When you hear stories of couples who have been married for decades, remember that they didn't get there by accident. To make a long-term relationship work, both partners need to pour energy and time into that commitment. While there's no one-size-fits-all strategy to making a long-term relationship work, you can focus on building, strengthening and protecting the love so that its success in the long term is more likely.
Try Something Fun
One of the most important ingredients in your recipe for long-term success involves what psychologists call a positive memory bank. Look for opportunities to do something novel and exciting together as a couple. This experience creates a shared positive memory that strengthens the bond that you and your partner have between you two. Researchers have found that activities that specifically focus on overcoming a challenge are especially good at making couples fall more in love with each other. Try something that gets your blood pumping, such as bungee jumping or zip-lining, or attempt something that challenges you both mentally in a fun way, such as a weekend cooking class.
Resolve Past Conflicts
Unresolved conflicts from the past can create slow relationship rot due to resentment, bitterness and chronic denial. Couples who stay together for the long-term learn how to communicate hurts, irritations and frustrations in an honest and loving way instead of pretending the past hurts don't exist or, even worse, holding a grudge against their partner. Depending on how deep the past hurts have been, you and your lover may benefit from the expertise of a therapist or clinical psychologist. Such experts can help you work together to resolve and heal old wounds so you can experience the present with new joy and none of the baggage from the past.
Pick Your Battles
After resolving the past, turn your eye to the present moment and choose your battles wisely. Your partner is human -- not perfect -- and he will inevitably do something that angers or frustrates you. Likewise, you aren't perfect and will do something that annoys your romantic partner. For optimal success in a marriage or similar long-term relationship, couples must empower themselves to choose their battles wisely. The key to staying together is learning to let the little things go. Before getting into a fight, ask yourself if this is really something that's crucial for you both to discuss and fight about, or if it's something that you can compromise on. For example, it may be best to let housework annoyances go and save your energies for the issues that make a big difference in your relationship, such as financial ones.
See The Good
As you and your loved one stay together over the years, it may become easier and easier to pick up on their negative characteristics and forget the fuzzy love and passionate attraction that first drew you two together. One key to making a relationship work over the years is in keeping your focus on the good in your partner. When you find yourself picking up on negative traits and thinking negative thoughts, such as "He always does that wrong," take a deep breath and turn your mind's gaze toward something positive. The goal, says psychology professor Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., in "Psychology Today" magazine, is to engage in what she calls sentiment override, which means that couples must "remember more of the favorable than the unfavorable experiences they’ve shared together."
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