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Keys To Lasting Relationships

Updated on July 7, 2010

People who are looking for a long-term close relationship, will spare themselves a lot of difficulty and heartache by considering key issues that effect relationships in the long-term.

The initial decision to become involved long-term might be an honest one, or might be not entirely honest. If it’s an honest one, it can either be informed or misinformed. This hub hopes to help with the latter.

What are the values and criteria that help a relationship survive a long time?

A study conducted by the psychologist Robert Sternberg found there to be five main aspects that helped with long-term relationships. Using a sample of 80 people of different ages, he investigated how relationships changed over time. He found there to be five main criteria when it came to the longevity of relationships:

1 Having similar values
2 Being willing to change in response to the other person
3 Being prepared to put up with the other person’s flaws
4 Having matching religious beliefs
5 Having an equal intellectual level
(Sternberg, 1988)

p.65 section on Emotions, from Teach Yourself Psychology, Dr Nicky Hayes

1 Having similar values

How someone approaches everyday life, needs to be fairly well matched with a partner for a long-term relationship to last. For example, if someone has a basic standard to be respectful of other people on the road or on walkways, and yet their partner is more pushy and extravagant, there will eventually be conflict. Of course, at first, at might seem exciting to be dragged along by a brash person who isn’t overly fussy about stepping on someone else’s feelings, but for the long term, this will probably lead to tensions. If someone thinks that they’ll be able to change the other person’s approach and view of life, that is a gamble and might not work out. It isn’t often that people change easily, and if they do, it tends to be extremely slowly. This brings us on logically to Sternberg’s next criteria.

2 Being willing to change in response to the other person.

The fact is that we shift our views and morph to what is around us all the time. This can be a very useful characteristic in close relationships, where habits change to blend more easily with another person’s. Usually it is an unconscious thing, that comes from wanting to fit in, for example in a certain social group. In a close relationship, however, it’s often necessary to take steps to consciously adhere to another person’s way of being, when there are situations that arise that call for some compromise. Sometimes this is done in a major way, such as adopting another person’s religion, but usually it is very helpful to adapt to someone else in smaller ways. For example, being sensitive to the other person’s needs in different situations. This willingness to change in response to another person is especially necessary if someone has a characteristic that seemingly won’t change, which leads us to the next point.

3 Being prepared to put up with the other person’s flaws

This is probably one of the hardest things to do. People’s perceived flaws, physical or character, become much more apparent when things get difficult - when tension, tiredness, and so on, set in. More generally, we tend to hone in on a person’s flaws as a negative outlet for one’s own problems, and our own negative perception of things. This is a great shame, as even a blue sky will often have clouds in it! So being prepared in advance to put up with another person’s flaw, is a major asset in an enduring relationship. Of course, before embarking on a long term relationship, it’s worth considering whether the person’s flaws (or perceived flaws, to be more precise) are endurable, or not! It’s worth spending some time considering this, and not biting off more than one can chew. In a way, putting up with another person’s flaws is also a matter of tact and compromise - there is no such thing as a perfect human being. The problem is that many people are educated by films and the media in general, with unreal images and ideas regarding potential mates, which  doesn’t equip people for the real world.

4 Having matching religious beliefs

There’s nothing more contentious and divisive than belief systems and religion - and yet nothing more powerful that can bond people together who are on the same team! A belief system is something that can really help couples ride choppy waters, as they both believe the same thing. The common belief system transcends the small particulars of certain problems they might be experiencing. This can be a great asset for a relationship, as belief and belief systems are so hard wired into people’s psyches - and unlikely to change easily. They allow a couple to approach a situation in the same way, through their own form of devotion or prayer.

5 Having an equal intellectual level

Interestingly, in the study, people who hadn’t been together long, didn’t think that having a similar intellectual level was important. However, the study revealed that for relationships to survive the long term, having a matching intellectual level was of real importance. There are many cases of people who are attracted to each other, physically and emotionally, but who end up looking at each other across the table one morning, and thinking ‘they’re on a completely different planet to me’. Having an equal intellectual level in many ways ensures that all of the above criteria are dealt with in the same fashion. It helps communication take place on the same platform.

When these five aspects are not developed

While the above criteria are all empirically observed, it is worth noting that there are cases of people in happy long-term relationships that don’t meet these criteria - though maybe the lack of one criteria necessitates a different criteria to be more developed. While in many cases this can work, there are cases when really, it does not.

For example, in some cases of unhappy long-term relationships, one person may have no ability to change in response to another person (the opposite of point 2), while the other has to develop an extreme level of tolerance i.e. being able to put up with another person’s flaws (point 3). This can lead to unhappiness, obviously, and issues of self-esteem in some cases may be notable.

An evenly developed measure of the five points observed by Sternberg, are the main strands that help maintain a strong, loving and lasting relationship.


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    • Electro-Denizen profile image

      Charles 7 years ago from Wales, UK

      lxxy thanks for dropping by

      it's just plain FUN when things work out like that!

    • lxxy profile image

      lxxy 7 years ago from Beneath, Between, Beyond

      I couldn't have said it better.

      This is why k@ri and I work out so well. Even when she adamantly tries to tell people I'm the smarter one hahaha

      But I accept her flaws of trying to not feel superior. ;)

      Great article!