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Keys to a Successful Longterm Relationship

Updated on March 19, 2024
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Andrea is a dating consultant who gives people advice on relationships and romance. She has written dating articles for more than 10 years.

A man and a woman kiss outside.
A man and a woman kiss outside. | Source

Strengthening Your Relationship

A long-term relationship will go through many stages. Sometimes people stay in the honeymoon stage for ages, other times people get into the thick of chaos very early into their romantic partnership. The following article is a guide on how to not only navigate the ups and downs of your relationship but also strengthen it. If you're currently single, some of the information listed here can be used to improve your relationship with yourself.

My name is Andrea, and I have written dating-related articles for over a decade. I regularly receive emails from people seeking advice on love and compatibility. In response to those emails, I put this article together to help people who want to resolve their relationship woes. Consider this an introduction to better navigating common couple problems. I've included suggested reading materials at the bottom of this page.

When Relationships Get Rocky

Often as relationships age, they hit a wall, a great plateau. Boredom sinks in, one person spends all their free time in front of a television with a six-pack of beers, and the other person nags about everything from dirty dishes to laundry. This isn't an ideal situation. Without proper maintenance and expectations about what two people want in a relationship, it will inevitably run its course. No one wants to feel trapped in a relationship that isn't going anywhere. And no normal person enjoys nagging their partner all the time.

Relationships Don’t Have to Erode

There are things you can do right now to increase your and your partner’s happiness. You don't need to spend excessive money or time trying to resurrect your connection. The first thing you should do is look at your individual habits. Are there things you're doing that are negatively contributing to the relationship? More than likely you both are doing things that ultimately don't serve you.

Important: You don't want to open up a conversation about your relationship in a way that makes it feel like an inquisition. It's challenging, but you want to strike a balance that's both playful and sincere. If you're unsatisfied and have an idea of what would make things better, then you need to be direct about that and not beat around the bush.

When you have a conversation to address relationship problems, it's best to do it on a full stomach, when things are calm, and when you're not in a time crunch to get something done. A marriage or relationship counselor can help you get this conversation going if you're struggling to make it happen on your own. They'll have you consider your communication strategies as well as act as a mediator. A counselor can give you direction when your relationship seems to have come to a standstill.

I recommend the following actions to help you get your relationship on track:

  1. Write down your feelings and thoughts in a journal. This can help you spot patterns.
  2. Plan fun things into your days. Day trips, vacations, dates, visits to touristy locations, etc. It's important to have whimsy even if you've been together for decades.
  3. Prioritize sleep. Sometimes the reason why things are off is simply because people aren't getting enough sleep.
  4. Go around the house and clean something. Two things that build up quickly and can get irksome are dishes and laundry. When your home is clean, it can boost your mental outlook.
  5. Don't try too hard. Often relationship conversations come up naturally and seamlessly. It's a good thing if the two of you can talk to each other about this without getting bent out of shape.


Two Factors for Relationship Success

Several studies show that those who marry with more education (a bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D.) tend to have relationships that last longer. It’s the same story for couples who marry when they’re older. You have a much better chance of having a successful, long-lasting relationship at 31 than you do at 19. Keep in mind, people can (and often do) buck trends.

Why do education and age matter? Simple: when you’re more rounded as a person and more secure in your life, you tend to know what you want and make better decisions. Life experience helps when navigating a relationship. (Wisdom is a plus, so embrace your gray hairs.)

Also, when you spend more time in education, it can have a positive effect on your communication skills. You’ll be better at reading different situations. Another bonus: education helps people to be more open-minded, which is a desirable trait for marital success. When you’re close-minded, you’re more likely to argue — you see things your way and don’t know how to understand someone else’s perspective.

Another plus, when you're older and are more educated you tend to have a better handle on money. One of the biggest problems couples face is handling finances. The more savvy you are at managing your money, the better odds you will have at relationship satisfaction.

You and your partner mainly:

See results

What Causes Relationships to Fade?

Relationships that only circulate around beer and watching television tend to face the plateau — you don’t want your relationship to get too sedentary and predictable. Some downtime is a great idea, but don’t make relaxing and chilling out your entire identity as an individual or as a couple.

Those who actively put themselves out into the world tend to be more engaging as romantic partners. They’re more comfortable communicating their needs and wants. A partner who is on the go should include you in their activities.

Trying New Things Can Reignite the Spark

I encourage you to make a list of things you could do with your partner to expand your horizons together. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Learn a new language (or two).
  2. Learn to play instruments.
  3. Read books together. Try the classics from Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Alexandre Dumas, etc. Try something more simplistic like comics or young adult novels.
  4. Travel the world. Go to places you’ve never been. Visit all seven continents,if you have the money!
  5. Learn to cook rather than rely on box or bag dinners or fast food. Buy recipe books! You can get cookbooks from the library.
  6. Go to art museums, ballets, symphonies, plays, and concerts. Take dance lessons, explore vineyards, and visit observatories.
  7. Bond over a love of animals and nature. Take more hikes, go to zoos, visit animal sanctuaries, and start a garden.
  8. Go horseback riding, walk around a lake, head to a beach before sunrise, and climb a mountain.
  9. Write each other letters. Don’t just text. Make an effort to handwrite letters.
  10. Work at charity events together.
  11. Try a new sport together. Pickleball is popular.
  12. Spend more time outside together. There is a challenge I know of where you try to spend 1,000 hours outside in a single year.

