Wedding days are joyful days. You enjoy all the attention; everyone says, ‘congrats’, you feed all and sundry and become the cynosure of all eyes. But in a matter of hours, the fanfare is over. You are home alone as a couple. Life after walking down the aisle is most important.
The ‘living-happily-ever-after’ means, ‘in sickness, in health, poverty, wealth, redundancy and upheaval.’ How do you stay together as a couple without splitting up? What are their secrets? It’s not about being lucky enough to find your soul mate. Just as world-class athletes train hard for that “effortless” sprint on the day, everlasting relationships are based on commitment, strategy and hard work. Here’s how they do it.
1. Sharing a relationship roadmap
You both have to want your relationship to work. It helps to share a similar idea of what a successful relationship is. It may seem unromantic to sit your partner down for a frank discussion about where the relationship is going, but couples who don’t discuss it will often discover too late that they don’t share the same expectations of marriage, children and career. If you want your partnership to work, talk to your partner about how they see the future.
2. Make a commitment
It’s not enough to have similar expectations. Couples who stay together are the ones who trust each other. You don’t have to get married, have kids or take out a joint mortgage. You just need to let each other know that you’re committed to each other for the long haul. You’ll both feel more valued and secure. You should re-state your commitment as the years go by. Successful couples aren’t afraid to discuss the state of their relationship, no matter how long they’ve been together.
3. Give each other space
Give each other space to see friends and pursue separate interests. Time apart makes your time together all the more valuable, and getting some me-time makes you a happier and more relaxed person.
4. Know how to communicate
If your relationship is to last, you should be able to talk about things and feel that you’re being heard without being judged. Be honest if you’re feeling stressed or under the weather. Your partner will know not to take it personal when you come home feeling grouchy. It’s also important to talk about trivial stuff. Chat about your day at work, what’s going on in the news, assorted rubbish. Don’t turn into a couple that only ever talks about bills.
5. Know how to argue
If you grew up learning to avoid confrontation, you may be in the habit of storing resentments, and that’s never good news for a relationship. That’s not permission to hurl abuse at your partner. But you should get used to discussing your differences and working things out through negotiation and compromise. You don’t have to win every time.
6. Keep the fires burning
A good sex life brings couples closer together. In scientific terms, sex, cuddling and touching produce hormones such as oxytocin that boost your romantic attachment and relieve stress. In everyday terms, touching makes you feel wanted. Successful couples also know that their sex lives go through lean patches. If you can accept those patches without thinking ‘its over,’ you stand a better chance of staying together for life.
7. Accept change
Change can be difficult and even painful. A partner loses work? Or suffers health problems or bereavement? Know that successful couples don’t jump ship when things get rocky. They learn to adapt, and they support each other through good and bad times.
8. Winning couples never stop dating
Successful couples never stop going out on dates, even when they’ve lived together for years. If you don’t spend regular quality time together, you will drift apart. Take time out from work, hobbies or chores to spend time together. Sitting silently on the sofa watching television is not a date. A date is something you want to look good for, and where you can enjoy a change of scenery — a restaurant, the cinema or even a walk.
9. Keep some things secret
Honesty is not always the best policy. Too much information can hurt, even when you’re in love. A considerate partner would never tell the other if they fancied their best friend, or they’d once considered ending the relationship — a careless line that can do irreparable damage. Problems at work, health issues or a desire for more or different sex are things you should discuss honestly.
10. Winning couples are nice to each other
Of all the secrets of happy relationships, niceness may be the most important. If you’re nice to your partner, they will be nice to you, and your relationship will be a much happier place.