Many of my clients have asked me over the years: What makes a relationship work? There are many theories either based on someone's opinion or based on research like in Dr. John Gottman's case.
In the end every relationship is different and what works for one, might not work for another. Having said this, there are a few basic principles that help make a relationship long or longer lasting:
Sounds simple but once you have been together for a while the respect, interest and curiosity diminishes, as you get desensitized to your partner's ways. Many couples find that after a few years they wouldn't treat a friend as disrespectfully as they sometimes treat their partner. Looking at abusive relationships it becomes obvious that people give up the need to be respected for the little bit of apparent love and attention they get, which they probably didn't get enough of in their childhood.
Ask yourself: What role does mutual respect play in your relationship?
Willingness to continuously grow, as an individual and as a couple
We change and develop anyway, whether we want to or not. As a couple it is important to be open and willing to improve any aspect of self and the relationship on a continuous basis. Even though you're an adult now, this does not mean that your communication skills are unfaultable, right? Even though you've made love for all these years, are you really sure that what you're doing and experiencing is all there is?
Ask yourself: What areas of myself and of my relationship could I spend some time with this month or year and learn more about it? What could we do together as a couple?
Openness to get to know your partner again and again
You might think just because you've been together for 3, 5, 10 years that you know all there is to know about your partner. This would presuppose that nothing ever changes. The fact is that you are not the same person today that you were when you met your partner. Even on a physical sense the cells in your body will have totally replicated within seven years.
Ask yourself: What are we doing as a couple to know what's going on in the other person's life? Do we check-in with each other on a daily basis? Am I interested to hear what my partner has to say?
If any of the questions above have given you some areas to work on start today. If you find it challenging to do this on your own, find a couple's workshop, a communication class or find a counsellor or coach to support you in this journey together. You're doing not just your partner but yourself and your whole family a favor if you're happier where you are and with whom you're spending your life.