Five Important Keys to a Relationship

If I had to boil down the five most important things for a long-lasting relationship, they would be:

  1. Trust
  2. Forgiveness
  3. Honesty
  4. Kindness
  5. Emotional responsiveness

The video below by Maya Diamond, an expert dating and relationship coach, will explain what is emotional responsiveness.

Your Soul Craves Depth, and Your Romances and Intimacies Also Crave Depth

You need a healthy fascination of each other. It’s important that you support each other, but you also need curiosity in the mix.

If you’re not fascinated with each other after two months, two years, etc., then the problem could be that you two need to focus more on depth. Try to think outside of the box. Be more abstract. Don’t only focus on your practical needs because that can eventually make a relationship boring.

Relationships Thrive off Deep Conversations

Consider what you can do to inspire meaningful thoughts. Perhaps you need to make space for new books, TV shows, music, poetry, or philosophy. Put your cell phone away and do something that gives you more focus. My two suggestions are: (1) do something creative, or (2) get into nature and start moving.

Be Savvy With Your Wallet

Finances are a prime area of discontent for couples, so I suggest purchasing within your means. Be rational with how much money you and your partner make. What can you do to earn more?

If you are living beyond your means, it will put a great deal of stress on your relationship. Also, don’t become too greedy. A relationship can be ruined when you focus too much on your possessions and wealth. You still need to be generous. You also don’t want to turn into hoarders. It's important to strike a balance when it comes to money.

A man and a woman cozying up to each other in bed.
A man and a woman cozying up to each other in bed. | Source

Poetic Depth Means You Are Seeking the Finer, More Beautiful Aspects of Life

Great stories seek to find the most wonderful of hidden gems to present to the audience, and that is what you need in your romance. Your romance is a narrative for the world, and if it really is lacking in poetic depth — then it probably is bland both for those watching and… for yourself.

Living a bland life is a death sentence for couples, especially when those two people are young. This can lead to extramarital affairs, abuse, depression, and irreconcilable differences.

The excitement of a new relationship can blind you —you might not be considering how much depth a person has at the beginning and then all of a sudden you find them dull. Are you just going through the motions because you don’t want to be single?

Do the two of you dance the night away and read poetry together? OR do you complain about dirty toilets and who is going to take out the trash, and other menial activities all the time? Those things do need to get done, but constant nagging gets old, and eventually, people can’t handle it anymore. Nagging can (and often does) lead to a breakup.

Consier what activities are the most common in your relationship :  is it nagging at each other and being dismissive, or going into the depths of creativity and the soul? Often people complain about chores because they’re not getting something else in the relationship — whether emotional or physical.

Turn off the television and electronics, and try to rediscover other parts of yourself. Consider the following analogy: after new yoga students have had a few sessions they find that certain parts of their body that they didn’t even know existed feel strained — this is also what happens when you stretch certain aspects of your mind and go beyond the more mundane and less enthused activities like sitting on the couch all day doing nothing.

Life is short, so you don’t want to waste it. Spend it by exploring and developing different interests. Dare to be different and unique. Dare to have a healthy relationship rather than having a relationship just for the sake of it.

It’s Okay To Be Single

I recommend finding contentment with yourself and searching for poetic depth before entering a relationship. Without your own self-contentment, you’ll bring naivety into the relationship. You won’t know what you really want, and that’s bad on many levels.

You shouldn’t lose yourself in a relationship — you should gain a deeper sense of who you are. Relationships are meant to give you extra support and a stronger sense of your identity. They should be a blessing rather than a curse.

Relationships Need a Solid Foundation of Trust

It is important to consider your actions and what you are putting into the relationship as well as for your partner to consider this. If you don’t think of your partner when making a decision, you could end up becoming insensitive and selfish. You should ask yourself questions such as:

  • Could this potentially hurt my partner’s feelings?
  • Is this a large enough financial item that it should be discussed first?
  • Am I being too impulsive or impatient about something?
  • Am I spending time with too many people and not enough with my partner?
  • Is this really a battle I should pick? What are the pros and cons?

Stop thinking on auto-pilot and start thinking more critically about how you relate to others. If you don’t pay attention, you may end up losing what’s most important to you.

Be considerate of your own feelings and be considerate of your partner’s feelings. It takes two to tango, so consider how you might be stepping out of turn.

Suggested Reading

  1. Harley, Willard. His Needs, Her Needs: Making Romantic Love Last (How to Identify and Satisfy 10 Vital Needs in Your Marriage. A Practical Relationship Guide for Couples). Revell, 2022.
  2. Hill, Linda. Relationship Workbook for Couples: Workbook and Guide Proven to Improve Communication Skills, Build Trust, Deepen Intimacy, and Resolve Conflicts. ... and Recover from Unhealthy Relationships). Independently published, 2023.
  3. Muñoz, Alicia. A Year of Us: A Couple's Journal: One Question a Day to Spark Fun and Meaningful Conversations (Question a Day Couple's Journal). Zephyros Press, 2019.
  4. Saluppo, Nic. Communicate Your Feelings (without starting a fight): What to Say and What Not to Say to Your Partner (Mental & Emotional Wellness). Independently published, 2020.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Andrea Lawrence


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