A relationship lasts as long as you put work into it. There’s no other way to know how many months or years you’ll be with someone.
All you can do is your half.
That said, there’s a handful of big things that go into a solid relationship. You can’t skimp on them. That’s what doing your half means.
1. You admire things about them
There’s a lot to see in someone besides an Instagram body or a rock star salary. Maybe they read a lot, or they’re the most patient person you know, or they make you laugh like nobody else can.
Whatever that is, appreciate it.
A relationship can survive lots of ups and downs as long as you still make an effort to see what’s unique about the person you love.
2. You’re different around them
Someone you love brings out a different side of you, something that not many other people get to see. It might even be something you didn’t know was there, or had forgotten about. A relationship will last as long as you still bring out the best hidden things in each other.
3. You learn from each other
You’re not done growing as a person after you find “the one.” You’ll both keep turning into better people. Someone you love has qualities that you’d like to build in yourself. If you really love someone, you should want to be more like them — at least a little bit.
4. You confide in each other
It’s possible to commit emotional infidelity. That happens when you share your deepest thoughts and feelings with someone else — not your partner. It hurts just as bad as actually cheating on them.
The truth doesn’t always go down easy. But if you can tell it to them, you have a future together. Your future gets a little shaky when you start looking for someone else to open up to.
5. You make little sacrifices
Big sacrifices are easy. You get lots of credit for them. But it’s the little sacrifices that make a relationship last.
It’s giving up a Sunday afternoon to watch your kid, so they can go to a movie with their friends. It’s adjusting your schedule to take care of some errands while she’s at work.
It’s giving him a massage even though you’re tired as hell. It’s doing something they like even if you’re not in the best mood, and it’s actually trying to have a good time — or pretending to.
6. You pretend to have a good time
Let’s stay on this point a little longer. Pretending to have a good time is probably the best thing you can do to make a relationship last. Hey, you’re going to be irritated some days.
You’re going to feel bad on days that are important to your partner. On days like that, just shut up and smile.
You need to go to that poetry reading or photography show. You need to stand beside her friends and make small talk. She’ll know you’re trying. She’ll appreciate it, and she’ll thank you later.
Pretend to have a good time, and she’ll do the same for you. If she doesn’t, then she’s not keeping up her half — and you can bring it up.
7. You flirt and kid with each other
A relationship lasts when you don’t take everything so seriously all the time. You joke and flirt at the beginning of a relationship to show you’re interest. You keep doing it to show them you’re still interested.
At a certain point, we all stop flirting. We get busy with our lives, and forget what made our relationship exciting.
The flame doesn’t keep burning on its own. You have to supply wood and kerosene. (Yeah, I know I just said wood.)
8. You can relax around them
We all wind up filtering ourselves a little at work, and even with our own friends and families. Having someone you can be your unfiltered self around means a lot. When you’re talking to them, your own feelings and emotions come out clear — not fuzzy.
It’s not something to abuse. If you’re unfiltered self is a confused asshole, then do a little work on yourself.
9. You get along with their family
Whoever you love is going to have parents, siblings, and relatives. You have to enjoy spending time with them, too.
Well, “enjoy” might be a strong word…
At the least, you have to see them as people — with good parts and bad ones. You should try to build some level connection with them beyond awkward conversation. If you can’t stand being around their family, there’s a good chance you’re going to get sick of them, too.
10. You respect each other’s opinions
You don’t have to love everything they do. You just have to understand why. That goes for everything from music to politics. If you honestly can’t imagine why anyone would like Maroon 5, then you’re probably not going to be with them too long.
11. You tackle problems together
A relationship that lasts doesn’t break down into “my problems and your problems.” Their problems are yours, and vice versa. The same goes for money, and just about everything else. Telling someone “that’s your problem” or “that’s my money” is the first step toward a breakup or divorce. It means you kinda don’t care about them anymore.
A solid relationship is one where you don’t always agree on the little stuff, but you have each other’s back when it counts.
12. You give each other some space
Love doesn’t require being around someone all the time. The longer you’re in a relationship, the more you need your own space. You love someone when you trust them to be on their own.
Which leads to…
13. You trust each other
It’s really simple. You do what you say you’re going to. You don’t keep huge secrets. You work toward common interests. When you screw up, you do what it takes to rebuild that trust.
When they screw up, you give them another chance.
Take your relationship off cruise control
Relationships last because you always remember they could end. When we assume someone will be around forever, that’s when we stop trying so hard. We get complacent, even lazy.
We stop pretending to have a good time. We allow ourselves to get snarky, or lose our tempers. We stop doing little favors to show our appreciation. We stop kidding and flirting.
Sometimes a relationship just comes to end, and there’s no way to save it. But if you really want something to last, just do the work.