Nine Secrets for a Lifetime of Like, Love, and Lust

Couple in loveWill your relationship last a lifetime? Will you and your partner enjoy each other’s company and have a deep and intimate connection, emotionally and sexually for as long as you both shall live?

That is what we promise when we say, “I do.” Yet the divorce rate hovers around 50% and it’s estimated that 60% of men and 40% of women will have an affair during the lifetime of their marriage. It certainly doesn’t appear that an overwhelming percentage of married couples are in matrimonial bliss.

What does it take to create a relationship of like, love, and lust that will last till death do us part? Having seen thousands of couples over our 23 years in practice together, Bob (my husband) and I think we have the answer. These are our nine pieces of wisdom:

1. Stay awake. The busyness of our everyday lives—going to work, parenting kids, paying the bills, caring for parents, advancing in our careers—takes a tremendous toll on our time, energy, and attention. No wonder it’s not uncommon for couples to drift along and forget that, for their marriage to thrive, it too needs time, energy, and attention. We often see couples who seem like they have been sleeping through their marriage and unintentionally or unconsciously have drifted to the point of no return.

Other couples believe, “If you really love your partner, you shouldn’t have to work at your relationship.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Bob and I do this for a living and we still work at our relationship every day.

The reality is that for a relationship to be passionate, loving, and connected over a lifetime, two people must consciously be aware of and attend to their partnership; intimate relationships are a direct result of our loving thoughts, words, and actions. You and your partner do have the ability to consciously co-create the marriage you want.

Take the reins, understand that successful relationships require work and stay awake.

2. Own your part. Most often, in a couple’s first appointment, each person presents what the partner is doing wrong. Blame abounds, as each one states his or her case, expecting the therapist to determine who is right (and, therefore, who is wrong). Eyes are looking outward. Remember when one finger is pointing out, three are pointing back at you.

When it comes to relationships, the words, actions, and behaviors of each partner interact to determine the quality of their relationship. No matter what the circumstance, each person is accountable for some part of it. It certainly is important to let your partner know what you want him/her to do, or not do, in order to enhance your connection. And it is vital for you to recognize the part you play in creating the state of the relationship at any moment. Turn your eyes inward. To be part of the solution, you must identify your part of the problem.

Step up and ask yourself, “What am I contributing to the problem, and what can I change that will positively affect the relationship?”

3. Believe in growth. The beliefs a person has about human nature and relationships can have a huge impact on the fate of the partnership. Do you believe that if two people are devoted to working on their relationship, they can change their own thoughts and behaviors? You cannot change a person’s personality, but people can change actions, thoughts, and emotions. People can grow.

Do you believe that relationships can grow and evolve over time, based upon each partner’s actions and communication? We have witnessed many couples change dynamics, patterns, and habits, making them a more successful partnership.

Believing that people and relationships can grow, is vital to a relationship that lasts a lifetime. Keep your eyes open to your partnership’s potential.

4. Communicate. There is no skill more important to a relationship’s chance of achieving success over a lifetime than communication; making the time and space to have ongoing dialogue and practice active listening, speaking up, and being genuine are the keys to good communication.

Often we see couples who don’t respect their partners’ thoughts and feelings. No matter what the issue, it’s vital to make room for each partner’s opinions, views, and feelings. Forget about being right; focus on understanding your partner’s point of view and having him/her understand yours. You don’t have to agree with your partner’s point of view; the act of hearing it, acknowledging it, and respecting it is what’s important. Only then can you problem solve as a team.

Studies have shown that successful relationships have a balance of power and influence; act as a team no matter what the issue.

When conflict arises, turn arguments into disagreements. Arguments are defined as “a disagreement in which different views are expressed, often angrily.” Disagreements are: “having or expressing a different opinion and failing to agree about something.” The difference is that arguing is filled with emotion, usually anger, while disagreeing is not. When couples argue and emotions are high, they are unable to hear each other or solve problems.

Turn an argument into a disagreement—when each partner takes responsibility for his/her own strong emotions, the couple can create a habit of taking a break, soothing their own emotions, and coming back to the discussion.

