I’ve been with my partner longer than I haven’t now – we met as teenagers and are still trundling along together as we enter our fourth decade.
I’d be lying if I said we haven’t been through the worst of times just as we’ve been through the best of them (though there is a comfort in learning you can make it through the tough times as well as the good - not that it feels that way in the moment!) So when I came across a Reddit thread asking fellow Redditors “What is something special that you've noticed in the happiest/strongest couple that you know?” I read through and found myself nodding along to most of them. I also noticed they are true of other happy, strong relationships I am close to. Here’s a handful of my favourites:
1. They genuinely enjoy each other’s company.
2. They trust each other.
3. They're considerate of each other and do little things for each other every day.
4. They talk their disagreements out or give each other enough space to have their own respectful opinion.
5. They truly think as a team when it comes to big decisions. They respect their own individual wants and needs but both understand that they need to compromise on major issues for anything long term to work.
6. They don’t speak badly about their significant other to other people.
7. They have time apart and separate hobbies that they can do by themselves - but the other can occasionally find joy in as well.
8. They're each other's strongest motivator.
9. No matter how many decades have passed, they still make each other laugh and they are truly each other’s best friends.
The funny thing is, I also realised a lot of these things disappear when you go through troubled times, so I suspect the “list” works just as well in reverse and gives you an idea of when your relationship is veering south, or what areas you may need to work on. And as for the last point – that’s why I for one hope very much that I get to grow old and wrinkly with my plus one, and look forward to doing so.
What the experts say
The best friend’s component certainly holds water with the experts. One study found those who consider their spouse to be their best friend are almost twice as satisfied in their marriages as other people."Maybe what is really important is friendship, and to never forget that in the push and pull of daily life," says one of the study’s authors, John Helliwell.
Sex and money matter too
Sex and money are unsurprisingly factors in a happy relationship. Studies show regular sex (around once a week floats up in one study, though an amount that satisfies both members of the relationship is the better goal) and similar spending/ savings habits common both appear common in happy marriages. This may not mean you spend or save the same by nature. Instead, what matters is that you are happy to have the money handled by the partner with the “preferred” habits. For instance, my husband is a “spend whatever is in his pocket” type based on behaviour, but prefers priority goes to bills, some spending and a bit of saving – how I was raised to handle money and second nature to me. As such, I handle the accounts, and he gets a weekly pocket money drop for discretionary spending.
At the end of the day, happy relationships come down to respect, communication, flexibility and most importantly, being best mates. So if you notice you have more crosses than ticks against the list above, it might be time to put some focus back into them.