We all know that one couple; they’ve been together for years, but are still as giddy over each other as a pair of teenagers. What’s their secret — luck? Happy pills? Actually, it might just be down to a few good habits and a little extra effort on their part. Read on for the scoop on the special sauce that keeps love alive across the decades.
1. Laughing together
Some of the happiest couples in the world aren’t necessarily the ones with the fewest problems — they’re just the ones who know when to see the humor in those situations. “We have been married almost 10 years, and I have spent most of those 10 years sick,” says Las Vegas blogger Natalie Wahl. “However, we are happily married and have been the whole way throughout. I think one huge factor is our mutual commitment to the other’s comfort and well-being; our other key ingredient is humor.”
2. Regularly reconnecting in small, kind ways
“I help couples build on what already works,” says Elayne Savage, Ph.D., relationship coach, psychotherapist and author of Breathing Room: Creating Space to Be a Couple. “Give each other a warm hug when you first come together. When you get a night out, take a short walk arm-in-arm for 10 or 15 minutes before returning home.” When couples connect through touch and exchanging kind gestures, the relationship provides a natural haven from stress. “Keep your bond strong by spending at least 15 minutes a day with each other just talking,” suggests Christina Steinorth, licensed psychotherapist and author of Cue Cards for Life: Thoughtful Tips for Better Relationships.
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3. Traveling and trying new things
Couples in love appreciate the value of making a venue change now and then to keep things fresh and exciting. “Travel together and do new, fun and exciting things together at least once or twice a year,” advises Danna Norek, owner of AuraSensory.com. “Traveling is one of the biggest relationship-renewal activities my husband and I have personally experienced. Simply getting away to a new location — away from home and all the obligations, routine, chores and everyday stresses and banalities of life — really sparks the passion in your relationship again.”
4. Effectively communicating and being able to admit when they’re wrong
“Couples in love take responsibility for their own words and reactions,” explains Peter and Heather Larson, co-authors of 10 Great Dates: Connecting Faith, Love & Marriage. “People are highly invested in proving that their partner is the source of their relationship struggles. Unfortunately, this posture leaves them completely disempowered in bringing about any positive change.” One of the main aspects of taking responsibility is participating in genuine and productive communication with each other. “Solid communication skills are essential if a marriage or relationship will stand the test of time,” agrees Sandy Arons, MBA, a certified divorce financial analyst. “The common denominator in divorcing couples is that somewhere along the way, one or both of them stopped communicating with the other.”
5. Forgiving each other and letting go of the little annoyances in life
Loving couples build up their tolerance for forgiveness and keep that skill active. “I’ve seen many people refuse to forgive even small infractions,” says Jennifer L. Fee, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist in Placentia, CA. “These issues will fester and remain like a toothache, thus causing people to ‘fall out of love.’ Being in a close relationship means that you will hurt your spouse, because we’re all human; forgiveness, however, is a skill, and the more we are willing to do it now, the better we can get at it in the future.”
6. Maintaining romantic elements from their courtship period
Couples in love don’t check out on the relationship for months (or years) at a time. “Pay attention to the interests, needs and desires of your partner while trying new things with one another,” suggests Brenda Della Casa, author of Cinderella Was a Liar: The Real Reason You Can’t Find (or Keep) a Prince. Often, all it takes to bring back the wooing vibe are a few small thoughtful or romantic gestures. “Micro-behaviors are all the little things that people do for one another when they are in love, but often stop doing over time — and then they wonder where the love went,” explains Dr. Simon Rego, director of the CBT Training Program at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. “I think it’s a case of chicken-vs.-the-egg: Do the behaviors stop as the feeling of being in love decreases, or is it vice-versa?” If you used to kiss each other good-bye every day or write each other notes and stopped at some point, it’s time to get those sweet, romantic little habits back into your routine again.
7. Giving each partner space to have some quality time alone
Being in love doesn’t have to mean staying in constant contact with your mate…there can be healthy renewal found in some separation now and then, too. “I’ve been married for eight years. It’s a second marriage for both of us, and I have learned a lot from French women on what keeps couples together,” explains Jamie Cat Callan, author of French Women Don’t Sleep Alone: Pleasurable Secrets to Finding Love. “Surprisingly, it’s not about staying close. Yes, some closeness is wonderful, but then it should be followed by periods where you have a sense of being apart — i.e., separate. Once you come together again, you bring something new and interesting into the marriage. Plus, there’s the deliciousness of a romantic reunion.”
8. Staying physically fit and active together
“When couples exercise together, they are supporting one another, spending time together and releasing endorphins, which connect you with your partner and make you feel good,” says Leon Scott Baxter, author of The Finance of Romance: Investing in Your Relationship Portfolio. “Also, when you exercise together, you motivate each other — which helps keep you both going.”
9. Showing frequent appreciation and affection for each other
“I believe nurturing fondness and admiration can be one of the biggest factors when it comes to couples who are still in love after many years,” says Carrie Krawiec, LMFT, a therapist who practices at Birmingham Maple Clinic who also serves as executive director of the Michigan Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. “Showing frequent and genuine appreciation for your partner’s positive traits and behaviors and accepting and understanding your own role in the qualities you resent is the best way to keep a relationship positive and loving rather than letting things become hostile.”
10. Keeping things steamy in the bedroom
Couples in love know how to express themselves between the sheets. “Keep your sex life active,” advise Patty and Greg Kuhlman, the originators of Marriage Success Training. “Schedule a regular date night together, especially if things are slowing down,” advises the couple. “You’ll be surprised how much the anticipation will whet your appetite — just like it did back when you were dating. Overcome any disagreements about initiating intimacy and active/passive roles by taking turns. The brain chemistry stimulated by sexual activity is critical to renewing your bond.”