“One good sign your relationship will last: your basic values are closely in sync. Research shows in general that the more similar partners are on the most important things in life -– such as religion, money, whether to have children and how to raise them –- the more likely they are to wind up together for life. That’s why it’s good early in a relationship to have a serious ‘values discussion,’ because this basic orientation toward what matters most is unlikely to change.”― Karl Pillemer, professor of human development at Cornell University and author of 30 Lessons for Loving
4. You give each other the benefit of the doubt.
“This means that even if your partner did something that seems insensitive or unkind, like show up late for your big night, you assume that their intentions are good and that they are not trying to hurt you on purpose. Instead of looking for blame, you share how you feel and see if there’s a way to do it differently in the future. Or if they are going to always be late, find some acceptance for who you chose.” ― Celeste Hirschman, sex expert and author of Making Love Real
5. You don’t keep score.
“Ideally, partners in a relationship do loving things for one another without expecting anything in return. They give freely, because giving to one another is reward enough. But that isn’t always the case. Many couples find themselves giving to the other in order to receive the same treatment in return. The problem is more than just a focus on giving in order to get: it’s when the arguments about ‘What you’re not doing for me’ start and partners start rolling out the scorecards: ‘I did the dishes five times last week!’ or ‘You’ve gone out with your friends five times since the last time I went.’ Instead of keeping score and waiting for the partner to make things fair for you, how about you just ask for what you want? Like, ‘I know we both hate doing the dishes, but how about we alternate weeks?’” ― Howes
6. You tackle problems together instead of avoiding them.
“Tackling problems head-on is a sure sign of relationship health. Problems are part of life and don’t have to be viewed as something bad to be avoided. They can be opportunities to grow and strengthen your connection and commitment to each other. It takes courage to address problems, but the reward is a stronger, more secure relationship.”― Smith
7. You each take responsibility for your mistakes.
“If each person is able to take responsibility for their part in challenging dynamics and admit when they are doing something from an upset or protective place instead of their calm, connected place, it makes a huge difference. Imagine one person saying, ‘I know when I get really upset I chase after you and that can be overwhelming’ and then the other one saying, ‘Yeah, it can, and I know I can shut down sometimes and that can be really scary for you.’ That’s a relationship that can last.” ― Danielle Harel, sex expert and author of Making Love Real