If binge-watching “Jane the Virgin” and “Grace and Frankie” on Netflix has taught us anything, it’s that relationships are messy.
Personal experience proves it too: From our eighth-grade romance to our most up-to-date breakup drama, “love isn’t easy” may be a life lesson we all know only too well.
No matter your status — single, dating, engaged, or married — relationships take work. They end with tears and empty Ben & Jerry’s or last until forever may depend upon countless factors, but your actions, words, and thoughts undoubtedly play a task.
One thing that’ll offer you a plus within the game of love? Absorbing all the wisdom you’ll from relationship therapists, researchers, matchmakers, and more.
Here, we’ve distilled it right down to the absolute bests advice 15 experts have learned. No matter your personal situation, their words may assist you find the key to long-lasting happiness.
GET INTO A HEALTHY MINDSET
1. Search for someone with similar values
“For long-lasting love, the more similarity (e.g., age, education, values, personality, hobbies), the higher. Partners should be especially sure that their values match before stepping into marriage.
Although other differences are often accommodated and tolerated, a difference in value is especially problematic if the goal is long-lasting love.
Another secret for an extended marriage: Both partners got to plan to making it work, regardless of what. The sole thing which will hack a relationship are the partners themselves.”
— Kelly Campbell, PhD, professor of psychology and human development at California State University, San Bernardino.
2. Never take your partner without any consideration
“This may sound obvious, but you can’t imagine what percentage people come to couple therapy too late, when their partner is completed with a relationship and needs to finish it.
It is vital to understand that everybody potentially features a verge of collapse, and if their needs aren’t met, or they don’t feel seen by the opposite, they’re going to quite likely find it elsewhere.
Many people assume that simply because they’re OK without things they need so is their partner. ‘No relationship is perfect’ shouldn’t be used as a rationalization for complacency.”
— Irina Firstein, LCSW, individual and couples’ therapist.
3. Stop trying to be each other’s “everything”
“‘You are my everything may be a lousy pop-song lyric and a good worse relationship plan. Nobody is often ‘everything’ to anyone. Create relationships outside the connection, or the connection isn’t getting to work anymore.”
— Matt Lundquist, LCSW, MSEd, founding father of Tribeca Therapy.
LOVE MAY BE A VERB
4. Do or say something daily to point out your appreciation
“Saying and doing small, simple expressions of gratitude a day yields big rewards. When people feel recognized as special and appreciated, they’re happier therein relationship and more motivated to form the connection better and stronger.
And once I say simple, I actually mean it. Make small gestures that show you’re paying attention: Hug, kiss, hold hands, buy a little gift, send a card, fix a favorite dessert, put gas within the car, or tell your partner, ‘You’re sexy,’ ‘You’re the simplest dad,’ or ‘Thank you for being so wonderful.’”
— Terri Orbuch, PhD, professor at Oakland University and author of 5 Simple Steps to require Your Marriage from Good to Great.
5. Confirm you’re meeting your partner’s needs
“The favorite thing I even have learned about love is that it’s a trade, and a social exchange, not just a sense. Loving relationships is a process by which we get our needs met and meet the requirements of our partners too.
When that exchange is mutually satisfying, then good feelings still flow. When it’s not, then things turn sour, and therefore, the relationship ends.
That is why it’s important to concentrate to what you and your partner actually do for every other as expressions of love… not just how you are feeling about one another within the moment.”
— Jeremy Nicholson, MSW, PhD, psychologist and dating expert.
GETTIN’ JIGGY WITH IT
6. Don’t just choose the large O
“Sex isn’t almost orgasms. It’s about sensation, emotional intimacy, stress relief, improved health (improved immune and cardiovascular system), and increased emotional bonding together with your partner, because of the wonderful release of hormones thanks to physical touch. There are more reasons to possess sex than simply getting off.”
— Kat Van Kirk, PhD, licensed marriage and sex therapist.
7. Don’t forget to keep things hot
“Many times people become increasingly shy with the person they love the more as time goes by. Partners begin to require their love without any consideration and forget to stay themselves turned on and to still seduce their partner.
Keep your ‘sex esteem’ alive by maintaining certain practices on a daily basis. This enables you to stay vibrant, sexy, and engaged in your sexual love.”
— Sari Cooper, LCSW, licensed individual, couples’, and sex therapist.
8. Remove the pressure on performance
“The penis-vagina model of sex comes with pressures, like having an orgasm at an equivalent time or the thought that an orgasm should happen with penetration. With these strict expectations come a pressure on performance that ultimately leads many to feel a way of failure and frustration.
