If you watch excessively “Jane the Virgin” and “Grace and Frankie ”on Netflix has taught us everything is that relationships are messy.
Personal experience also proves it: from our eighth grade romance to our latest breakup drama, “love is not easy” is a life lesson we know all too well.
Regardless of your status – single, in love, engaged or married – relationships take work. Whether they end in tears and drain Ben & Jerry’s or whether they last forever, it can depend on countless factors, but your Actions, words and thoughts undoubtedly play a role.
One thing that will give you an edge in the love game? Soak up all the wisdom you can from relationship therapists, researchers, matchmakers and more.
Here, we’ve distilled it down to the best tips 15 experts have learned. Whatever your personal situation, their words can help you find the key to lasting happiness.
1. Look for someone with similar values
“For lasting love, the more similarities (eg age, education, values, personality, hobby) the better. Partners need to be especially sure that their values match before getting married.
While other differences can be accommodated and tolerated, a difference in values is especially problematic if the goal is lasting love.
Another secret for a long marriage: Both partners must commit to making it work, no matter what. The only thing that can break a relationship is the partners themselves. “
– Kelly campbell, PhD, associate professor of psychology and human development at California State University, San Bernardino
2. Never take your partner for granted
“It might sound obvious, but you can’t imagine how many people come to couples therapy too late, when their partner is done with a relationship and wants to end it.
It is very important to realize that each one potentially has a breaking point, and if their needs are not being met or if they do not feel seen by the other, they will likely find them elsewhere.
A lot of people assume their partner is too because they are fine without what they want. “No relationship is perfect” should not be used as a justification for complacency. “
– Irina Firstein, LCSW, individual and couple therapist
3. Stop trying to be each other’s “everything”
“You are my everything” is a lousy pop song and an even worse relationship plan. No one can be “everything” for anyone. Create relationships outside of the relationship, or the relationship will no longer work. “
– Matt Lundquist, LCSW, MSEd, Founder of Tribeca Therapy
4. Do or say something everyday to show your appreciation.
“Saying and doing small, simple expressions of gratitude every day brings great rewards. When people feel recognized as special and valued, they are happier in the relationship and more motivated to make the relationship better and stronger.
And when I say Easy, I really think so. Make small gestures that show you care: hug, kiss, hold hands, buy a small gift, send a card, bake a favorite dessert, put gas in the car, or say to your partner, “ You are sexy ”“ You are the best daddy ”or“ Thank you for being so wonderful ”. “
– Terri orbuch, PhD, professor at Oakland University and author of 5 simple steps to turn your marriage from good to great
5. Make sure you meet your partner’s needs
“The first thing I learned about love is that it’s business and social exchange, not just a feeling. Romantic relationships are a process by which we meet our needs and also meet the needs of our partners.
When this exchange is mutually satisfying, good feelings continue to flow. When it doesn’t, things go wrong and the relationship ends.
This is why it is important to pay attention to what you and your partner actually do for each other as an expression of love … not just how you feel for each other on the moment. “
– Jeremy nicholson, MSW, PhD, psychologist and dating expert
6. Don’t settle for the big O
“Sex isn’t all about orgasms. It is about feeling, emotional intimacy, stress relief, improved health (improved immune and cardiovascular system) and an increased emotional bond with your partner, thanks to the wonderful release of hormones due to the physical touch. There are a lot more reasons to have sex than to just get off.
– Kat van kirk, PhD, licensed marriage and sexual therapist
7. Remember to keep things warm
“Often times, people become more and more shy of the person they love over time. Partners start to take their love for granted and forget to stay horny and continue to seduce their partner.
Keep your “sexual esteem” alive by pursuing certain practices on a regular basis. It keeps you vibrant, sexy, and engaged in your love life. “
– Sari Cooper, LCSW, licensed person, couple and sex therapist
8. Take the pressure off performance
“The penis-vagina model of sex comes with pressures, like having an orgasm at the same time or the idea that an orgasm should occur with penetration. With these strict expectations come a pressure on performance that ultimately leads many to feel a sense of failure and frustration.
