We know that no relationship is perfect and, with the UK divorce rate at over 40%, the reality is some couples simply can’t make it work long-term. But that doesn’t stop us striving for a happy and harmonious romantic life – and what about the lucky ones who do get it right? Is there a secret to their success? To find out, we spoke to relationship and sex therapist Juliet Grayson, author of new book Landscapes of the Heart.
Whether you’re already coupled up or still looking for that elusive life partner, here’s everything you need to know about finding and preserving lasting love...
1. Be generous
The number one secret to a happy relationship is generosity on both sides, but this is not always easy. My advice would be to try competitive generosity, where each partner finds subtle ways to try and be slightly more generous than the other, whether with kindness, time, attention or even gifts. This approach will build up positivity in the relationship, which will in turn help the relationship survive more challenging phases.
2. Schedule date nights
Date nights are a fantastic idea and can keep a relationship alive. Most couples who come to see me for therapy have forgotten to have fun, and I always encourage them to take time just for the two of them. Both partners need to ‘feed’ a relationship to make it work, putting in the effort, time and care. One easy way to do this is to schedule time together.
3. Don’t fear conflict
We are all different and conflict is not necessarily a bad sign. For some couples, fighting is the way they express love, and the day they stop fighting is when they have finally given up on one another.
4. Don’t label
Try to never negatively label your partner. For example, if you call someone ‘lazy’ for not unloading the dishwasher then this feels like you are criticising who they are as a person. Instead, it is better to highlight the behaviour itself and say how you would like them to change it.
5. Work out how to make up
Think about how you make up after an argument and develop a ritual for that. You could, for example, agree to give each other a hug within four hours of a fight, even if you are still feeling angry – this is a great way to help you both start moving on from a row.
6. Establish core values
The couples who have the happiest time in their later years together are those who share core values. They are those individual things that are important to us, give our life meaning and make us want to get up in the morning. Couples who share similar values, whether that’s a dedication to continued growth or stability, will find it easier to support one another.
7. Share interests
Having mutual interests is highly valuable for couples. Partners who share interests will usually enjoy spending time together and have great conversations, even after many years of coupledom. Try and invest in building these hobbies or passions together early on in your relationship.
8. Don’t try to change your partner
It's probably true that we all try to change our partners in some way. However, doing this implies we do not accept them as they are. We all want to be loved for who we are so you should always avoid trying to change your other half.
9. Develop shared goals
It helps when a couple has clarified what they both hope for in the relationship and have a shared dream of what they are creating together, so they can see the bigger picture they are working towards. This could be having children and a family, creating a beautiful home, developing a strong network of friends or working on a project. Whatever your goal, having a shared vision will help you move forward together.
Landscapes of the Heart: The Working World of a Sex and Relationship Therapist by Juliet Grayson is out now.