Relate’s 80 tips for long-lasting and fulfilling relationships

Relationships

1. Talk openly and honestly with your partner – if you’re not sure whether you’re doing this, why not try our quiz.

2. It’s really easy to be critical of your partner. Instead, try to tell them what you love about them and all the things they do that you appreciate.

3. When you talk to your partner do you really listen? Improve the quality of how you really listen and both of you benefit.

4. Learn to argue well. It may sound odd, but if you find a non-damaging way to resolve difficulties it will futureproof your relationship.

5. Having a similar outlook on issues like money, kids, sex, and aspirations for the future will make for a smoother relationship, although the important thing isn’t the differences themselves, but how you navigate them. Don’t avoid talking about the big stuff, or leave it too late.

6. Got something tricky to talk about? Go out to a quiet café or better still go for a walk, even reluctant talkers can find it easier to speak when not sitting in the house staring at each other.

7. Give your relationship the same care you give your car or your health with an annual relationship MOT or health check. Talk about what you want from your relationship now and in the future. Do this with Relate if it’s hard to do by yourselves.

8. Try to balance having your own work, friends, and interests with enough ‘couple stuff’ to keep you connected. It may feel like you’re too busy but the key is to make your relationship a priority.

9. Get to know and love yourself – it’s the best route to fully engaging in a relationship.

10. Be wary of the myth of ‘the one’ and recognise how it can be damaging for relationships.

11. If you’re out of the habit of having fun together, then resurrect what you were doing or come up with ideas for new things you will both enjoy.

12. Learn to apologise and to forgive – it’s good for everybody and your relationship.

13. Try to stop comparing your relationship to other people’s or at least notice when you’re doing it. Every relationship is unique and no relationship is perfect.

14. Define who does what based on your strengths and preferences and avoid the pressure to conform to gender norms.

15. Don’t feel under pressure to be in a relationship, get married or conform to one relationship model. Everyone is different – find out what works for you and if you don’t get it right the first time, keep trying.

16. Don’t think of your relationship as a failure if it doesn’t work out. There are probably still good memories to cherish and it’s an opportunity to learn and grow.

17. Don’t be afraid to seek support for your relationship and ideally do so before things reach crisis point. Equally if you’re thinking of breaking up or in the process of doing so, counselling or mediation can make the whole process less painful.

18. Don’t expect your partner to know exactly what you’re thinking or to know the right thing to say. They aren’t a mind-reader and need guidance – it doesn’t mean they love you any less.

LGBT+ 

19. Push your internal boundaries occasionally — hold hands in the cinema or talk to workmates about your weekend.

20. The ‘scene’ can be a lot more than pubs, clubs and apps – there’s loads of other ways to meet people such as LGBT+ events and interest groups.

21. Create celebrations for your milestones whatever those are — coming out, starting hormones, moving in together.

22. Talk to older LGBT+ people about how things have changed in our lifetimes – it’s good to get perspective. If you’re mature yourself, embrace ageing and be a visible LGBT+ elder.

23. Sexuality can be fluid and change over time. Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate it but remember to check in with your partner/s.

24. If you have had to justify your relationship to others you may feel pressure that it has to be perfect but LGBT+ relationships can have all the same challenges as straight relationships.

25. Avoid seeing how ‘out’ your partner is as a sign of how committed they are to you. Coming out can be complicated and everyone has the right to personally decide their ‘outness’

Sex

26. Sometimes long-term partners become like a ‘comfy pair of slippers’, you know what you’re going to get – it’s good to reinvigorate your love life by introducing something different.

27. Tell each other the story of your favourite sexual experience you’ve had in your relationship, listen carefully to your partner’s experience, not only will this lead to reminiscing but it often leads to another good time!

28. Talk about the things you haven’t tried yet that you might like to. Try some of them or if you’re not sure, fantasise together about acting them out.

29. Spice it up, dress in separate locations for a night out, if you want to take this further try meeting in a restaurant for a meal as if you were on a date.

30. Find out about your partner’s biggest turn-ons and offs. You may think you know them all but people change and so do their preferences.

31. No two people have the same sexual desires, histories and tastes. Love your partner for their uniqueness rather than seeing their differences as threatening.

32. Sex is part of intimacy but there are a lot more ways to be intimate than just being sexual. If things are feeling stale ask yourself what is intimate for you and your partner and strive for that.

33.The media and the internet paint an unrealistic image of most people’s sex lives. Let go of the ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ around sex and just do what is right for you as a couple.

34. There is no ‘normal’ way to have sex.

35. Some people are perfectly happy not having sex and if both partners are comfortable with this, there’s no need for it to be a problem. If one person wants it and the other doesn’t, that’s when you may want to seek support.

36. Understand the difference between celebrating the end of an argument with sex and using sex as a bandage.

37. Sex is often a ‘barometer’ for relationship health. Look beyond your sexual problems to find out what’s really going on.

38. If you haven’t had sex for a while and you want to change that then build up intimacy first. Start having time together alone and focus on kissing and cuddling to begin with without the pressure of full intercourse.

Family

39. Families are complicated and are increasingly made up of people we didn’t used to be related to … like step-siblings. Don’t pressurise yourself to feel like a family straight away – it takes time to get to know each other and to find your new family identity.