5. Stay “in touch.” Some couples drift apart and don’t realize it until a crisis occurs, for example, one partner has fallen out of love with the other, and/or one person has an affair. Being awake and aware is part of the answer. You can stay connected by making a habit of talking about the relationship—ask your partner how he/she is feeling about the connection, emotionally and sexually. Talk about what’s going well and what you would like more/less of. Then act on that conversation. Don’t assume everything is okay.

Stay in touch on the levels of head, heart, and hormones by talking, regularly doing acts of love, and connecting erotically/sexually.

6. Build connections. It’s estimated that the average couple spends just 11 minutes a day together. Most likely, this is when couples are raising kids. Studies have consistently shown that marital satisfaction plunges after the birth of the first child. When children become the center of focus, and time and energy are spread thin, neglecting the relationship may become the new norm. By the time an empty nest arrives, couples may have nothing left in common.

It’s up to you to continually build connections over a lifetime, finding new ways to relate and enjoy each other’s company—just the two of you. Whether it’s talking about the news, taking dancing lessons, going to the symphony, riding bikes, taking up a cause, watching movies, every couple needs to do activities that they enjoy together.

Work as a team to decide what activities will nurture your connection. What experiences do you like to share and enjoy together? Carve out time to do those things; a strong marriage is the best gift you can give your children.

7. Do something different. All couples get into daily habits—work, commute home, watch TV, go to bed. Routine can create feelings of boredom, leading to relationships stagnation. So break up the routine.

Change it up. Be creative. Take a day off together. Go out for appetizers and drinks during the week. Spend a weekend, or even just one night, at a bed and breakfast. Seek out a new adventure that will add excitement and sparks to your marriage.

8. Turn toward your partner. There will be times in a lifetime relationship where you will feel disconnected, lonely, even unloved. There is no perfect relationship, only the relationship that is perfect for you. Be aware when you are having these feelings and communicate them to your partner. Bring it home to the relationship; do not start talking about your marital unhappiness with someone else—especially someone of the opposite sex, creating temptation and setting up potential jealousy.

These are the times in a marriage where it becomes fragile and vulnerable to affairs, relational drift, or emotional and sexual disconnection. The critical mistakes some people make during these times put the their marriage and family at risk.

The true test of a marriage is how people respond during the bad times. In vulnerable times, consciously turn toward your partner, and, if needed, seek the help of a competent marital therapist.

9. Persevere. In the millennium, life moves fast, attention spans are limited, responses are quick, immediate gratification is expected, patience is at an all time low. Having a lifetime relationship that is happy, healthy, and connected requires commitment, devotion, patience, and perseverance. It can only be co-created by two people who work hard and weather many storms. The rewards of sharing a lifetime together are tremendous.

Each of us has an innate drive, when problems arise, to move towards the problem or to move away. In relationships that achieve a lifetime of like, love, and lust, both partners embrace the problems and persevere.

Why do we strive to stay married for a lifetime? In the movie Shall We Dance (2004) with Susan Sarandon, there is a conversation between Sarandon’s character and a private investigator she’s hired to find out if her husband is having an affair. Sarandon says to the investigator, “All these promises that we make and we break… Why is it, do you think, that people get married?” The investigator replies: “Passion.” She responds, “No…[It’s] because we need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet. I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things, all of it. All of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness.'”

We look for another to love and to cherish so we don’t walk through life alone. To fully enjoy life, each of us needs to love and to be loved.

© Copyright 2011 by By Lori Hollander, LCSW-C, BCD, therapist in Owings Mills, Maryland. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 26 comments
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  • Doug

    Doug

    February 4th, 2011 at 3:29 PM

    These are some great tips but I am still reeling from the info at the top of the article about how many men and women end up having affairs. Is it true that this many people really enter into marriage with no thought of keeping that commitment that they make to one another and before God? Stunning.

  • BOLLINGER

    BOLLINGER

    February 4th, 2011 at 11:32 PM

    All these divorce rates just scare me! I’m 25 and am looking at settling down in the next couple of years but marriage and relationships scare me sometimes. I believe that if you are in a relationship where there is no value for your partner or where there is no love and understanding,such a relationship is worse than not having one at all.

