Anyone who’s in a relationship wants to know the secret recipe to making their love last. And while everyone’s relationship is different, there is something to be learned from those who have managed to keep the spark alive for years or even decades.
INSIDER asked real people in real relationships what they do to keep their partnerships exciting and healthy. Their advice was heartwarming, informative, and, at times, surprising.
It’s important to take risks with your partner to keep things interesting, said Ellanore Holbrook, who has been with her partner Nick for over two years.
“Be adventurous together and push one another to try new things!” she told me. “It’s scary but you always have the support of the other person to push you!”
Spend time alone.
It may sound counter-intuitive but Amy Bryne, who has been married to her husband Killian for three years, said that time spent without your partner is key to making it last.
“Time spent apart!” she said. “Killian’s been gone almost four months and I’m quite ready to have him back like NOW.”
This advice was echoed by so many people I spoke to, so it seems to stay together, you must be apart sometimes.
Make a big move.
Going through something big was key to cementing Renée Hagerty’s two-year relationship to her partner Adam.
“When in doubt, move across the country together,” she said. “It sounds dramatic, but it boils down to choosing to face risks together. Every time we are faced with a difficult choice, we pick what scares us most and grow through it.”
Communicate emotions beyond simply “I love you.”
An “I love you” a day is so important to cementing a bond with your partner, but sometimes other words are needed.
Amanda Hefflnger said that words of affirmation beyond the standard “I love you” are paramount to keeping her six-year relationship with her partner Sam strong.
“I also really value communicating emotions of love aside from saying ‘I love you,'” she said. “Sometimes phrases like ‘I’m so proud of you,’ or ‘you really mean a lot to me’ communicate more feeling that makes me all warm and bubbly inside.”
Create a non-judgmental environment to express what you want.
Your partner should be comfortable sharing some pretty sticky topics with you. Anne Moyer told me that her nearly 13-year marriage has benefited from creating a space where tough conversations can exist with little judgment.
“Create an environment where each partner always feels they can express their desires, whatever they may be,” she said. “Perhaps the other partner isn’t willing to fulfill that desire, but is willing to listen, and perhaps find an alternative that both are comfortable with.”
Make date night a thing.
Early in your relationship, you probably went on tons of dates, but Amber Tucker told me that she and her husband of three years Jesse continue to make time for a date night and it keeps their relationship healthy.
“I would say that it’s probably wise to dedicate a date night at least once a week, especially if you have children,” she said.
Science suggests that this is true: a study by the Marriage Foundationfound that couples who have a date night once a month may be 14% less likely to break up.
Make small things mean the most.
Big gestures are great, but Katie Cleland told me that it’s the small moments with her boyfriend of two years Ryan that she really cherishes.
“Doing things together like cooking and grocery shopping,” she said. “Sometimes it’s the small things that mean the most!”
See them through other peoples’ eyes.
Spending time with your partner in groups can help you see that qualities that you admire about them. Kaley Hayes said she loves to hang out with her partner of nearly three years Stephen in groups with their friends because it lets her see his best traits.
“I love hanging out with other people with Stephen!” she told me. “It gives me a fresh look at how cool and personable he is, and it’s also fun to debrief with him at the end of the night on how we thought everything went! Sounds weird but it gives this cool camaraderie feel to the relationship.”
Get out of your comfort zone.
Gidget Marrison said one of the best parts about dating her girlfriend of around a year Lisa is sharing new experiences together that they may not normally go for.
“I definitely agree it’s a great idea to get out of each other’s comfort zones and show each other new things,” she told me.
Talk about sex.
Physical intimacy is important in any relationship and Mehek Bassi said that keeping sex in your frequent conversations is imperative.
“You always come into a relationship with a person, for whom you have strong desires physically or carnal instincts, which is normal, natural and very healthy. If you omit ‘sex’ – the relationship ceases to exist!” she wrote on Quora.
“And if you can’t have sex, it’s fine (like if you are in a long distance relationship, or you can’t do it for other reasons) but do talk about it. It keeps the ‘spark’ alive. Otherwise you’d be bored to death by those same things over and over again! And by talking about ‘sex’, I don’t mean discuss or fantasize it – just simple, plain flirt – tease each other and be naughty just for your partner!”
Studies have found that simply talking about sex can boost your sexual satisfaction.
Dana Bell said that part of the reason why her marriage of nine years is so strong is that she and her husband travel together often.
