With the chance of divorce hovering around 50%, people often ask, how can you make a relationship last forever? In this post, I share my top 3 tips.
1) Companionate love. In the U.S., 2 types of love generally underlie marriage: romantic and companionate. Romantic love is common in the early phases of a relationship. It is characterized by euphoria, intense physical attraction, frequent sexual interactions, and obsessive thinking about a partner. At times, it can feel like an emotional roller coaster. Passionate love tends to fade after the first two years of a relationship and couples become especially vulnerable to breakup. It is therefore important to wait on marital decisions until that 2-year mark has passed. Couples can then assess whether they have transitioned into companionate love. This love-type is more stable and predictable than passionate love, although less exciting. The couple’s bond can be described as deep, comfortable, and caring. Research demonstrates that the happiest, most long-lasting couples are best friends: they enjoy each other’s company, rely on one another for emotional support, spend their leisure time together, and have many things in common. The risk with companionate love is that partners actually begin to feel like friends. So what can they do to keep the spark alive? Read on to Tip #2.
2) Need fulfillment. Satisfying relationships are characterized by a mix of predictability and novelty. Too much chaos and spontaneity is maladaptive but too little leads to boredom. When people get bored in their relationships, they are at risk for infidelity and divorce. Partners can avoid boredom by inserting fresh, exciting activities into their lives. They might go salsa dancing, skydiving, or try new spots for their dates or vacations. Novel activities outside the bedroom lead to greater passion inside the bedroom. A second way partners can keep their relationship fulfilling is to ensure they are meeting each other’s needs. Everyone has distinct needs so partners must communicate and learn what is important to each of them. One person might value delicious home-cooked meals whereas another prioritizes frequent sexual activity, for example. Those who meet their partner’s needs–and do so better than any alternative partner could do–will experience high commitment in their union.
3) Reciprocal dedication. The final point is that partners should believe in making the relationship work, no matter what. Although many people enter marriage expecting it to last forever, somewhere along the way, at least one partner changes their mind. It is vital to talk to your partner about their views on commitment. Do they believe in deal breakers? If your goal is to make the relationship last forever, your partner needs to feel the same and you both must be willing to do whatever it takes. Prior to marriage, it can be beneficial to attend premarital counseling with a licensed therapist because differing views will get discussed and sorted out. Partners who engage in premarital counseling are also more open to seeing a therapist when they encounter marital difficulties, which augments their chances of staying together. Remember, the only people who can break up the relationship are the partners themselves. If you both remain committed to making it work no matter what, nothing can stop you.