“Hindsight,” “grass is greener,” “love is all you need” and other adages aside, you might be curious what makes a relationship strong and long?

Longtime spouses enjoying each others companyShare on Pinterest
Counter/Getty Images

Maybe it was love at first sight that brought you together or a mutual friend who introduced you to one another. Perhaps it was an online dating platform that gathered data on every detail that makes you unique and paired you with your ideal match.

No matter how you became a couple, you both are sure that this union is destined to be your “at last love.”

However, you also know that sometimes even endless love can have its challenges. These difficulties may arise because of life stressors, differences in communication styles, or as you and your mate journey through different relationship stages.

But what can you do to help ensure your relationship stays strong and happy — even through the rough stuff?

Before diving into what makes love strong, it’s a good idea to look at some of the most common red flags in romantic relationships that may indicate you and your partner aren’t relating in a healthy way.

A greater understanding of what typically doesn’t work may help you successfully build the loving relationship you want.

Signs to look out for include:

  • One of you attempts to control the other.
  • Trust is lacking.
  • You or your partner feel uncomfortable expressing needs or wants.
  • There’s ongoing unresolved conflict.
  • Criticism, contempt, defensiveness, or stonewalling is present in the relationship most of the time.

According to a 2013 article published by the Gottman Institute, contempt is the single most significant predictor of divorce or relationship breakdown. It is often the result of long-term unresolved conflict that manifests as one person feeling moral superiority over another.

So what makes a relationship strong? Is it all about trust? Sexual satisfaction? Or something else?

To help answer this universal question, researchers used machine learning to examine relationship variables in 11,196 couples during a 2020 study.

They found that, above all, feeling your partner was committed to the relationship for the long haul and how appreciative you are of your mate were the largest predictors of relationship satisfaction.

Maintaining a relationship and making it strong and resilient to life’s challenges takes a willingness of both partners to put in time and effort.

Here are some key strategies.

As life’s obligations pile up, loving your partner can quickly fall to the bottom of the to-do list. Luckily, caring for your relationship doesn’t have to entail grand vacations or extravagant gifts. Sometimes it’s the little things that make the most impact.

Prioritizing quality time together, ensuring your partner feels heard and understood, and practicing small acts of kindness every day can help build a strong bond even when life stressors get in the way.

Being around each other every day is not the same thing as being present for your partner. Being truly present in another person’s life means involving yourself in their hopes and dreams, and taking time to notice and compliment their accomplishments. It also involves showing genuine empathy when they are facing challenges.

Simply expressing your desire to know and understand your mate can help strengthen your bond and make them feel like you’re both on the same team.

Good communication involves more than just talking. It’s includes sharing your thoughts, feelings, and needs in a way that respects the other person. It also involves active listening.

Successful communication makes both people feel heard and understood.

In romantic relationships, love languages are also a form of communication. By learning how your partner expresses and receives love, you can more effectively meet their relationship needs.

Research published in 2019 suggests that if you or your partner has a mental health condition, it can create stress on the relationship. Conditions that can cause relationship difficulties include:

If you’re experiencing mental health challenges, you are not alone. Consider seeking the help of a mental health professional to get the diagnosis and treatment you need. Once you feel better, you may be more able to focus on building the relationship you want.

Expectations of how your partner should behave or feel can wreak havoc in a relationship. It’s helpful to remember that your partner is not an exact copy of you and has their own wants, needs, boundaries, and goals. Learning to accept them for who they are, including perceived flaws, can build mutual feelings of respect and love.

Conflict happens in all relationships. But before reacting to your partner with an emotionally charged response, consider taking some time to think, reflect, and develop insight into why this issue is causing you distress.

You may find that what they’ve done or said has triggered unresolved issues within yourself. Or, after thinking about it, you may realize it isn’t as serious of a problem as you first thought. By recognizing and addressing this, you may be better able to respond calmly and communicate your concerns more effectively.

Trust is an important aspect of any relationship. Without it, your partnership can experience a myriad of challenges like jealousy and conflict. Building the trust you and your partner need involves being open and honest.

Being truthful with your partner is important, but so is being a safe place for their truths to land. This may require you to be willing to deal with uncomfortable topics in a tactful way so your partner feels secure telling you something that might create conflict.

If you are tired, overwhelmed, or constantly giving much and getting little in return, you might not have the energy or desire needed to nurture your relationship.

Taking time to practice self-care, even if that includes time away from your partner to hang out with friends or engage in hobbies you like, can help promote healthy boundaries and the overall health of your relationship.

Relationships are complex, and each one is unique. So some techniques for building a strong partnership that works for one couple might not work for you and your partner, and that’s OK.

If you are unsure where to begin, having a mutual willingness to put in the effort necessary for a strong bond is a great start. Once you’ve both committed to strengthening your bond, you can then begin creating a relationship that stands the test of time and gives you and your partner the joy and happiness you both deserve.