When you first start dating someone, if you really like them, you're probably working toward becoming official by spending time together and determining whether you are compatible. But building a lasting relationship after you've committed to each other isn't as easy as piquing each other's initial interest probably was. According to experts, there's a lot that goes into a relationship that will stand the test of time.
"Building a long-term, healthy, strong relationship begins with growing deep roots," Christine Scott-Hudson, MA, LMFT, ATR, a licensed psychotherapist, marriage and family therapist, certified somatic therapist, and owner of Create Your Life Studio, tells Bustle. "The way to grow deep roots is to start out the relationship with integrity," she says. "Even on first dates, it is important to be your best self. Don’t put on airs. Don’t be presentational. Don’t exaggerate the truth." Being clear and honest with your partner from the beginning helps you to build a solid relationship on top of a healthy foundation. Even if you and your partner have been together for a while already, implement this focus on honesty now. As you move forward, being your truest self will help you and your partner connect more deeply than you have before.
Here is what couples therapists have to say about building a love that lasts.
Work Together, Not Against Each Other
In order to build a healthy, lasting partnership, be intentional about being a team. If you're having an argument, it can be tempting to prove that you did the right thing, but a mindset shift can make a big difference.
"Strive to work together to solve anything that comes up," Tessina says. "[...] When you build a successful working partnership, each of you will feel supported and respected by the other." This way, when you know that your partner truly has your back, an argument doesn't have to end with you getting your way or your partner getting their way, but with the two of you brainstorming how to come to a good solution. "The mutuality of this type of partnership creates an environment of love where deep trust grows," Tessina says.
Lean On Each Other
"Lots of people try to fill in all the gaps by doing whatever their partner isn't doing — all alone," Tessina says. If your partner doesn't like doing household chores, for example, you might resign yourself to just do them all. But while this will probably result in a cleaner living space, it probably won't end in a solid relationship. Instead, express the fact that you feel like you're having to do a larger share of the labor, and ask them to pitch in. "If nothing is forthcoming, ask directly (don't just whine or hint) for what you want," Tessina says.
Be Intentional About Connecting
If you and your partner have been together for a while, you're probably not as intentional about getting to know each other as you were in the beginning. But even though you know your partner's middle name and the name of their childhood pet, you don't know everything about them. To build a lasting relationship, continue to be curious, family and relationship psychotherapist Dr. Fran Walfish, tells Bustle. "Ask the other person questions that require more than a one-word answer," she says. "In other words, don't simply ask, 'How are you? You will likely get a quick response of, 'Fine.'" Instead, ask more thought-provoking questions about their anxieties, dreams, and challenges.
Everyone tells white lies every once in a while. If your partner asks whether you love their new haircut, for example, you might tell them that it looks great even if you preferred it how it was before. But being honest about important things is key to building a lasting love. "Sometimes the truth is uncomfortable, especially if you know your partner may get angry hearing it," Walfish says. "Be brave! Honesty in a relationship is extremely important because it is the fundamental thing that makes a person feel safe." Even if you feel uncomfortable about telling your partner that you got lunch with an ex partner or you feel hurt by something their parent said, do it. It will give you both the opportunity to talk through it and emerge closer than ever.
You Don't Always Have To Agree
Disagreeing about what the best way to load the dishwasher is or whether it's smarter to clean once a week or a little every day doesn't mean that you and your partner aren't in a healthy relationship. Just because you are together doesn't mean that you have to have all of the same thoughts and opinions. That being said, be willing to compromise. "Pick your battles," Christianne Kernes, a licensed marriage and family therapist and co-founder of LARKR, tells Bustle. "When you can’t reach common ground, be willing to simply agree to disagree," she says. "Withhold your judgment and listen to understand." And always respect each other, even when you don't agree.
Grow As An Individual
It may surprise you, but a key component to building a healthy long-term relationship is putting time and energy into your own personal growth. "Support each other in your interests, passions, wants and dreams," Kernes says. "Remember that being in a relationship is a partnership, but each partner must also maintain their core or individual self." That means that if you've always wanted to learn to rock climb or if your partner's been itching to take oboe lessons, each of you should cheer on the other's journey to grow and learn. The more supported your partner makes you feel, the more you'll be encouraged to take on any new skill or challenge.
Keep Dating Each Other
It may sound totally cliche, but keep pursuing your partner's heart long after the two of you have made things official. Whether that looks like surprising them with their favorite takeout for a picnic in the park or slipping a cute love note into their lunch, keep doing the little gestures that you started in the beginning of your romance. "Continue to nourish your relationship," Kernes says. "Engage and invest in interests that you both enjoy doing together. Dating must be intentional." Who knows? Maybe the two of you become experts at salsa dancing or aficionados of making dumplings from scratch.
As you live each day with your partner, make regular choices that will strengthen your relationship. Even something as tiny as asking them if they're feeling inspired at work or cheering them on as they pick up knitting can make a difference.