A professor has analysed more than 1,100 studies on relationships to compile a list of strategies to making love last.
Brian Ogolsky, professor in human development and family studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, looked at every piece of academic research published on the topic of “relationship maintenance” since 1950.
He then identified the most common techniques for staying with your other half.
Here’s what Ogolsky and his team found:
To avoid breaking up as an individual
Forget about your wandering eye, ignore any alternative potentials and focus on the partner you have, Ogolsky advises.
Idealise your partner and your relationship with them. Long-lasting relationships have an aspirational backbone whereby both parties believe that that their connection is special and above average. If they don’t, “the writing is on the wall,” says Ogolsky.
During times of conflict, always give your partner the benefit of the doubt.
To avoid breaking up as a couple
Manage conflict directly. Those who keep issues bottled up are less likely to stay together in the long run, Ogolsky found.
Forgive, but don’t be a doormat. “If you’re a constant forgiver, there comes a point where it’s not great for your relationship because someone is taking advantage of you,” Ogolsky says. “That can actually erode mental health.”
Sacrifice in the name of balance. An eagerness “to forgo self-interest and desired activities for the good of a partner or relationship is an important aspect of maintaining relationships,” the research found.
Help them out. Quite simply, be willing to assist your partner in making plans, completing tasks and achieving goals and you will see greater interdependence as a couple.
Alleviate their stress – i.e. when your partner is having a breakdown, instead of shouting “calm down!” you’re better off taking a more soothing approach. Gently ask them what’s wrong and what you can do to help.
To improve the relationship as an individual
Think of yourselves as a team. “It can be spending time thinking about partner, it can be reminiscing, it can be thinking about the things you’re going to do,” Ogolsky says.
Pray. Yep, when it comes to long-lasting love, various studies have proven the benefits of prayer. “The guys who are doing this work are pretty well-known in the relationship realm and are not at religious institutions,” says Ogolsky. Think of it as one step above mindfulness.
To improve the relationship as a couple
Communicate, particularly when it comes to the smaller and more daily occurrences, like the division of chores. “Being positive, being open, providing partners with some assurance you’ll be around, splitting labour in the household and doing it together,” says Ogolsky.
Talk about your relationship. Where is this going? What are the issues? Regularly confronting these questions can help push a relationship forward, Ogolsky found.
Respond to one another. In other words, when they come to you with a problem, put your issues aside and be the person they can vent to without judgement.
Remember your sense of humour. “It’s not about a funniness gradient,” explains Ogolsky, “but whether or not that’s one of the tools in your tool bag that you pull out typically during stress. Those who demonstrate humour have a way of defusing the situation and making it easier to handle.”
Do fun activities together. Engaging in leisure activities with a partner is theorised to increase communication, define roles, and increase marital satisfaction when leisure satisfaction is high or when partners are positive and have strong social skills,” the study says.