Instead, try broadening your concept of sex to include anything that involves a close and intimate connection with your partner, such as sensual massages, taking a good shower or bath together, reading an erotic story together, playing with it. fun toys … the possibilities are endless.
And if orgasm does happen, great, and if not, that’s fine too. As you broaden your definition of sex and reduce the pressure on orgasm and penetration, the anxiety surrounding performance dissipates and your satisfaction can heighten. “
– Chelsea Holland, DHS, MS, Sexual Relationship Therapist at The Intimacy Institute
9. This is not what you fight for – this is how you fight
“The researchers found that four messages of conflict are able to predict whether couples stay together or divorce: contempt, criticism, blocking (or withdrawal) and defensiveness.
Together they are known as’The four horsemen“. Instead of resorting to these negative tactics, fight fairly: look for places where each partner’s goal overlaps into a shared common goal, and build from that. Also focus on using the language “I” versus “you”. “
– Sean Horan, PhD, Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Texas State University
10. Try a more pleasant approach
“Research has shown that how an issue is raised both determines how the rest of the conversation plays out. and how the rest of the relationship will go. Many times an issue is raised by attacking or blaming your partner, also known as the critic, and one of the killers in a relationship.
So start slow. Instead of saying: “You always leave your dishes everywhere!” Why can’t you pick up anything? try a softer approach, focusing on yours emotional reaction and a positive request.
For example: “I get annoyed when I see dishes in the living room. Would you like to put them back in the kitchen when you’re done? “
– Carrie Cole, MEd, LPC-S, Certified Master Trainer and Research Director at the Gottman Institute
11. Identify your “good conflicts”
“Every couple has what I call a ‘good conflict’. In long-term relationships, we often think that what you need most from your partner is what they are least able to give to you. It’s not the end of love – it’s the start of deeper love! Do not run away from this conflict.
He’s supposed to be there. In fact, it is your key to happiness as a couple – if you can both name it and commit to working on it together as a couple. If you approach your “good conflicts” with bitterness, blame and contempt, your relationship will become toxic. “
– Ken page, LCSW, psychotherapist and author of Deeper Dating: How To Give Up Seduction Games And Discover The Power Of Intimacy
12. Take time apart
“A friend taught me that no matter how much you are in love or how long you’ve been together, it’s important to expire from your partnership.
Spend time with girlfriends late into the evening, take a weekend away to visit family, or just spend time “getting yourself” for a while. Then when you get home to Yours Truly, you’ll both be recharged and ready to come together even stronger.
13. Don’t give up
“There is a major cause of relationship problems: self-abandonment.
We can let go in many areas: emotional (judging or ignoring our feelings), financial (spending irresponsibly), organizational (being late or out of order), physical (eating poorly, not exercising), relational (creating conflict in a relationship), or spiritual (too dependent on your partner for love).
When you decide to learn to love yourself rather than continue to let go, you will discover how to create a loving relationship with your partner.
– Margaret paul, PhD, relationship expert and co-creator of Inner Bonding
14. Create a fulfilling life
“Like many people, I grew up believing that marriage required self-sacrifice. A lot. My wife, Linda, helped me see that I didn’t have to become a martyr and sacrifice my own happiness for our marriage to work.
She showed me that my responsibility to create a fulfilling and joyful life for myself was as important as anything I could do for her or for the children.
Over the years, it has become increasingly clear to me that my responsibility to provide for my own well-being is as important as my responsibility to others.
It’s easier said than done, but it is perhaps the most important thing we can do to make sure that our relationship is mutually satisfying. “
– Charlie bloom, MSW, relationship expert and author of What doesn’t kill us: how a couple got stronger in broken places
Sometimes we get so hung up on our expectations that we miss the beauty of our relationships and the lessons they teach us. Realize all the relationship is valuable no matter how long it lasts.
“There is no such thing as a failed romance. Relationships simply evolve into what they were always meant to be. It’s best not to try and turn something that’s supposed to be seasonal or temporary into a lifelong relationship. Let go and enjoy the trip.
– April Beyer, matchmaker and expert in dating and relationships