Between busy work days, appointments and commitments, and the constant pull of technology, it can be a challenge to devote as much time to strengthening your relationship as we’d like. But for certain couples, even though they may feel like ships passing in the night some days, there’s never a question that their foundation is solid.

So we asked members of the Thrive Global community to reflect on their relationships — past and present — and recall the surprising, unexpected, or even counterintuitive signs of a strong bond.

You stop yourself before exploding

“When you have two stubborn people who love a hardcore debate and challenge, stopping yourselves before you hit the edge of the cliff indicates a strong relationship. I’m not suggesting that you avoid conflict or compromise your position, but get your partner to ‘talk to the hand’ if they want to keep going. Your health will benefit from a ten-minute breathing exercise, your brain will be sharper, and you can continue the debate over a glass of wine later. It might seem counterintuitive (i.e. avoidance), but couples from mixed cultures are particularly susceptible to misreading language or tone within arguments. Just stop…for now.”

—Dr Lianne Taylor, psychologist, author, Cambridge, England  

You take steps to stay connected even when apart
“My partner and I have maintained a long-distance commuter relationship for the past 10 years. We use modern technology to its fullest in order to keep love alive between visits. He’s the first person I greet and the last person I ‘touch’ everyday. At times, he’s even been ‘with’ us around the dinner table via video chat. We’ve built strong communication muscles as a result! We’re currently building a home and will finally be under one roof this spring.”

—Lisa Cypers Kamen, optimal lifestyle management expert, Los Angeles, CA

You share ‘giftitude’

“Our secret recipe is gratitude. We’re thankful for every moment we have together, and never miss the opportunity to express our gratitude. My partner and I both know that thinking isn’t enough: doing is the foundation for joy, peace, and abundance. Sharing daily gifts of gratitude has become our mindful habit, so we started calling it ‘giftitude.’”

—Alla Adam, business biohacker, Chicago, IL

You show physical affection in small, casual ways

“When my partner and I first met, we both did The Five Love Languages quiz to see where we fell. Touch was the front runner for both of us by a long shot! It’s been such a useful thing to know when things get tough. Now, before we launch into a back-and-forth debate or conversation, we ground ourselves through physical affection first. Whether it’s a long hug, holding hands, or a shoulder rub, we focus on how this love language helps us connect to each other. It reminds us that no matter how heated the next part of our communication gets, we’re in this together.”

—Elaine Mead, education consultant, Perth, WA

You surprise each other

“I used to get annoyed when my fiancé would ignore me after coming home from work. It made me feel unimportant, insignificant, and unloved. I finally broke down and vented out my frustration on the topic. After I finished, he calmly apologized and explained that he just didn’t want to interrupt me while I was working, but was waiting for me to be done. These days, he surprises me with a hug or silently refills my coffee mug when he passes by my home office. It’s his unique way of saying, ‘I’m with you 100% all the way.’”

—Adele Yuboco, freelance inbound marketing strategist, Manila, Philippines

You communicate clearly and mindfully

“A strong relationship consists of two individuals who are independently strong in their own lives making a choice to be in a partnership with one another. When each partner understands their emotions, they also understand their partner better. An abundance of emotional intelligence coming from both partners allows for better communication skills. When we can clearly communicate with ourselves and with our partners, that’s a strong relationship.”

—Heather Reinhardt, self-love aficionado, Los Angeles, CA

You adapt to each other’s love language

“It’s clear that my love language is expressed through writing in relationships. I take pride in the positivity and power of words, so I absolutely love to writing letters and little notes. But I didn’t expect my boyfriend to adopt this as his love language, too. Without dropping any hints on my part, Brandon noticed how my notes and letters made him feel, so he started writing them to me to reciprocate the same warm, fuzzy feeling. He wakes up a few hours before me on work days, so starting my day with words of affirmation on a Post-It means the world to me. Reciprocity is how we continue to strengthen our bond.”

—Melissa Muncy, content marketing, San Francisco, CA

You follow the Golden Rule

“I value trust in my marriage above all else. The fact that we treat each other with empathy at all times gives me both security and peace of mind. We achieve this by following Lou Holtz’s Golden Rule: ‘Treat others as you want to be treated.’ Not checking each other’s phones is a simple way this plays out in everyday life. Another is by giving each other the space to venture out and do what we want, and need to do, grow and ultimately strengthen ourselves and the relationship.”

—Amba Brown, positive psychology author, Brooklyn, NY

You’re not afraid of ‘do-overs’

“Taking the time for a ‘do over’ is a strong sign that my relationship with my spouse is strong. We say those words, stop what we’re doing and start the entire conversation over, no matter where we are. If we’re on the phone, we hang up and call each other back. If one of us just walked through the door, we go back out and start over. We recognize that days get busy, but also that things are worth repeating for the sake of our love, respect, and value for each other.”

—Camellia Varnado, HR supervisor, Dallas, TX

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  • Marina Khidekel

    Chief Content Officer at Thrive

    Marina leads strategy, ideation and execution of Thrive's content company-wide, including cross-platform brand partnership and content marketing campaigns, curricula, and the voice of the Thrive platform. She's the author of Thrive's first book, Your Time to Thrive. In her role, Marina brings Thrive's audience actionable, science-backed tips for reducing stress and improving their physical and mental well-being, and shares those insights on panels and in national outlets like NBC's TODAY. Previously, Marina held senior editorial roles at Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour, where she edited award-winning health and mental health features and spearheaded the campaigns and partnerships around them.