When you first start dating someone new, it's only natural to wonder whether your relationship will be able to stand the test of time, or if it will eventually fall apart. As infatuated with each other as you and your partner might be in the beginning, the reality is that not every couple can make things work long-term. So what's the main difference between couples who last and those who break up? Couples who last long-term know that having healthy communication habits in a relationship is the ultimate key to success — and even if they communicate well already, they're still always striving to improve their communication skills.
"It is essential to work towards improving communication in a relationship as we continually create more opportunities to get to better know and understand the other person as well as to become better known and understood ourselves," Anahid Lisa Derbabian, Licensed Professional Counselor, Healer, and Life Coach, tells Bustle. "As we all are constantly changing and evolving as life does, working on our communication will connect us to our evolving significant other. This then leads to a relationship that is alive and active."
Simply put, your relationship is much more likely to be a long, happy one if you and your partner both make an active effort to communicate, both well and often. If you want to learn the secrets to long-term relationship success, here are nine little communication habits you can adopt that will help your relationship not only survive but thrive for years to come.
1They Tackle Problems As A Team
When problems arise in a relationship, as they're bound to do, couples who are able to tackle those issues as a team instead of as two separate individuals with their own agendas are much more likely to stick it out for the long haul.
"Couples in healthy relationships attack the problems they face together [instead of] versus each other," Natasha Oates, Relationship Coach and Couples Retreat Facilitator, tells Bustle. "They talk about the issues, what it feels like to go through those challenges, what they need from each other to have a better relationship and apologize for their part in the issue... Couples must swallow their pride and be honest about their feelings, needs and be open to understanding their mate, even if they don't agree with them."
2They Express Their Appreciation
One thing that can seriously drive a wedge between partners? Feeling unappreciated or taken for granted — which is why couples who compliment each other and voice their appreciation for the little things will be better able to keep their relationship healthy over the years.
"Couples who last express their appreciation of each other," Oates says. "The little things do matter. When people are appreciated for smaller things, they are more likely to do much more for their partner. One may say, I'm not going to 'reward' [them] for doing something that they should already do for me. What motivates you more: criticism for not doing enough or someone noticing the small changes you're making?"
3They Argue Regularly
It might sound counter-intuitive, but couples who have regular disagreements or arguments are actually more likely to last long-term than couples who don't fight — because they're not keeping their feelings bottled up and brewing resentment.
"What if I told you not having disagreements is NOT a good thing?" Oates says. "[Not arguing] means that important issues get swept under the rug. Going long periods of time not addressing issues can cause distance, resentment and hurt. These are often the couples that wake up feeling like they've 'fallen out of love.' No one falls out of love in a day. It's a thousand cuts of silent treatment, blame games, and missed date nights."
4They Consider Each Other's Perspective During Disagreements
There's nothing worse than trying to have a productive conversation with your partner, and feeling like they're totally disregarding your point of view. If you want your relationship to last, it's important that you're both able to view your partner's opinion as valid, even if you disagree with it.
"[Couples that last] actually listen to what their partner is saying and considers their perspective as valid even if it differs from their own," Laurie-Anne King, a Relationship Coach and Communication Expert based in the San Francisco Bay Area, tells Bustle. "They are open to the possibility that their own opinion may be wrong."
6They Ask For What They Need
Expecting your partner to be able to read your mind and always know exactly what you want and need is super unhealthy, and is one way to quickly send your relationship to an early grave.
"If you know what you want or need — come right out and ask for it!" King says. "Don’t make your partner play guessing games." It's not easy to learn how to ask for what you need in a relationship, but being upfront about your needs in a relationship is the only way to make sure they're met, and that your relationship stays healthy and happy.
6They're OK With Talking About Money
Talking about your money troubles might not seem especially romantic, but it's one of the things that long-term couples do that helps them stay together, even when financial times are tough.
"Healthy couples are willing to get into the nitty gritty with money, like creating a budget and discussing financial goals," Sam Schultz, Co-founder of Honeyfi, a free app that helps couples manage money together, tells Bustle. "Try scheduling money dates with your partner, where you set aside 15-30 minutes each month to check in about finances. For many couples, it creates a safe space to talk about an uncomfortable topic."
7They Don't Attack Each Other's Character
Even when you're feeling angry, hurt, or betrayed by your partner, throwing insults at them is only going to further drive a wedge between the two of you. Instead of giving in to those negative feelings, couples who last always show respect for each other, even when they're upset.
"When there is an issue in the relationship, healthy couples focus on the other person’s behavior rather than assassinate their character," King says. "Unhealthy couples will often attribute an action their partner took to be because their partner 'just is' a certain way. This will lead them to say things like 'you’re a jerk!' instead of 'that was a really hurtful thing to do.'"
8They're Mindful Of How They Talk To Each Other
In relationships, it's not only what you say that matters — how you say it counts, too. If you're mindful of the way you speak to your partner, no matter the topic of conversation, you'll help to foster a relationship that lasts through difficult times instead of falling apart.
"[Couples who last] can be more mindful of how they speak to each other — the words they use, tone, facial expression, and body language," Lesli Doares, Couples Consultant and Coach, tells Bustle. "They can engage in reflective listening where they paraphrase back what they heard the other say before commenting on it. They can stay quiet until they have their emotions under control."
9They Know Timing Matters Where Communication Is Concerned
It's never a good time to argue with your partner, but there are certainly some times that are worse than others, like if one of you is exhausted, emotional, or otherwise preoccupied.
"[Long-lasting couples] can be more intentional about the timing of their conversations — not after 8 p.m., not when one person is heading out the door, not blindsiding their partner, etc.," Doares says. Instead of picking a fight whenever and wherever they please, healthy couples know the value of timing important conversations so both partners are in the right headspace to talk things through calmly and effectively.
Whether you want to do weekly check-ins to talk about how the relationship is going or whether you'd prefer to keep a shared diary of your relationship highlights and low-lights, all that really matters is that you and your partner find communication habits that work for your relationship specifically. The bottom line? It takes a lot of work to make a relationship last long-term, and learning how to communicate effectively is the number one thing you can do to ensure your relationship goes the distance — so start talking.