    But there are things that can help,as you have pointed out.And I believe these are not too difficult to follow either.Just hope I find someone who would too :)

  • stacia

    stacia

    February 5th, 2011 at 11:45 AM

    I think that you could have just stopped at the tip about staying awake. I see far too many couples who after a while zone out on the whole marriage, the kids, the family life, everything. They let everything get too routine and get in a rut. I think that that kind of complacency is one of the biggest reasons for divorce. People get bored and think that someone new will solve the problem. What they do not realize is that it is not about having someone new, but maybe just revising a little of what you have could make a positive impact on the marriage. The grass is definitely not always greener on the other side.

  • Lori

    Lori

    February 5th, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    Doug,
    I can understand how it is quite shocking that many people do not keep the commitment they make to each other when they marry. I do believe that people intend to keep this commitment when they marry. However, we are not taught that we have to consciously work on our relationships to keep them going for a lifetime.

    Over the years, if couples don’t consciously nurture their marriage they tend to drift apart, especially after they have children and life becomes increasingly busy and fragmented.

    Bob and I truly believe that if a couple consciously works on their connection and makes it their priority, you can absolutely have a great lifetime of love and fidelity with one partner.

  • Lori

    Lori

    February 5th, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    Bollinger,
    The fact that the divorce rates scare you is a good thing! It means you are aware that it takes work to have a lifetime relationship. There are people out there who also want a great marriage! Your job is to find one.

    If you have any questions, please feel free to email me!
    Lori

  • Sandra

    Sandra

    February 6th, 2011 at 6:32 AM

    There is no perfect answer for the perfect marriage. If you do all of these things then yes your marriage has more of a fighting chance that it may have had without them. But what if the other partner does not reciprocate? Marriage is all abotu give and take and it cannot always be about one person giving while the other is doing all of the taking and giving nothing in return.

  • Jan

    Jan

    February 9th, 2011 at 5:39 PM

    “Till death do us part” is now just a parroted line that nobody listens to or cares about like most traditions. It’s sad that marriage doesn’t last anymore, even when people put their all into it. It makes me wonder why people even bother getting married in the first place. I’ll stay single until the day I die. I’ve seen too many breakups not to be cynical about the whole concept.

  • Britney

    Britney

    February 9th, 2011 at 5:55 PM

    I surprised my husband this evening by pelting him with a snowball when he came home from work. I’m soaking wet, I’m freezing, and I need a good long shower to warm up properly but a good snowball fight was fun! :)

  • James X.

    James X.

    February 11th, 2011 at 3:48 PM

    I’ve had relationships fail due to communication issues. Someone I was dating back in high school was always trying to get me to have sex even though I have a very firm policy of no sex before marriage. I had told her that at the beginning, but was I listened to? No. You really need to know, understand, and respect your partner’s beliefs, no matter what they are. If you don’t have mutual respect, what do you have?

  • angel

    angel

    February 11th, 2011 at 5:04 PM

    I feel it’s better to just stay unmarried unless you plan to have kids. That way, if things don’t work out, you can break up without having to jump through several legal hoops. Divorce is sadly a daily occurrence. The value of marriage has hit rock-bottom ever since people started sticking their noses into other couples’ marriages and thinking that was okay. Leave couples alone to work it out themselves if they haven’t asked you for help.

  • Hank

    Hank

    February 11th, 2011 at 5:56 PM

    I keep my marriage together by having an open relationship that involves forgiveness. My wife cheated on me once. I was disappointed, but I wasn’t mad because I wasn’t too faithful in my previous marriage either. What goes around comes around. We patched it up.

  • Opal

    Opal

    February 11th, 2011 at 7:12 PM

    Talk to your spouse, and tell them to get everything off their chest. Give them carte blanche to say everything without consequence. Drugs or alcohol when you’re not there, cheating on you, can’t have or don’t want kids, inappropriate behavior…everything. It’ll come as a shock if you are being cheated on, but as the article said, infidelity is estimated at around 50%. Honesty is everything.

