Wellbeing

How To Stay Happy In A Long-Term Relationship

I’m a bit of a traditionalist in the sense that I think a good thing should last a long time. Watches, cars, even clothes. If I’m going to invest my money or time into it, it should go the distance. Relationships, in my opinion, are no different. If you invest in them, give it all you got, then they can last a long time. It can be done.

There was a quiz doing the rounds a couple of weeks ago that used data to determine the chances of your relationship lasting. It asked about each other’s level of education, how often you see each other’s family, how long you’ve been together so far and then tallies up the likelihood that you’ll last. While this is a fun — and probably accurate for all I know — little experiment, I don’t think it touches on a lot of things that are also essential to a happy, longlasting relationship.

I’m no expert. But I did look up what the actual experts say. And they reckon, if you’re doing these things right, you and your partner are going to be pretty okay.

Be in it for the right reasons

Let’s start from why you’ve chosen to spend so much time with this person in the first place. Are they hot? Smart? Really funny? They like all the same books as you? Awesome, what a bonus. But do you also deeply respect and admire them to the core of their being? Because that’s the thing that matters. It’s what makes relationships last. Not whether or not they look good in a red dress.

Things like looks, social capital and shared interests are great, but it can’t be the only reason you’re together. Alain de Botton says, “Compatibility should be an achievement of love, not it’s precondition.” Or, as my favourite line from 500 Days Of Summer goes, “Just because she likes the same bizzaro crap you do doesn’t make her your soul mate.”

modern family

Have realistic expectations

Advice blogger Mark Manson asked over 1,500 of his readers that are in long-term happy marriages what the key is to their success. One of the most popular responses is that you need to have realistic expectations. Alain de Botton has told us this too.

The love we’ve come to know and understand, the love in movies, TV shows, poems and songs is a disastrously unrealistic representation of what actual, day-to-day love really is.

One of the people who wrote in, Paula, said, “They go into relationship with these unrealistic expectations. Then, the instant they realize they aren’t ‘gaga’ anymore, they think the relationship is broken and over, and they need to get out. No! There will be days, or weeks, or maybe even longer, when you aren’t all mushy-gushy in-love. You’re even going to wake up some morning and think, ‘Ugh, you’re still here….’ That’s normal!”

Actually spend time together

Sure, you watch a lot of TV together. But how often do you actually speak to each other? I get it, modern life is exhausting and it’s so much easier just to flick on a show and relax. But if you do this too often, you’ll find that the romance has burned out of the relationship and you’re nothing but mates who talk about House of Cards a lot. Which, you know, is also cool but it shouldn’t prevent you from the relationship stuff too.

Professor at Oakland University and author of 5 Simple Steps To Take Your Marriage Good To Great, Terri Orbuch, told the Greatist, “Saying and doing small, simple expressions of gratitude every day yields big rewards. When people feel recognised as special and appreciated, they’re happier in that relationship and more motivated to make the relationship better and stronger.”

Go on frequent dates. Have sex once a week. Tell your partner that you love them a lot. Spend time with each other’s family. Don’t look at your phone during dinner. Buy them something that made you think of them (gifts work!). All of that stuff.

Keep yourself happy

We should all know by now that relationships are just one part of your life that make you feel fulfilled. They shouldn’t be the only part of your life that makes you feel fulfilled. Not does it put too much strain on your partner, it leaves you in an ‘all your eggs, one basket’ situation.

Couples counsellor David Waters told The Telegraph, “Developing a relationship with yourself, deepened by solitary pursuits, hobbies and taking time out from work and relationships, will pay huge dividends with your partner.”

Make sure that you stay happy and fulfilled doing and exploring things on your own. The very least you’ll get from it is some really good stories to share with each other.

Here’s to a long future, modern couples!