“While all of our getaways help us keep the spark alive, we find that our trips abroad are especially helpful,” she told me. “Experiencing culture shock together and being cut off from everything familiar to us forces us to cling to each other tighter, it improves our communication, and it adds a sense of adventure and spontaneity to our marriage.”
Make time for what they find important.
Ryan Long wrote in a post for Quora that he keeps the spark in his marriage by finding out what his wife needs from him and making that a priority.
“Above all things, I make time for what she needs,” he wrote. “That means, if she needs me to be there for her, I am there for her. I make myself present and available every day to discuss anything. If she needs to go somewhere and do something on her own, I support her by looking after things while she’s away. In short, I always give her the time she needs, in whatever way she needs it.”
Make each year better than the last.
Kevin Huhn told me that he and his wife have lived by a motto for their 20 years together.
“We have a simple phrase we live by: let’s make each year better than the last,” he said.
Huhn said that he and his wife are constantly looking for ways to connect and improve upon their relationship: and it’s worked.
“Love and life for us is better every year,” he said. We find ways to be curious about each other and allow each other the space to grow and journey alone too. We are best friends and great lovers. We always come back to the foundation — what can I bring to the relationship not what do I get.”
Learn their love language.
Everyone expresses love differently and that concept was explored in the book “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate” by Gary Chapman. The languages break down to gift giving, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service (devotion), and physical touch.
Finding out how her husband Tony expresses his love to her was vital to keeping their five-year marriage healthy, said Audra Upchurch.
“We understand that intimacy begins long before we enter the bedroom and are aware of each other’s love language. I am Physical Touch and Words of Affirmation and he is Acts of Service,” she told me. “So we make conscious efforts to show love throughout the day in the language the other needs to receive it.”
Have a coffee break together.
Vicky and Mitesh Popat own a business together, so they spend a lot of time together. But Vicky said that taking time out to take a break together during the work day helps them keep their nearly 12-year-long marriage a priority.
“Through all of this we still find alone time for each other,” she said. “I want to age with my partner and he does as well. We honestly couldn’t picture someone else in each of our spots.”
Do a partner activity.
Carol Tuttle and her husband of 37 years have quite the impressive resume of physical activities they do together. She said this has helped keep them focused on each other while meeting a common goal.
“We have run 15 marathons together, competed in 25 sprint distance triathlons, play tennis and Pickleball as well as other outdoor activities,” she told me “This keeps us working on similar goals.”
Studies have found that pheromones produced by exercising can bond you to your partner when you work out together, so sounds like these two have the right idea.
Put your phone away.
It’s great to spend time together, but if you’re on your phone, that time becomes less special.
Researchers from Baylor University in Texas found that the habit of snubbing your partner for your phone — dubbed “phubbing” — is on the rise, and that nearly 46% of people in romantic relationships have been “phubbed.”
Of the 46% of people who say they’ve been “phubbed,” 22% say the behavior has cause strain in their relationship. Carol Gee said that putting the phones away when she’s with her husband has been part of keeping their marriage happy.
“We make a habit of spending quality time together,” said Gee, who has been married for 44 years. “We don’t use our cell phones when dining or spending this time, simply focusing on being together.”
If something bothers you, don’t keep it to yourself.
Having a happy partnership does not mean pretending everything is rosey all of the time. In fact, Renata Feyen said that speaking her mind about what is wrong has helped keep the spark in her 31-year marriage.
“The most important thing is that you say it when something bothers you and don’t keep it to yourself,” she said. “How can your partner know that you dislike something if you don’t talk about it?”
Switch it up in the bedroom.
You might have a great sex life, but sometimes switching things up a bit cant take things in your physical life and your marriage in general, from good to great, said Damon Nailer, who has been married for more than 19 years.
“Having sex causes you to become one with your partner in mind, body, soul, and spirit. This is one of the most important aspects of your marriage,” Nailer said. “Sex and intimacy truly strengthen the marriage bond and overall unity of the relationship. When this act lessens or becomes boring and routine, issues sometimes arise in the marriage.”
Do them favors.
Teresa Diaz said that small acts of love and appreciation show her partner of 32 years that he is appreciated.
“I still write him notes and hide them in his lunchbox, he sets up the coffee maker for me before he leaves for work and leaves me a little note,” she said. “We never take each other for granted.”
Make love a conscious choice.
Renée Jones has been married since 1995 and also works as a counselor and author. She said that her marriage has taught her to relay one important bit of advice to her clients.
“As a counselor, I tell my clients that one bit of fuel for that fire is when you wake up in the morning, look over at your partner and choose to love them that day no matter what,” Jones said.
Originally published on Business Insider.
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