40. Give your children lots of praise – they will remember it long after they forget what they got for Christmas.

41. Ask your teenager what they want from you as a parent, don’t assume you know.

42. When you feeling like killing your teenager give them a big hug. Remember you were a teenager once.

43. Remember to appreciate the people you see every day, the little routines you have and the daily company of your family. The small stuff is really the big stuff.

44. If you are struggling to be heard in your family don’t expect people to mind-read and just know what you want or need. Tell them clearly and balance this with making time to listen.

45. Don’t forget the mistakes you made (even if you don’t always want to remember). Sometimes sharing your misspent youth can be helpful.

46. Parenting teens is a time of transition, you will fall between ‘do what I say’ and ‘you are old enough to know better’. Acknowledge this and maybe laugh at the inconsistency!

47. Just because you’re related doesn’t mean you have the same personality, likes and dislikes. You can love each other without always having to like what your family members do.

48. Let your kids teach you something new from their world.

49. Bonding with your in-laws sometimes takes some effort. Remember they are your partner’s family and want to be part of your lives but balance this with your right to live the life that you and your partner want.

50. Your parents may be a strong influence on you now but as an adult you can choose how far you let that influence impact on how you live.

Work

51. Value other people’s skills, especially if they are different from yours.

52. You may win a workplace argument but your relationship could suffer – ask yourself what matters more.

53. Make an effort to connect with at least some people you work with. Colleagues may not be your friends, but you spend enough time with them for the effort to be worth it.

54. If workplace gossip and moaning is starting to sap your energy, then pull back from it as it can be contagious.

55. Bullying and harassment are serious issues that can make work a misery. Speak to someone (it could be a manager, HR, a union rep or using your workplace whistleblowing policy). Don’t suffer in silence.

56. It’s not fun being the new person so go the extra mile to be supportive, it doesn’t take much — you could just make sure they know a good place to get a sandwich at lunch.

57. Show your appreciation for something a colleague did, even it was part of their job, it’s good for effort to be valued.

58. Be a workplace mentor or coach for someone less experienced in the workplace. If you don’t have this sort of scheme where you work then start one!

Friendships

59. Give and take may be a cliché but equality matters. Strive for balance between — who talks and who listens, who is the shoulder to cry on, and who takes responsibility for initiating getting together.

60. We may feel extra connected when we have things in common, but we learn most when we have differences so try to embrace them as chances to stretch ourselves and grow.

61. There are no right and wrongs with friendships, some people have only one or two close friends, others have a big group and some have different friends for different parts of their lives. Do what’s right for you.

62. Our time is precious and we need to spend it with those who matter most to us. If you stay connected to someone out of guilt or because it’s a habit then maybe it’s time to move on.

63. It’s OK to have peaks and troughs in friendships just like in romantic relationships. Don’t put yourself under pressure to be full on all the time.

64. With busy lives things can drift. We have never had more ways to keep in touch and to reach out. Try to keep connected even if it’s just messaging someone to say you were thinking about them.

65. Misunderstandings that are not resolved can fester and can even destroy friendships. If your friendship is valuable to you, face the issue and have a conversation, even if it’s difficult or embarrassing, it’s better than losing a friend.

66. Friends can be a great support when times are tough but make sure you can follow through on what you offer, this might mean not being too ambitious with your offers, better to be realistic and be able to do what you say.

67. Ask yourself if you know someone who is lonely or who you think may be. You don’t need to become their best friend but a gesture of reaching out can be appreciated.

68. Consider how you can share your friendliness with other people who would value a listening ear, a laugh or someone to have a cry with. Many local charities welcome people to befriend different groups of people who can really benefit from your friendliness.

You

69. Own your life. If you aren’t happy then take steps to change things, with support if possible, to get to a happier place.

70. Have compassion when you go things wrong, be kind to yourself, and be proud and treat yourself when you do well.

71. If you’re single but want to be in a relationship — it’s a great time to work on having a fulfilling life, building your self-esteem and being ready to couple up from a happy place.

72. Do you see yourself as someone prone to depression, stress or anxiety? You can turn this around with the right help. Just because something has been a problem in the past, it doesn’t have to be a problem in the future.

73. See every setback as a chance to learn and develop.

74. Develop a habit of appreciating and noticing positives. Every night note down three things that were good about the day, even the getting a seat on the bus would count! Within a few weeks, you will have created a list of things to help on low days and will have picked up a great noticing habit.

75. Find a way to have a quiet space with yourself that works for you — you may want to meditate or do yoga or just leave your phone at home when you walk the dog.

76. You are the best expert on you. So while it’s great to have advice from family and friends about how you should live and what they would do in your position, they aren’t you.

77. Are you a giver who will sacrifice yourself to be there for everyone else? An exhausted, stressed and overly busy you will not be much good for anyone in the end. Self-care or ‘me time’ is not selfish, it’s essential.

78. Push yourself outside your comfort zone, even in little ways whenever you can. You are capable of so much if you ignore that nagging voice that holds you back and says you can’t do stuff.

79. Going a step further – learn to overcome your fears. Our fears represent areas for growth and development.

80. Practice mindfulness. Even small mindful things, like focusing on your breathing, can be hugely beneficial to centering yourself and delivering a tangible feeling of calm.

 

Watch Relate’s new video about the secrets to a successful and long-lasting relationship.