Instead, attempt to expand your concept of sex to incorporate anything that involves close, intimate reference to your partner, like sensual massages, taking a pleasant shower or bath together, reading an erotic story together, twiddling with some fun toys… the chances are endless.
And if orgasm happens, great, and if not, that’s OK too. Once you expand your definition of sex and lower the pressure on orgasm and penetration, the anxiety around performance dissipates and your satisfaction can escalate.”
— Chelsea Holland, DHS, MS, sex and relationship therapist at The Intimacy Institute.
9. It’s not what you fight about — it’s how you fight
“Researchers have found that four conflict messages are ready to predict whether couples remain together or get divorced: contempt, criticism, stonewalling (or withdrawal), and defensiveness.
Together, they’re referred to as ‘The Four Horsemen.’ rather than resorting to those negative tactics, fight fairly: search for places where each partner’s goal overlaps into a shared common goal and build from that. Also, specialize in using ‘I’ versus ‘you’ language.”
— Sean Horan, PhD, professor of communication studies at Texas State University.
10. Try a nicer approach
“Research has shown that the way a drag is mentioned determines both how the remainder of that conversation will go and the way the remainder of the connection will go. repeatedly a problem is mentioned by attacking or blaming one’s partner, also referred to as criticism, and one among the killers of a relationship.
So start gently. Rather than saying, ‘You always leave your dishes everywhere the place! Why can’t you choose anything up?’ try a more gentle approach that specializes in your own emotional reaction, and a positive request.
For example: ‘I get annoyed once I see dishes within the front room. Would you please put them back within the kitchen when you’re finished?’”
— Carrie Cole, MEd, LPC-S, certified master trainer and director of research at The Gottman Institute.
11. Identify your “good conflicts”
“Every couple has what I call a ‘good conflict.’ In long-term relationships, we frequently feel that the thing you most need from your partner is the very thing he or she is the least capable of supplying you with. This isn’t the top of affection — it’s the start of deeper love! Don’t run from that conflict.
It’s alleged to be there. In fact, it’s your key to happiness as a few — if you both can name it and plan to perform on it together as a few. If you approach your ‘good conflicts’ bitterly, blame, and contempt, your relationship will turn toxic.”
— Ken Page, LCSW, psychotherapist and author of Deeper Dating: the way to Drop the Games of Seduction and find outs the facility of Intimacy.
MAKE TIME FOR SELF-CARE
12. Take time apart
“A friend taught me that regardless of how crazy you’re or how long you’ve been together, it’s important to require an exhaling from your partnership.
Hang out with girlfriends until late within the evening, take a weekend trip to go to family, or simply spend time ‘doing you’ for a short time. Then once you head home to Yours Truly, you’ll both be recharged and prepared to return together even stronger.”
— Amy Baglan, CEO of MeetMindful, a dating site for people into healthy living, well-being, and mindfulness.
13. Don’t abandon yourself
“There is one major explanation for relationship problems: self-abandonment.
We can abandon ourselves in many areas: emotional (judging or ignoring our feelings), financial (spending irresponsibly), organizational (being late or messy), physical (eating badly, not exercising), relational (creating conflict during a relationship), or spiritual (depending an excessive amount of on your partner for love).
When you plan to learn to like yourself instead of still abandon yourself, you’ll discover the way to create a loving relationship together with your partner.”
— Margaret Paul, PhD, relationship expert and co-creator of Inner Bonding.
14. Create a satisfying life
“Like many of us, I grew up believing that marriage required self-sacrifice. Many it. My wife, Linda, helped me see that I didn’t need to become a martyr and sacrifice my very own happiness to form our marriage work.
She showed me that my responsibility in creating a satisfying and joyful life for myself was as important as anything that I could do for her or the youngsters.
Over the years, it’s become increasingly clear to me that my responsibility to supply for my very own well-being is as important as my responsibility to others.
This is easier said than done, but it’s perhaps the only most vital thing we will do to make sure that our relationships are going to be mutually satisfying.”
— Charlie Bloom, MSW, relationship expert and author of That Which Doesn’t Kill Us: How One Couple Became Stronger at the Broken Places.
Sometimes we get so hung abreast of our expectations that we miss how beautiful our relationships are — and therefore, the lessons they’re teaching us. Realize that each relationship has valued, regardless of how long it lasts.
“There’s no such thing as a failed romance. Relationships simply evolve into what they were always meant to be. It’s best not to attempt to make something that’s meant to be seasonal or temporary into a lifelong relationship. Abandoning and luxuriate in the journey.”
— April Beyer, matchmaker and dating and relationship expert.