Falling in love is great, but what about your happily ever after? In order to go the distance with your significant other, it's crucial to ask the question: What makes a relationship work? Sometimes, the catalysts at the beginning of your journey (physical chemistry, good small talk, and similar interests) may not be enough for long-term success. In other words, your relationship may need to get a little deeper if it's going to last.
"Relationships that work are the ones that are worked on," says Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., LMFT, a psychotherapist and emotional fitness expert. If you feel like your relationship could use some work, you're in luck because we've rounded up the six elements that both parties in a successful relationship should have.
Life's tough, and one perk of being part of a pair is that you don't have to do it alone. "Having a partner you can trust creates a buffer between you and the difficulties of the world," says Dr. Goldsmith. For instance, if you are battling an eating disorder and feel ashamed, having someone you love and trust by your side can make your struggle at least a bit more bearable. Feeling supported by someone you trust can take a lot of emotional weight off your shoulders.
You should be open and upfront with your partner, too, no matter how difficult the topic or situation may be. So if you feel like you've been contributing financially more than your partner, having an honest discussion about it won't be awkward because you both trust and respect each other. Of course, the feeling should go both ways.
No matter how often the two of you talk, you may not be communicating well. Quality conversation is all about tapping into your S.O.'s emotions and understanding what they're feeling. Of course, they also need to feel comfortable expressing emotions clearly enough for you to empathize. No matter how well you know each other, you'll never be mind-readers, so making sure that you're relaying how you're feeling when you're not happy is key. For example, if you're upset because your date is late to dinner, don't spend the evening being passive-aggressive and hoping they'll catch on that you're angry. Instead, have a mature conversation about it.
Separate (But Connected) Lives
In order to be content in a couple, you have to be content as an individual. When you have a fulfilling job, supportive friends, and exciting passions, you'll have a strong sense of self, which is pretty important when you're in a relationship. If you don’t have your own interests outside of your partner and your relationship, you’ll wind up putting too much pressure on them to make you feel happy.
Try to establish inter-independence in your relationship, which will create a sense of balance. It will also ensure that neither of you is leaning on the other to feel validated or worthy.
Similar Life Goals
If you've always wanted children, you shouldn't have to sacrifice being a mother because he doesn't want to be a father. Similarly, if living on the same coast as your family is important to you, but she's dying to live on the other side of the country, she may not be the one for you. When it comes to successful couples, "you both know what you want out of life, what your common goals are, what you wish to accomplish in life, and are firmly committed to achieving things together," admits Abigail Brenner, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist.
Quality Time Together
Your love language may not be quality time, but that doesn't mean it isn't important. The great thing about quality time is that it's totally open to interpretation. Whether you and your partner feel closest when you're watching a black-and-white movie on the weekend or cooking your favorite meal together on a Friday night, it's imperative that you keep the connection alive and well. Reminding each other why you're together will only strengthen what you have.
Sometimes unpredictable events throw a wrench in your plans, so being able to stay positive through a less-than-ideal moment is crucial. While some people are naturally optimistic and positive, others have to think their way to happiness. No matter which type of person you are, being able to be positive is important for a relationship's long-term success. For instance, if you are having trouble getting pregnant and it's dragging you down emotionally, having a partner who can lift you back up will strengthen your bond and your ability to get through hard times in the future.