Everyone who says "I do" hopes that those two words sustain a lifetime. But, as any relationship expert or person who's been married even a few years will tell you, it takes a great deal of effort, commitment, support, patience, and dedication in order for a marriage (or relationship of any kind) to thrive. That means that if you want your relationship to continue thriving, you need to put in some work. That's why we asked the experts to share a list of qualities that are necessary for marital success. If you're already engaged or married, the odds are good that you and your significant other are already doing these things, but if you're not, you should consider adopting these good relationship qualities now.
You Communicate Effectively
Every couple knows that communication is an essential factor in keeping your marriage strong, but what exactly does good communication entail? "Real communication is not just waiting for the other person to stop talking so you can have your turn," says Tammy Nelson, a relationship therapist and author. "It means talking about your feelings and then working to understand what your partner is trying to say." One way she recommends practicing communication is to "mirror" your partner when they have something important to say. "Statements like, 'What I hear you saying….' and then repeating back to them what you heard can save you both from a lifetime of being misunderstood," she adds.
You Share the Same Life Goals
You don't have to pursue the same career or even work in the same city, but if the two of you share life goals—like whether or not to have children and where to settle down—marriage will be more blissful and less of an uphill battle. "Love is grand, but compatibility is essential to make a marriage last," says April Masini, a relationship and etiquette expert. "When couples have chemistry but no compatibility, the romance fizzles." You don't have to agree on everything, but you do have to be compatible enough on enough fronts, she adds.
There's a Focus on "We" Instead of "Me"
Studies show that couples who refer to themselves as "we" and "us" more often than "I" and "me" have better in long-term partnerships, says Nelson. "Additionally, partners who think in terms of being in a couple are more likely to stay together and are happier." Think about the language you use when referring to you and your partner. Do you say, "We want to do X, Y, or Z for dinner," or "I want to do X, Y, and Z for dinner?" Talking to other people will help cement your bond, especially when your partner hears you talk about your relationship in that way, adds Nelson.
You Know How to Have Fun Together
Remember this: The couple who plays together stays together. Nelson urges the importance of finding ways to hang out that are fun. "Create things that you and your partner can do that are physical—ride bicycles or hike local parks together, try a new yoga class, meditate to an app, visit a local museum, or explore wine country in your state," she says. "The more fun activities you share, the more you will feel like being together is fun, and the more you hang together, the less bored you will be over time (and yes, that is the risk)."
You Both Have a High Self-Esteem
Perhaps when you first met one or both of you was less confident than you are today, but feeling good in your own skin is an important quality to bring to the table in your relationship. "If you or your partner have low self-esteem, you're going to be spending a lot of energy compensating for that loss, which is exhausting," Masini says. "That's why partners who both have healthy self-esteem tend to have a much easier and happier time as a couple in the long term."
You Have a Mutual Respect for One Another
Respect is one of the most important qualities in any relationship, especially romantic ones. "Respect is the glue that makes things work in a relationship," says Masini. "When one or both of you lose respect for the other, the relationship crumbles, but when you respect your partner, along with their decisions and behavior, there's ease, admiration and trust as derivative bonuses!" If you're having a hard time feeling that level of respect for your partner, sit down and discuss your expectations. Communicating and grasping an understanding where each of you is coming can help.
Even if you or your partner has a Type A, controlling personality, you have to be willing to compromise and meet the other partner in the middle. "If one person gets their way all the time, the other person is going to feel badly about themselves, about their spouse, and about their marriage," says Masini. "Flexibility is a much easier way to have a successful relationship that lasts the long term." Being open goes a long way towards happiness with someone else.
You Show Appreciation
When you've been together for a while, it can be easy to take little things you once appreciated for granted—whether it's the fact that he makes the bed each morning or that she makes your lunch for work each day. But it's the small ways we show appreciation for our loved ones that really add up. "Couples who make a point to show appreciation for each other are just nicer. It doesn't mean they don't have conflict, but they make up for conflict by creating opportunities to connect," says Masini. "All small appreciations can reduce the natural frustrations that come up with being in a relationship."
You Have a Good Sex Life
Research shows that sex plays an important role in a happy marriage. But, as Nelson notes, the misunderstanding many people have about sex and marriage is that it happens naturally when you communicate. "It's actually the other way around—when you work on your physical connection, everything else will fall into place." In other words, a good sex life doesn't happen on its own. "You have to dedicate time and practice to it, just like anything else that you want to be good at or find worthwhile," she adds.