One of the biggest factors that contributes to our overall happiness and quality of life is the quality of our intimate relationship. In fact, in an 80-year long Harvard study, they found that happiness within the intimate relationship is a better predictor of living a long and happy life than social class, IQ, or genetics. Yet at the same time, we often hear that half of marriages end in divorce. The important thing to know is that an amazing relationship doesn’t happen by accident - it takes conscious effort to grow deeper in love and connection, while navigating the complexities of the human experience. It is not something that is worth leaving up to chance.
So, what can we do to cultivate a relationship that will thrive in the long term, and ultimately give us a long and happy life?
Here are our top 10 tips for a thriving relationship (with a bonus cherry on top):
1. Growth Mindset
Having a growth mindset is one of the most important - if not the most important - aspects to a thriving long-term relationship. The basis of having a growth mindset - rather than a fixed mindset - is holding the belief that you and your partner are capable of change, and seeing life’s challenges as opportunities to learn, and grow stronger as individuals and as a couple.
When you have a disagreement, do you see this as a sign that something is wrong with the relationship? Or do you see this as an opportunity to learn something about yourself and how to be an even better partner?
Challenges in life and in relationships are inevitable. When we can embrace this fact, and commit to using these challenges as fuel for growth, then our relationship becomes the platform for each partner’s personal growth, and for the continual deepening of mutual love and connection.
2. 100% Support
What percentage of the effort do you believe each partner should bring to the relationship? If you’re like most, you would say 50-50. But do you really want 50% from your partner? No, we need to be 100% committed, supportive and giving of ourselves to the relationship.
A relationship is most thriving when each person feels most fully and radiantly themselves - healthy, energized, fulfilled, living on purpose. We all want to feel like we are making progress in our lives. Ultimately, we all want to become the best version of ourselves. The ultimate act of love is to support your partner 100% in this pursuit. This means being the number one advocate for your partner. It means wanting what is truly best for your partner, even if it isn’t always what you want.
You may not always agree on everything, but having this foundation of 100% support will help you to each see what is important for the other, and find a way to navigate through differences in a caring way where both of your needs are being met. It will help you to say “I understand - whatever happens, I am here to support you through it. We’ll figure this out together”.
Keep in mind, this isn’t a matter of “I’ll give 100% if they give 100%”. You will only be able to receive 100% from your partner when you start giving 100%.
A beautiful thing happens when we support each other 100%. Each partner feels empowered to take action toward the goals and pursuits that inspire them, knowing that no matter what happens, they have their partner’s love and support. In this way, we can help each other to live great lives, actualize our potential, and create beautiful things together.
There is a fine balance to be had in a relationship between independence and co-dependence. When this balance is out of whack, issues are sure to develop over time.
Firstly, independence is a great place to start. Coming together in a relationship is a joining of two independent, whole beings, and creating a beautiful synergy between them. Once in a relationship, a certain amount of independence is beneficial, but too much can hinder the emotional connection. Too much independence may stop us from seeking emotional support from our partner, from sharing our true feelings, and from truly investing in the future of the relationship.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is co-dependence. Especially in the early stages of a relationship, it is easy to feel like your partner is your world, and they are meeting all of your needs. However, this cannot last, and at some point we need to find a healthy balance. Otherwise, we come to feel like we need our partner and rely on them for our happiness, and feel that we are responsible for their happiness too. It is important to have fulfillment from other areas of our lives as well, and to recognize that we ultimately can’t be responsible for another’s happiness, and we must be responsible for our own.
The ideal balance is what we call interdependence. This is a safe bond where partners can rely on each other, support each other, and find love and joy from one another, but also maintain their autonomous identity.
Often times, when there is an issue within our relationship, it can have very little to do with the relationship itself, but it is an indication that we need to expand our circles of love, rather than depending on only our relationship. This can mean spending more time with friends, learning to love and accept ourselves more fully, giving back to our communities, and cultivating a greater love of life. Recognize that love comes in many ways, and to have a meaningful life we need to widen our circles of love to include more than only our partner. Let’s widen our circles of love to include our friends and family, our community, and the world (can you imagine if everyone on Earth had this intention?! Let’s start with ourselves!).
4. Love Languages
The way that you express love may not be the way your partner best receives love. In the bestselling book, The 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman explains how there are 5 main ways that people give and receive love, and each person in the relationship will have their own primary love language.
The five love languages are: Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service and Physical Touch.
First, determine your own love language - what is it that your partner does that makes you feel most loved? Communicate this to your partner, and find out what their love language is.
Then, make a conscious effort to express love to your partner in their primary language. If your partner’s love language is receiving gifts, pick up their favourite treat on your way home from work. If it’s physical touch, give your partner a bum squeeze when you pass them in the kitchen. There are endless ways to express love to one another, but the important thing is that you are expressing it in a way that your partner can best receive it.
Keep in mind, expressing love in your partner’s language may not come naturally to you. You’ll need to make an effort and remind yourself (put it in your calendar or write yourself a note!), but the result is worth every bit of effort.
5. Routines and Habits
We’ve mentioned a few times that an amazing relationship requires effort, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be “hard”. Setting up habits and routines within your relationship is a way to help you actually do the things that you know are most important for your relationship, without having to work “hard” to make them happen.
Some habits that we have found most impactful in our own relationship include: Meditation
Weekly Date Night
No Phone Time
For more detail on these habits and others, download our “17 Habits of an Amazing Relationship” for free here.
Don’t leave it to chance to do the things you know are good for you.