  • Lori Hollander

    Lori Hollander

    February 12th, 2011 at 10:28 AM

    Stacia,
    Unfortunately it is the case that people think the grass is greener on the other side, without exploring what they could do to work on the marriage.
    Thanks for your comments.
    Lori

  • Lori Hollander

    Lori Hollander

    February 12th, 2011 at 10:34 AM

    Sandra,
    You are exactly right! Marriage is a two-person job and one partner can only do their part. It can only be as good as the effort of both people.

    Thanks for your comment,
    Lori

  • Lori Hollander

    Lori Hollander

    February 12th, 2011 at 10:42 AM

    Jan,
    I certainly understand your feelings about being cynical. Applying for a job with a 50% failure rate isn’t a job that most people would apply for.

    However, I wouldn’t give up on marriage if that is what you want. The reason I do this work is that my parents divorced when I was 12 and I know how devastating it is to kids. I was determined to grow up and find a husband who wanted what I did and was committed to marriage so my kids wouldn’t have to experience what I did. I worked long and hard on understanding myself and learned how to find an honest, committed and devoted guy. Bob and I have been married for 23 years and have two amazing kids. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

    There are nice guys out there if you know how to pick them. I wrote an eWorksheet on that very topic if you want to check it out.

    If you have any questions, feel free to email me.
    Lori

  • Lori Hollander

    Lori Hollander

    February 12th, 2011 at 10:44 AM

    Britney,
    Love it! Sometimes we forget to have fun. Thanks for sharing.
    Lori

  • Lori Hollander

    Lori Hollander

    February 12th, 2011 at 10:45 AM

    James,
    You are exactly right! Mutual respect, listening and communication are some of the most important ingredients in a relationship.
    Appreciate your sharing!
    Lori

  • Lori Hollander

    Lori Hollander

    February 12th, 2011 at 10:48 AM

    Angel,
    The contract is only as good as the two partners, as you said. If you find a person who truly is willing to do the work of marriage with you, I still think it is a wonderful commitment. See my reply to Jan above.
    Thanks for your comments.
    Lori

  • Lori Hollander

    Lori Hollander

    February 12th, 2011 at 10:51 AM

    Hank,
    Appreciate your genuineness. Forgiveness is essential in a relationship. I hope you and your wife communicated a lot or sought help so you and she can understand how the relationship became vulnerable to her going outside the partnership.
    Lori

  • Lori Hollander

    Lori Hollander

    February 12th, 2011 at 10:53 AM

    Opal,
    Honesty and good communication are vital. Being genuine and authentic are the key to deep connection.
    Appreciate your thoughts.
    Lori

  • eva

    eva

    February 13th, 2011 at 9:47 PM

    Being open to your partner is one of the most common and important factor for the couple to have a successful marriage life.Those tips would be greatly appreciated. for thanks posting!

  • Lori Hollander

    Lori Hollander

    February 14th, 2011 at 8:26 PM

    Eva,
    I appreciate your thoughts!
    Lori

  • Richa

    Richa

    May 21st, 2013 at 11:06 PM

    But some guys just wanted a physical relationship with you… I am just 20 and I am not ready for one night stand…

    And finally I broke up!!

    I loved him a lot seriously… :(

  • RHONDA

    RHONDA

    June 13th, 2014 at 9:57 PM

    What an excellent article about this subject.Just loved reading every word.Bless you and PEACE and LIGHT.XO.

  • Lori Hollander

    Lori Hollander

    June 15th, 2014 at 6:42 PM

    Rhonda, Thank you so much for your kind words!!

  • diane

    diane

    January 19th, 2015 at 1:48 AM

    I just read your article and wanted to say Thank you.
    After 2 failed marriages one of which was abusive, I am trying again for a third time to someone I love unconditionally. In hindsight looking at my other marriages, I realise my failing was being unable to communicate. I’m trying to put that right now, as my fiance believes in Talking about ecerything. It’s hard for me to do this because of my past, but I don’t want to lose my David. I’ve printed this article out so everyday I have a reminder, of how to proceed. Everything crossed that it works!! Thank you, Diane

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