Aging like fine wine: 10 rules for a good relationship over the years

Relationships take a lot of hard work- one relationship specialist weighs in.

 Romantically involved couple (photo credit: CREATIVE COMMONS)
Romantically involved couple
(photo credit: CREATIVE COMMONS)

Valentines Day, February 14th, is quickly-approaching. So, we asked Lilac Schwartz-Pleg, a researcher, lecturer and host of workshops on relationship and family issues, to teach us more about how long-term relationships might succeed. Her answers were gems - see for yourself.

Many couples manage to live together for many years by each others sides. They experience so many sources of joy, points of pressure, work, personal challenges, and raising children, amongst other experiences. With these experiences, these couples may find themselves feeling distant and misunderstood by their partners.

Of course, drifting is natural. The marital gap can have many causes, and every relationship will have periods of ups and downs. 

Dating tips for a love that lasts

It happens to everyone. Come on, that's life itself. And you can push through these issues. Get the 10 commandments for a good and long-lasting relationship, by Lilac Schwartz-Pleg:

 A couple kiss under an umbrella in the rain. (credit: PEXELS) A couple kiss under an umbrella in the rain. (credit: PEXELS)
  • Be sure to talk - Talking is at the base of everything. We often find ourselves making excuses — “I don’t have the strength,” “I won’t talk about it,” “it isn’t important,” “It’s fine, it will work out,” and so on. No, no, no! Do not quit and give up on having conversations about anything. Don’t keep things to yourself and be sure to communicate in a benevolent way. Make sure you are really listening, sharing, and keeping your ears open to the conversation.
  • Avoid accusations - Talk about your feelings with each other and really focus on what you are actually feeling. For example, a woman can tell her husband, “all you care about is your mother!” I recommend saying something more like, “I feel less important” when talking about feelings. Telling someone you don’t feel seen allows less judgement and is harder to argue with. It is subjective and helps to pinpoint your feelings and get the message across at the same time.
  • Switch roles - Put yourself in your partner's shoes and try to accurately describe how they feel. Exactly what they think, what they would say. Not what I want them to say. It's called empathy, so be empathetic.
  • Cultivate your relationship - Make sure to make time for yourselves as a couple. It can often feel impossible, especially when you have small children at home, or a demanding job and career. This is something that needs to go in the schedule. It doesn't have to be something grandiose like a holiday abroad, it can be a short date in the evening for coffee, or enjoying a hobby together. It’s quality time that is only yours.
  • Respect everyone's private space - Everyone has the need for personal time, to pursue our hobbies. In the previous section, we talked about devoting time for your partner. Here, the aim is balance. It is important to understand that a relationship does not require intensity and total attachment. Couple time must come out of a shared desire and not out of necessity. It is completely fine and even desirable to miss it.
  • Be sensitive of your partner's hidden needs - make sure to listen to yourself and simultaneously, be sensitive to your partner. What do you really want? What do they really want? If you concentrate only on trying to please your partner and keeping your voice down, you may find yourself resentful and calculating. This never leads to good results. So yes, linger, say what you feel if something doesn't suit you. Even if it creates a conflict and makes things a bit more tense, it is better to have higher tension in those moments so that you don't end up with some kind of big break that will be difficult to heal later.
  • Learn to forgive and move on - Forgiveness is a very important quality. Many times we find ourselves getting stuck at a certain point, but moving on is something that is very important in a relationship.
  • Take responsibility - Check where I am wrong. After all, in a relationship it is never just one person - there is no right and wrong, black and white, reality is always more complex. Therefore, think about your role and responsibility in the story, then try to understand where you can do something differently.
  • Avoid negative patterns - It is important to notice our own behaviors and habits. For example, disrespectful speech, violence, and blow-ups; there are couples who, after a fight, do not speak to each other at all. Throw these patterns "in the trash”! They probably don't contribute anything and will only cause great damage.
  • Do not rule out professional treatment - if you feel that all these things do not help you, the break is deep and the burdens are too great, then go for treatment and do not postpone it. In couple's therapy, you learn to put an objective view on the relationship and focus on all these points - how to communicate better, how to listen, how to let go, how to vent, how to take responsibility, how to be empathetic, and so on. Sometimes it doesn't come naturally to us and we have to learn it. Therefore, the sooner you go to couples therapy, the better you will do for you and your family.

Lilac Schwartz-Pleg is an emotional, marital and family therapist, researcher, lecturer and host of workshops on marital and family issues.