When it comes to our relationships, who doesn’t wish for ‘Happily Ever After’? It’s the ideal romance that lasts and lasts. But is it within our reach?
According to one study of marriages from 1980 to 2010, the divorce rate is estimated to have doubled over the past two decades among persons over age 35. The actual rate of divorce is currently estimated to be around 42%. However disheartening that figure may sound, that study does not count non-married partnerships that end in separation.
With so many relationships ending in divorce, we begin to question if it’s even possible to keep a good thing from ending too soon. How to we prevent our own relationship from becoming a statistic? With that in mind, here are four essential ingredients in your recipe for a lasting relationship.
4 Ingredients For A Lasting Relationship
1. Sustain the sense of excitement
Unfortunately the spark of attraction that brought you together is not enough to keep you together long term. Some couples easily slide into the boredom of routine, careers, and raising children. When your daily conversations are only about what to cook for dinner and who should take out the trash, it’s difficult to remember the passion that you once felt for your partner.
On the other hand, you can keep the excitement going by adding new and interesting activities to your relationship. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money or plan outlandish vacations to reignite the excitement.
Start by adding something small and new once a week, like going for a drive in a neighborhood that you haven?t been to before. Even this seemingly minimal change gives you new topics to talk about and a fresh perspective. Then you can go for bigger thrills, like a hot air balloon ride or a whale watching tour. The key ingredient is to keep it fresh and interesting.
2. Listen more than you speak
Imagine that you came home from work with the exciting news that your boss loved your presentation and when you told your partner, they didn’t look up from their cell phone and only muttered “Uh huh, that’s great” without any enthusiasm in their voice. You’d probably feel upset, angry, frustrated, unloved and unappreciated.
Instead, picture this in response to your good news; your partner immediately makes eye contact with you when you begin speaking, they set their phone down, they stand up and hug you after you tell them the good news and they respond with “Oh, that?s fantastic! I knew you would do great on that! Let’s go celebrate at your favorite place!”
The difference is obvious, and you know which one you’d prefer to receive from your partner. Just like the golden rule of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, give your partner the courtesy of responding with the same enthusiastic attention when they talk.
Clear communication is only part of a good relationship. Being mentally and emotionally present for your partner is an equally important ingredient for a lasting relationship.
3. Be willing to negotiate
You really want to go to see a new movie that just came out, but your partner had a long day at work and just wants to rest at home. So you make your case and your partner makes theirs. You just had an argument. How you resolve this is a big ingredient in making your relationship last.
They key to negotiating is seeking a win-win for both of you. You give a little, they give a little, and you both end up happy with the result. In this scenario, you might suggest that your partner catch a nap first and you can go see a later movie.
Respecting that you both have needs is key to how well you cooperate. If your partner made a sacrifice so that you could have your way, show appreciation for the fact that they gave up something that they really wanted so that you could be happy.
If there are major things that you can’t compromise on, like having children, converting to your partner’s religion or moving far away from your family for their work relocation, these may be a breaking point for the relationship. Ideally your limits on these topics are things that you discussed prior to making a long term commitment to your partner.
4. Take commitment seriously
Wanting the relationship to last is not enough; you have to take action to demonstrate your devotion to your partner. A study found that regardless of how much the partners wanted a lasting relationship, the inclination to engage in behaviors that supported the relationship was more important to how long the relationship lasted.
On the other hand, if one partner is doing all of the difficult work, for example, making sacrifices, apologizing, asking about their partner’s feelings, or tackling issues while the other partner does not engage in these behaviors, researchers found that the relationship was more likely to end.
Want to learn more about what couples do to keep their relationship? Click here for further reading on this topic.