“Actually, I’m divorced”.
That felt like a terribly unsexy thing for me to say a few years ago as a 20-something divorcée. Especially if the conversation was with an attractive male who was presumably (hopefully!) interested in me.
And even though I was young when I got divorced, I felt like having a relationship fall apart made me strangely wise about what makes one work. If you speak to any of my fellow divorcées, they will often nod in agreement, grateful in unlikely ways for what their unsuccessful marriages taught them. The secret to lasting relationship success is not about big gestures and theatrical drama. It’s the subtle thoughts and actions that could go unnoticed on the daily.
So after losing money, face, and, most importantly, my romantic naiveté in my younger years, I’ve come to observe what tends to hold a relationship together over time.
Here are five habits people in long-lasting partnerships often have:
1. They offer unwavering support.
Job loss. A death in the family. Illness. It’s a matter of time before life serves you one of these challenges. Will your spouse be there for you no matter what—and vice versa? If it’s even a question, that’s something you might want to think about. Support is the foundation of every great relationship.
2. They’re generous.
Sounds simple, right? That’s because it should be. Do you go out of your way to make your partner’s life a little bit easier? Do you think of ways to make him or her laugh? Do you help find the car keys even when you’re both running late? Do you surprise your S.O. with a small gift, a note, or an unexpected sext during the day? These things are important, especially over time, to make your person feel desired and appreciated. Generosity in any form is almost always received as love. Are you giving enough?
3. They know their love language.
According to the best-selling author of The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman, we all communicate love through five key ways: physical touch, words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, and/or gifts. Knowing your own love language—and your partner’s—helps you communicate your affection in best ways for your relationship. Unsure of yours? Take the quiz.
4. They’re present (even when they’re tired).
Nicole Moore, relationship coach and founder of the Love Works Method, says, “The more present you are, the more attractive you are.” So listen. Pay attention. Be grounded. These are important factors in showing your love and respect for your partner. Moore says she always stops what’s she’s doing and turns her attention to her husband when he arrives home. Put simply, it’s “being loving” that counts most. And your presence is your power.
5. They keep the dating vibe alive.
Tony Robbins says, “Do what you did in the beginning of a relationship, and there won’t be an end.” What can you do to keep your relationship fresh? Can you go away for a weekend? Can you have a date night out (or in)? Can you go for a walk without your cell phones and really connect? Can you go see a funny movie together? Can you prioritize sex?
Lasting relationships do not revolve around red roses, grand gestures, or even a lack of disagreements. They involve being realistic and showing up emotionally (even when you don’t feel like it). Successful relationships are centered around kindness, friendship, and consideration. Simple stuff.
The other night I tried Moore’s tip and warmly welcomed my husband when he arrived home (in the form of a playful pounce). He was surprised and happy. He said later, “That was nice before, ya know, me coming home to that big hug. You can do that again.”
And that was all it took: a big hug. It’s the little things.
Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!