6. Self Care
What is your number one self-care act? The thing that if you do it, makes you feel most recharged? This could be a great night sleep, meditation, working out, or whatever you do that charges you up the most. Make this a must. Why? Because when you are feeling healthy and energized, you are able to show up most fully for your partner. You are less reactive, more patient, and more kind.
What is your partner’s number one self-care act? How can you help them do this on a regular basis? Maybe it means adjusting your schedule to allow them to hit the gym. Maybe it means reminding them to take time to themselves when they are feeling stressed.
Whatever it is, make your partner’s self-care and your own self-care top priorities, because two well resourced, healthy people are more capable of creating a great relationship.
7. Turning Toward
What is it that gives us the intangible feeling that our partner is really there? According to relationship therapist and researcher John Gottman, how often our partner “turns toward” us will greatly affect this feeling of presence in the relationship, and the overall health of the relationship.
Throughout the day, we make "bids" for one another's attention or affection. A bid could be something small (like a smile, a sigh, or a touch) or something bigger (like asking for advice or help).
Turning toward means noticing and responding attentively to your partner's bid.
You may think that you already pay attention to your partner's bids, but if you put a focus on this, you're sure to notice more bids from your partner. How many times do you respond to a question from your partner without looking up from what you're doing or making eye contact? Do you ever pass each other in the hall of your home without a smile or a touch? When your partner makes a comment like, "it was a long day" do you give a simple response, or do you turn toward by asking more about their day?
Make an effort to turn toward your partner more often.
8. Authentic Intimacy
Sharing yourself intimately with your partner is one of the most beautiful experiences there is. Remember that intimacy is about more than sex. It is about the feeling of closeness, connection, love and trust. There may be phases of your relationship when sex is more or less frequent, but intimacy can be maintained regardless.
Feeling comfortable talking to one another about sex and intimacy is key. To help with this, approach the subject with curiosity, and schedule a regular time to talk about sex (yes, schedule it!). This doesn’t sound sexy, but establishing this time for open communication about sex is so important. Allow your partner to speak openly without interrupting or judging them, and do your best to understand your partner’s perspective.
Many people think that sex is a natural thing that we do, so we should just know everything about it without needing to learn about it or talk about it. This is not the case! A satisfying sex life comes from open communication, continuing to learn together, and being willing to ask for and accept feedback. When’s the last time you actively learned about sex? There are a lot of resources out there to learn from - so get started!
9. Discovering Your Partner
Over time, we come to know our partner very well. This is great, however, our “knowing” our partner can get in the way of truly relating to them. We start to feel that we know how our partner is: he always… she never… he’s just like that… she wouldn’t…
Instead, let’s give up “knowing” our partner, and discover who they really are each day. Each day, wake up and decide that you will discover your partner anew, and see them with fresh eyes. In reality, we as humans are constantly changing. When we get too attached to how we currently know our partner, we don’t give them the space to grow. Discover who your partner is, and give them the chance to amaze you again and again.
10. Co-Creating an Inspiring Future
Having shared dreams and goals in the relationship keeps us feeling positive about the future, even when we face challenges. It keeps feeling that “we-ness”, like we are on the same team and can handle anything together.
What if you and your partner have seemingly different dreams and goals? Personally, we’re not big fans of “compromise”. Instead, we would urge you to create a Third Better Future. There is a third option that looks a bit different than both of your dreams but satisfies them both, and is probably even more inspiring for both of you. If you are trying to compromise, you may totally miss considering this third better future.
Spend some time dreaming together. Really dream! Without restriction. What is it that you both really want? Talk about your inspiring future, make a vision board together, and take the first steps toward those dreams.
In a relationship with mutual love and understanding, you can experience the amazing synergy that is possible when you put your hearts to a shared vision.
BONUS: Optimism and Gratitude
We have given you a lot of tips, but we want you to remember not to take this all too seriously. YES, putting in the work to create a thriving long-term relationship is important, AND the process should be fun and joyous too.
Optimism and gratitude are two keys to creating an overarching sense of joy, love, fun, and happiness in your relationship.
Here are some ways you can practice this day-to-day:
Every morning, write down 3 reasons you love your partner
Every night before going to sleep, tell your partner something that you love about them Express gratitude for the little things your partner does throughout the day
Talk about the amazing things that you are working toward together
When you feel annoyed, irritated, or frustrated by your partner, remember why you fell in love with them
The beautiful thing about gratitude and optimism is that the more you practice it, the more you will have in your life to be grateful and happy about.
While challenges - big and small - are sure to come up in your relationship, always remember that you are on the same team. Embrace a growth mindset and use those challenges to strengthen your relationship. Give your partner the gift of your 100% support, and cherish the gift of their love, while also widening your circles of love to embrace more and more of the world.
Remember that a great relationship consists of two healthy people who are striving to be the best version of themselves, and create the habits and routines in your life to support this growth and well-being for both you and your partner.
Make it your mission to help your partner actualize their potential, and give their gifts to the world, while you strive to do the same. Do this, and you’re sure to have a beautiful relationship, and a long and happy life.
We honour your commitment to spreading more love - the world needs it, and the work you do in your relationship creates ripples that spread far and wide. Let’s do our best to be examples of love in our families and in this world.
Cass & Matt
Cass & Matt are the founders of Love Unlimited. Their mission is to spread more love in this world, and that starts with helping couples access deeper love, connection and intimacy in their relationships. They have been together for over 10 years, and they've spent over 7 of those years dedicated to studying personal growth, and applying what they've learned to themselves and their relationship. Cass and Matt believe that your relationship can become not only the most fulfilling part of your life, but nothing less than your Superpower. To learn more about Cass & Matt check out their insta here.