I think it’s safe to say that every person out there longs for the secret to a lasting love: those who have experienced heartbreak; those who’ve just entered a new and exciting relationship; and even those who’ve never had love but can’t wait for their shot at it. Well, whoever you are and wherever you fall on this scale, I’m sorry to inform you that there isn’t one key that fits the lock of love. Instead, a healthy relationship and lasting love takes introspection and hard work. So, while we can’t offer you a magic trick or potion for creating a lasting relationship, we can offer you some tips for bettering yourself and ultimately strengthening your relationship.
Start With You: 5 Lessons
There’s no way to ensure your relationship will last forever—nothing in life is guaranteed—but you can take proactive steps toward strengthening it. And one of those essential steps is working on yourself, according to Laura Braziel, Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist: “In my professional opinion, the secret to a lasting love is YOU, not the other person. Relationships have the potential to strengthen with time and experience if you are willing to grow.” She goes on to name a few areas, which require personal growth that will likely impact the strength of your relationship:
- Learning how to regulate emotional reactions
- Learning how to take influence and admit fault
- Learning how to set and respect boundaries
- Learning how to validate others
If you master the above areas, then all of your relationships are sure to improve—not just the one with your significant other. Furthermore, once you’ve taken the time to learn these basics, you can shift your focus to the specific needs of your partner and your partnership.
Professional Tips for Strengthening Your Relationship
Now, in regards to what you can do specifically for your partner and your relationship, Afton Strate—Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist and owner of Anchoring Peace Therapy, LLC in Overland Park, Kansas—is here to offer a few tips. Strate has spent the last eight years working with couples in various stages of their relationship; she specializes in working with premarital and married couples and is an expert on helping couples foster healthy relationships. Here are her tips:
Tip 1: Understand your love connection.
“Understand what makes your partner feel connected to you. The Five Love Languages by Chapman is a free online quiz, which can be a great way for couples to explore the love language that helps you feel most connected to your partner. Chapman calls the love languages: receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service (devotion), and physical tough. When you understand your love language you can be intentional about how you show your love and affection toward their partner (e.g., giving your wife a back rub at night when her love language is physical tough or discussing an article with your husband because he feels that is quality time together).”
Tip 2: Create shared values.
“When we come into relationships, we bring with us our individual values that we hold most important to our lives. It is important for individuals to know not only what matters to them, but also what your relationship will have as your shared values. Our relationship values help to guide us in our vision for the future and should influence how we make decisions in our life. If we aren’t in agreement about what our purpose is for our relationship, then it can lead to a lot of power struggle and conflict. I would suggest that couples create a shared mission statement for your relationship and revisit their marital goals on their anniversary. I have worked with couples that will even have their marriage values displayed in their home as a reminder of their shared values.”
Tip 3: Prioritize relationship check-ups.
“It can be extremely beneficial for couples to speak with a therapist to help guide them as they navigate their relationship. Whether you are exclusively dating, engaged, or married, investing in your relationship can help save couples from long-term relationship distress. I find the Gottman Institute’s Online Couple’s Check-Up to be a great assessment tool when working with couples. John Gottman has used over 40 years of couples research to highlight the strength and grow areas in your relationship. It is unfortunate when couples focus too much on planning and investing in their wedding day (The Knot reported the average wedding was $35,329 in 2016), yet are unwilling to invest in working with a professional to help educate and support them in preparing for the years of marriage to follow.”