What makes a long-term relationship successful? The question so many individuals and couples seek to find out. Part of what defines a healthy relationship is sharing common goals, values, and expectations for the future. However, there is so much more to a healthy and lasting relationship than just this.
When couples transition into the next stage of their relationship, whether that be moving in together, getting married, or having children, there are several factors to consider when co-creating a successful future with your partner. Throughout this article, we discuss some of the most important themes in a successful long-term relationship that will help couples overcome challenges and spark a more fulfilling and exciting future together.
As time goes by and you and your partner form a routine, it’s common to shift into autopilot in your relationship. Oftentimes, couples neglect to challenge this comfortable lifestyle by finding new and exciting ways to connect. Rather than making one grand gesture, there are two simple strategies you can use today to create a deeper, more meaningful connection.
As you build a future with your partner, it’s not uncommon for life to get in the way of spending quality time with one another. Whether you’re in school, taken on more hours at work, or just started a family, there is always an opportunity to take advantage of the micro-moments.
These moments can be as simple as turning to face your partner when they speak, offering your eye contact and full attention. In fact, the Gottman Institute discovered that couples who divorce around the 6-year mark had a tendency to turn toward each other only 33% of the time whereas couples who are still together after 6 years turned toward each other 86% of the time. What a difference a micro-moment can truly make.
Another valuable way to find more meaningful ways to connect in a partnership is by creating a list of goals together. There’s something particularly intimate about pursuing a shared goal or passion with your partner, no matter how big or small it is.
As humans, we have an innate tendency to work towards some form of an “end-point”. When two people are on the same page, working together can help form a stronger bond — especially in activities that bring you both joy and passion.
When we encourage and support our partner to overcome challenges and take on new opportunities, we can establish a deeper connection within the relationship. A study published in the British Journal of Guidance and Counselling discovered that satisfaction within a romantic relationship is affected by how supportive a partner is. Although no amount of support can prevent certain conflicts in a relationship, this study demonstrated that it may lead to more constructive conflict, which in turn led to greater satisfaction.
There are several ways you can offer support to your partner. Below are the common forms that are beneficial in any relationship.
1. Emotional support: The act of listening, empathizing, and offering a non-judgmental space for your partner to speak freely about their feelings.
2. Instrumental support: Providing a physical or tangible service such as opening the door, preparing dinner, or giving a back massage.
3. Informational support: The act of providing beneficial information from a trusted source to foster intellectual and mindful growth.
4. Affirmational support: Offering positive reinforcement, compliments, or any other beneficial feedback that will help to support your partner in that moment.
No matter how exciting and passionate your relationship started out, it’s normal for couples to fall into a rut at some point. Although common, it’s necessary to learn how to conquer it before it becomes more difficult to escape from.
The first step towards overcoming a rut is by effectively communicating your needs in an open and honest way. During this conversation, it’s important to express your needs in “I statements” in order to avoid pointing fingers and placing blame on your significant other.
Another way to overcome a rut is to recognize the good in your relationship and increase the opportunities for greater connection. This can be done by sharing more micro-moments, as described above. In doing so, you’re more likely to counteract some of the stress and uncertainty and enhance a deeper level of love and connectedness. For example, you can dedicate two minutes every morning or evening to express your appreciation to your partner. This can be as simple as: “I really appreciated how you took the initiative to start dinner tonight, even though it was my turn to make it. I have been having a stressful time at work lately”.
As you move through life with your significant other, there are various pivotal conversations that help you both plan for your future. Planning ahead can be as simple as discussing an upcoming vacation and as complicated as buying a house or having kids. Whatever it may be, it’s crucial to get on the same page with your partner about these topics.
Before entering any new chapter with your partner, it’s beneficial to have ongoing conversations about the future of your relationship. For many couples, this may be foreign territory that can be difficult to navigate. Below are some helpful tips to encourage conversation and help you plan ahead for your future.
- Keep an open mind and listen to understand what your partner is saying
- Respect your partner’s dreams and wishes
- Avoid behaving defensively or becoming critical of your partner
- Recognize and express your personal boundaries and expectations
- Try to find common ground – “what can I agree with”?
- Remember, you LOVE this person!
- Come to a temporary compromise – often these topics will need to be discussed over multiple conversations and will continue to evolve
The journey towards co-creating a future with your partner may be a windy one but given a bit of guidance it can be something incredibly rewarding. If you and your partner are struggling to take the next step in your lives together, consider speaking to a professional. At On Your Mind Counselling, our counsellors are specialized in assisting with life transitions for both individuals and couples. If you’re interested in learning more, book a free consultation here.
Written by Tori Mudie BA, MA, RP, CCC