Making a long-term relationship work is a feat that not everyone can claim to have conquered. While relationship experts can tell you tips and tricks from their perspectives, sometimes it’s best to go straight to the source.
INSIDER spoke with real couples who are in long-term, committed relationships to find out their biggest tips to making a relationship last.
Travel is an important part of growing a strong relationship. It helps you deal with potentially stressful situations together, problem solve, and make some fun memories.
But you need to have your own life, too. That’s why Holly Wolf said she and her husband Gary have taken many trips in their 30-year marriage, but they haven’t always been together.
“We vacation both separately and apart,” she said. “He’s a hunter and outdoors man, I’m not. So it makes sense for him to go on those trips without me. I enjoy traveling with friends so I do that without him. But we enjoy traveling together, too — just the two of us.”
Anyone who’s been in a close relationship, romantic or otherwise, knows that being close to someone for a long time can inevitably lead to some arguments.
No one likes to be wrong, but you’re going to be, and that’s okay! The ability to admit you’re wrong can strengthen your relationship and allow small fights to end more quickly than they would if you were too stubborn to let it go.
“You have to be okay with not being right all the time,” Declan O’Connell, who has been dating his partner Rachel Eagleton for two years, told INSIDER. “Compromising is something people always say but you have to be able to put it into your daily routine. At the end of the day you have to realize that you are happier now than you were before … even if they annoy you that day.”
Being in a relationship inevitably means doing things for each other, but Todd and Diana Mitchem told INSIDER that their marriage works because they are thankful to each other for all acts of service — big and small.
“For us, appreciation is in every moment and with any small act,” the Mitchems said. “We pride each other regularly and thank each other for doing even the smallest of things. We think that being authentic with appreciation keeps the fire alive because the couple is always focused on the best in each person. With three kids, careers, and a full life, we make appreciation a top priority. It’s fun and sexy always to be appreciated.”
Everyone has hobbies but who knew that they could be used to bring you closer together?
Darrin Zeer said that he and his wife of 15 years, Daisy, have found partner yoga to be something that not only is fun, but that centers the two and brings them closer.
“Over and over again when we feel stressed or overwhelmed we meet on our yoga mat for a little date and do poses together,” Zeer, who created a book about partner yoga, said. “The physical contact and the breathing and stretching does wonders for our own mental states but also our relationship.”
If yoga is not your thing, find out what is. Finding an activity as simple as coloring together at night can give you time to reconnect and feel close to one another.
Part of nurturing a constructive and healthy relationship means that you don’t always have to go it alone. Author Carol Tuttle said that her 37-year marriage has benefited from some outside help — especially in the bedroom.
“We have worked with both sex therapists and coaches over the years to keep us exploring this part of our relationship,” she told INSIDER.
Partnership does not stop personal growth, so if you’re with someone for a long time, chances are the person you’re with now won’t be the person you’re with 20 years down the line.
And that can be a great thing. But Phil Azzi told INSIDER that his 15-year marriage has benefited by he and his wife adapting to each others’ changes and making their lives work together.
“You change just as much as your spouse changes, every day,” he said. “When your spouse changes in a way that seems at odds with how you live your life, it’s your life that’s affected and it’s your life you can change to adapt. Be ready and willing to adapt, or be ready to have the same arguments over and over. And always remember, it’s almost guaranteed that your spouse is adapting every single day to the changes they see in you.”
If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all.
This old adage has proven successful for Jaime Pfeffer and her husband of 10 years. Pfeffer credits keeping ugly thoughts to herself for keeping her marriage strong.
“Our entire household practices something called THINK – Is it Thoughtful? Is it Honest? Is it Intelligent? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?” she said. “If it doesn’t meet these criteria, we don’t say it.”
People tend to assume that once you commit to each other, the hard part is over. But no matter how long you’ve been together, growing together and bettering each other is an important factor in keeping your relationship going.
“Love and life for us is better every year,” said Kevin Huhn, who has been married for 20 years. “We find ways to be curious about each other and allow each other the space to grow and journey alone too. We are best friends and great lovers. We always come back to the foundation — ‘what can I bring to the relationship?’ not ‘what do I get?'”
Sex is fun, but when you’re together for a long time, sex can be work.
That’s why several experts recommended to INSIDER that couples should schedule a designated time to have sex if they feel they’re not having sex enough. This can make the act take precedence and will pretty much guarantee that you can fit it in.
Though this may seem too calculated, Carol Tuttle said she and her husband of 37 years practice this and that it has helped them stay together.
“Keep your sex life alive,” she told INSIDER. “We purposely schedule intimate time together as we are both busy professionals and it too easily gets overlooked. Invest in learning about your intimate relationship.”
It can be easy in the heat of the moment to talk smack about your partner to your friends or family. But this can hurt more than it help, said Beverly, who has been married to her husband Pablo for 40 years.
Beverly said that she and her husband have promised not to involve other people in their fights and if they do have an argument, they keep it to the subject at hand, not on lobbing insults.
“We pledged to never bad mouth each other either face to face or behind each other’s backs,” she told INSIDER. “When we have disagreements — and all couples do — we focus on the actual subject and never insult each other. If one or the other is so angry that he/she feels that he/she might say something he/she will regret, we cool off a while.”
Everyone comes into a relationship with some silly or interesting thing about them that they might not be so forthcoming about. As long as it’s not damaging or dangerous, try to love and accept your partner — even if they do have an obsession with pound cake.
“We had been married about three weeks when my new husband came to me, saying ‘I have something I need to tell you,'” author Carol Gee told INSIDER about her husband of 44 years. “Hesitating a minute he said ‘I am addicted to — pound cake.’
“This is when I realized that there are and always will be things no one tells you about when you get married,” she said.
Life is going to throw some tough obstacles in your way, especially if you’ve been together for a big portion of your lives.
Hillary Thompson said she and her husband of 20 years have weathered a lot of storms together, but have pledged to be together through thick and thin. She also emphasized the importance of laughing together in the good times.
“Through it all, he has remained my rock,” she told INSIDER. “I call him ‘the anchor to my kite.’ He is steady, loyal, and my comic relief in hard times. We laugh a LOT. I don’t know why I was so lucky to find him, but it has been hard work over the years to maintain a wonderful marriage. Don’t get me wrong — it hasn’t been all blue skies — but we’ve learned to hold on to each other in the storms of life.”
Just like any other relationship, a romantic one needs constant attention.
Don’t take your partnership as a given. Making sure that your relationship’s success is a conscious priority is a hugely important factor of whether or not it works.
“Like an orchid, it needs nurturing and care,” said Jeanne Spelman, who has been married for 30 years. “Marriages need intimacy (emotional and physical), listening and communication, cooperation, and forgiveness. A marriage thrives on fun and laughter, but it deepens and grows on hard times shared and conflict resolved.”
Originally published on Business Insider.
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