I've always been staunchly against the idea that you should change yourself to please someone else, but I'll admit that this year my perspective shifted. My younger self championed a hardline approach to dating (if someone didn't like the way I looked, spoke, or acted, then that someone wasn't the right person for me), but since transitioning into a long-term relationship, I've started to realize there's a lot of value in being self-reflective. You can learn a lot about yourself and the longevity of your relationship by pausing to ask, Am I being the best version of myself?
While relationships are a tough field to quantify, science suggests there are key traits that are seen as universally attractive or are believed to correlate to a stronger relationship. No, I'm not talking about wearing your hair in a certain way or faux-laughing at their jokes—experts argue that cultivating select traits and habits could be the key to relationship nirvana.
People in happy, long-lasting relationships have these six things in common—do you?
They're Emotionally Transparent
Couples therapist Brian Gleason says there is one skill that separates a strong couple from one likely to experience issues. He claims "emotional fluency," the ability to be completely transparent with your significant other, is the key to a successful, long-lasting marriage.
"We're just not trained to speak in emotional language … [but] the more that we're able to put [our experiences] into some sort of language and convey it to our partner … the more empathy there is in the relationship," he told New York Magazine.
Try it today: Don't wait until a big argument to voice your feelings. Next time you find yourself suppressing your concerns, broach the topic in an open, non-accusatory way.
They're Not Addicted to Social Media
Take a look at your Facebook and Instagram profiles. How often do you post pictures of you and your S.O. on social media? Experts argue that the frequency of posts could speak volumes about how content you are in your relationship.
As an article in Business Insider infers, couples who are comfortable in their relationship don't feel the need to seek validation from friends and followers. They're naturally more present on a day-to-day basis and address issues in person, instead of via passive-aggressive posts.
"There is … a clear connection between how genuinely content you are with your relationship, and how often you post about it," they suggest. "In other words, there seems to be little appeal in constantly writing updates about the relationship … [if the joy] is in being together, not in posting about being together."
Interestingly, The Happiness Institute found that a one-week Facebook hiatus was all it took for people to feel happier.
Try it today: Leave your phone by the front door when you arrive home, and resolve to give your full attention to your partner. If you do feel the urge to scroll through your feed, walk to the door and check your phone while standing—it'll make you aware of the frequency you use your phone and encourage you to be more present.
We often associate sexting with hookup culture, but a 2011 study found that it could be an integral part of making a long-term relationship last. Researchers surveyed 459 heterosexual undergrads and asked them how comfortable they needed to feel before they sent a sexual text message. They discovered that the belief that insecure people are more likely to sext is not true. In fact, people who feel more secure in their "attachment styles" are more likely to sext.
"What this tells us is that people may be concerned with pleasing their partner's desire—or perceived desire—to engage in sexting, and that it is the comfort with intimacy in relationships that may allow sexting to occur," explains researcher Rob Weisskirch. "When there is greater relationship commitment, this continues to be the case."
Try it today: If you tend to shy away from sharing intimate thoughts with your S.O., change it up. It only takes a few words to build excitement and ignite passion.
They Spend Quality Time Together Every Day
We know it's important to share quality time with your S.O. to nurture and build the relationship, but a recent study has found that happy couples end their day with one social ritual in particular: drinking. The research, published in The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Series, found that older couples who drank together experience "increased marital quality" over time.
"We're not sure why this is happening, but it could be that couples that do more leisure time activities together have better marital quality," said lead researcher Kira Birditt, Ph.D. She noted that they don't suggest drinking more, but rather recognize that shared rituals can help strengthen a relationship.
Try it today: Create an end-of-day ritual with your S.O. to relax and catch up. Whether that includes pouring a glass of wine or simply talking while you prepare dinner is up to you.
It turns out that being nice does pay off. According to a study published in the British Journal of Psychology, people have more sex when they behave altruistically, meaning that they are nicer and more thoughtful of those around them.
Researchers asked 192 women and 105 men to complete a self-report about their personality traits and sexual habits. People who scored high on the altruism scale also reported having more sex all around—in a relationship, casually, and with more people.
Try it today: Quit playing hard to get. If this study is to be believed, being nicer and more considerate of others pays off tenfold.
They Compliment and Recognize Their S.O
Want a great marriage? According to Jeff Haden, author of TransForm: Dramatically Improve Your Career, Business, Relationships, and Life, the secret is giving your partner positive reinforcement on a regular basis.
In an article for Inc., Haden says the most successful couples compliment, recognize, and praise each other often, not just on momentous occasions like an anniversary.
"Think of it this way: It's easy to recognize great employees; after all, they do great things. But it's very possible that consistent praise is one of the reasons they've become great," he explains.
Try it today: What did your partner do today that was kind, compassionate, or a little out of the ordinary. Send them a quick message to show that you recognize it and appreciate them.
Searching for more ways to strengthen your relationship? Heed this advice from relationship experts.