If you could find out the secret that keeps couples happy and together for the long haul, wouldn’t you want to know? We thought so.
Here’s what they found: Happy, long-term couples shared nine key factors, from being able to fight nice to having a satisfying sex life. They also found that these couples weren’t annoyingly blissful all the time either. “What we can see is that there are still some issues to work out for the couples who are stable and long-term—everything isn’t perfect,” explains Ilona Jerabek, Ph.D., president of PsychTests. “But the common theme for those with happy, long-term relationships is ‘togetherness.’ They do things together, they work out issues together, they discuss and they share.”
Here are the 9 signs that you’re in a solid and satisfying relationship:
#1: You love and appreciate each other.
Love is, of course, the essential ingredient in any happy, romantic relationship so it’s no shocker that it nabbed the number one slot. But its occasionally forgotten sidekick—appreciation—is one of the key factors that keeps love alive. “I tell my clients never to take their partner for granted,” says Rachel Sussman, psychotherapist, relationship expert and author of “The Breakup Bible.” “The small acts of kindness—the thank you’s, making an extra cup of coffee for your partner—these little things go a really long way.”
#2: You openly share your thoughts and feelings.
In a healthy relationship, you can open up and share how you feel without your partner mocking you, rolling his eyes at you or ignoring you. “It’s really important to be able to articulate if something is bothering you—whether it’s about your own personal stuff or if your partner is doing something that’s upsetting you,” says Sussman. “Having open communication and constructive criticism is an opportunity for you both to take a look at yourselves and grow and change.”
#3: You make decisions together and share the burden of responsibilities.
From paying the bills to taking out the trash to picking up holiday cards, healthy couples tackle their daily “to-do” list as a team to keep their relationship and household humming along. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to divvy up chores even-steven, but rather it’s important to chat about expectations, suggests Sussman, and decide together who should do what to eliminate frustration (“You didn’t take out the trash!”).
#4: You strive to resolve conflict constructively.Rather than going for low blows or having an explosive fight, stable partnerships are able to navigate those tricky relationship time bombs, such as where to spend the holidays, with respect and a focus on finding solutions you’re both satisfied with. (Get tips on how to fight with your partner without ruining your relationship here.)
#5: You have a healthy sex life.Let’s face it, sex is what separates friends from lovers, notes Sussman. But a healthy sex life doesn’t mean you need to go at it every chance you get. “It’s really important to have your own definition of a sex life,” says Sussman. Whether it’s being intimate every other day or every other week (or less), satisfied couples are happy with the quality and passion of their sex sessions and have figured out the between-the-sheets frequency that works for them.
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#6: Your goals and values are in sync.
Whether it’s the fact that you and your partner both want two kids, or you’re on the same page with religion, having shared values and goals helps keep a couple connected and heading the same direction.
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#7: You make spending quality time together a priority.
Bonded couples are happy with the amount of time they spend together and find activities they can enjoy together. “When couples come to me because infidelity is involved and their connection fell apart, it can be because they’ve stopped spending time together and having fun together,” says Sussman. “So do activities—go to the gym together, ride bikes, spend time with friends, travel and have new experiences. It’s bonding.”
#8: You’re satisfied with your social life as a couple.
Whether you’re both the life of the party, total homebodies, or one of each, happy couples are cool with what each partner brings to the table socially, rather than trying to change the other person into someone they’re not.
#9: You feel a sense of freedom.
Stable couples express their opinions freely and don’t feel suffocated or held back by the relationship in any way. “The relationship shouldn’t feel like a burden, like it’s sucking life out of you, but rather that it’s breathing life into you,” says Sussman.
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