The Keys to a Successful Relationship
by

A relationship is like a dance: to stay close without stepping on each other's toes takes practice.Harriet Lerner, The Dance of Intimacy

Being in a loving long-term romantic relationship is one of the surest routes to long term happiness. But it doesn’t happen naturally, it requires certain skills. The good news is that these skills can all be developed, they’re all skills you should already be developing, and they’ll help you with all your other relationships as well. Here they are:

Expectations: Discuss what you each expect out of the relationship, what you’re committing to, and what your respective roles will be.
Expect ups and downs in even the best relationship, and realize that love isn’t an absolute that you’re either in or out of but something that ebbs and flows over time.

Openness: Open communication is necessary to genuinely know your partner and let them know you. You can’t help your partner utilize their strengths, move in the direction of their passions, and realize their dreams if you don’t know their strengths, passions, and dreams.
You also need to discuss attitudes toward the topics that cause nearly all relationship problems: gender roles, money, relatives, sex, and children.

Intimacy: Work at strengthening your closeness, because there is no stasis; if you aren’t getting closer together, you’re drifting further apart. Foster intimacy though honesty, acceptance, and trust. Spend time together. Touch. And for at least a few minutes a day, stare into each other’s eyes.

Caring: Be as concerned for their well-being as for your own, and look for opportunities to make their life better. Help them to succeed, and celebrate their successes with them.

Empathy: See things from your partner’s perspective as well as your own. Seek to understand before seeking to be understood.

Respect: Respect your partner, and act in a way that earns their respect, both inside and outside the relationship. Respect them even when you’re disagreeing. Listen without judgment. Accept them as they are, and don’t try to change them, but help them to change in ways they want to change. Focus on your partner’s strengths and cultivate a high opinion of them.

Self-Respect: It’s much easier for someone to like you when you like yourself. Don’t compromise your authenticity or sacrifice who you are for the sake of the relationship. And don’t put your partner’s needs above your own; treat each of you as equally important.

Constructive Disagreement: When disagreeing, don’t criticize, don’t blame, and don’t be hurtful or bitter. Most relationship problems start with hurt feelings that escalate. Learn to manage differences and conflict through communication, negotiation, and cooperation.
Solve problems as they arise, and never go to sleep angry.

Teamwork: Make decisions together, with the interests of both given equal weight. In the best relationships, each person cares as much about the other as about themselves.

Progress: View the relationship as an opportunity for you two to co-create your ideal lives together. Be committed to the continual development of each of you individually as well as the relationship itself. Look for opportunities to align your desires and goals with each other and to create shared meaning.

Positivity: Have the celebration of life and of each other be the emotional tone of the relationship. Say positive things to and about your partner at least five times more often than you say negative things.

Gratitude: Don’t take the relationship for granted. You are becoming an amazing person, in the fortunate position to be highly selective about whom you spend time with. You have chosen a wonderful person to build a life with, and you are blessed that they have chosen you as well.

Adventure and Variety: Share new, exciting, challenging activities with them. Seek out and embrace spontaneity together. Foster bonding and intimacy by infusing each day with spontaneity. Make romance and seduction lifelong passions.

Attraction: Remember that we don’t choose what we’re attracted to, but we do choose whether to be attractive. Do the things that your partner finds attractive, and tell your partner all the things you find attractive about them, inside and out.

Effort: Don’t think good relationships just happen. All the skills on this list require ongoing effort to master.

Love: Without love, time turns couples into enemies or strangers.
With love, anything is possible. When two people love each other as much as themselves, the tug-of-war disappears, and compromise and sacrifice become meaningless concepts because what’s best for one is best for the other. When you love another as much as yourself, working at the relationship becomes a joy and not a chore, and you celebrate the opportunity to help your partner’s inner radiance shine more brightly.

Today's Activity

  • Rate your current (or most recent) relationship 1-10 along each of the above characteristics. Ask your partner to do the same, then compare answers. What would need to be different to get a higher rating for each? What would a 10 look like? (If you don’t know, study some successful couples to find out what they have and how they got it.) What impact would that have on the quality of your life? What steps can you take to make that happen?
  • To cultivate gratitude, spend a few minutes writing about why your relationship is better than some others you know about. Then share this with your partner.