What Makes Love Last?

What Happy Couples Do That The Rest of Us Don’t

What is the difference between happy and unhappy couples? What do happy couples do to make their love last longer? What secrets do happily married people know that the rest of us haven’t figured out yet?

“There are couples who remain deeply in love for many, many years. Even allowing for setbacks, frictions, times of estrangement, and the like, they preserve over time the essential meaning of romanticlove. And there are couples for whom romance, whatever that terms signifies, vanishes almost from the moment of marriage,” says Nathaniel Branden in the book The Psychology of Love, edited by Sternberg and Barnes.

Branden lists behaviors and characteristics successful couples—those couples who remain happily in love over long periods of time—have.

1. They tend to express love verbally. They say “I love you,” or some equivalent. Verbalizing love ensures that your feelings don’t just stay inside you. It helps couples stay in touch with and connected to each other.

2. They tend to be physically affectionate,  which includes hand-holding, hugging, kissing, cuddling and comforting.

3. They tend to express their love sexually.  Sex is integrated with their feelings of caring, although there are great variations their frequency of lovemaking. They invest loving emotions in the act, and seem to have adopted the attitude “With my body I thee worship.”

4. They express their appreciation and admiration. Happy couples feel visible, appreciated and valued, because they talk about what they enjoy, like, admire or respect about the other.

5. They participate in mutual self-disclosure.  There is a willingness to share their inner lives with each other. They share thoughts, feelings, hopes, wishes, dreams, hurts, angers, yearnings and fears.

6. They offer each other an emotional support system and are nurturing to each other. They are there for each other in times of illness, difficulty, hardship and crisis. They are often best friends to each other, and are generally helpful, nurturing and devoted to each other’s interests and well-being.

7. They express love with gifts (big or small, but given on more than just routine occasions), or tasks performed to lighten the burden of their partner, such as sharing the work or doing more than agreed upon chores.

8. They accept demands and put up with shortcomings. Demands and shortcomings are part of every happy relationship, and couples who know how to live together happily do not torment themselves or eachother over “imperfections.” Each knows he or she is not perfect, and does not demand perfection of the other. This does not mean they to not ask for—and sometimes get—changes in behavior they find undesirable.

9. They create time to be alone together. The time that you and your partner spend in the company of relatives, friends or colleagues can be a source of pleasure, but it is not a substitute for time spent alone together. Nothing is. Happy couples seem to understand that time together is a glue that keeps their relationship close and vital. Having shared interests and activities is one way they achieve that goal.

Perhaps one other behavior should be added to this list:

10. Happy couples have figured out healthy, positive and non-wounding ways of dealing with grievances, disagreements and past wounds. Absence of conflict does not create closeness or intimacy. Good negotiating, conflict resolution, problem solving and compromising skills do.

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