Relationships aren’t stagnant things. There’s an ebb and flow to the way they move and evolve. Sometimes it’s all about candlelight dinners in fancy restaurants and other times it’s Chinese takeout in front of the television. While the passion and love shared between two people may be harder to identify for some couples, it doesn’t mean the relationship isn’t a strong one. (You might not think too much of a couple sitting quietly on a bench together, but for that couple it could be a special and enduring moment.) The strongest relationships aren’t about the expensive gifts and dinners anyway. So what are they about? We found some of the traits of a strong relationship the experts says REALLY show that you’ll stand the test of time.
1. You have good communication.
Ask any couple what keeps their relationship strong and the majority will say, communicating. That goes for verbal communication and communication to your partner through your actions. “During times of crises words aren’t always needed, but the communication of empathy through an embrace, a loving caress, or a thoughtful card communicates your love,” says relationship counselor, Patricia Bubash.
2. You can handle separation.
There are many situations that can cause a couple to have to be long-distance for a while—a job, an illness of a far way relative, or military duty are just a few. “When a couple is able to stay connected, and understand that being apart is a must vs. a choice, their partner feels relief. Making the situation worse by complaining, nagging, will not build a strong relationship but understanding, acceptance will,” says Bubash.
3. You have attraction and connection.
Let’s be honest, your partner should always be attractive in your eyes, as it helps maintain that physical and emotional connection. “A long lasting strong relationship has a spark, a pull, and while the lust may not last, your connection should,” says life and relationship coach, Benjamin Ritter.
4. You have strong emotional intelligence.
Does your partner empathize with you? You should be able to safely express yourself and feel understood when you’re with them. “It’s super important in the day-to-day workings of any relationship, especially a committed one, to feel as if your partner has your back and truly understands, AND feels, your pain or happiness on some level,” says San Diego based licensed marriage and family therapist, Michelene Wasil.
5. You’re attentive to each other.
An attentive partner is someone who understands how you feel, what you need, and what you want to say but maybe aren’t saying. “Are you connecting with your partner daily? John Gottman calls this ‘turning towards’ and has proven through extensive research that couples who turn toward each other on the little things throughout the day, are more likely to remain married, and happily at that!” says Wasil.
6. You’re committed.
This trait is one of the most important, and the reason why relationships sustain through rough patches. “The commitment to the actual relationship, and knowledge that no matter what happens today, they are in the relationship for tomorrow, and the next day, is important to the success of a strong relationship,” says Ritter.
7. You’re supportive.
Whether it’s a new job, a career change, starting a business, or a life transition of any type that is important to you or your partner, you both need each other’s encouragement and support. “Couples who work together to achieve the other’s goals have a strong bond,” says Bubash.
8. You respect each other.
“Do you listen when you’re partner is talking? Do you speak highly of them to others? Or do you tune them out and complain to your friends?” asks Wasil. Having this kind of mutual respect for each other automatically decreases the chances that partners will cheat, become resentful, or give up when times get tough. “Check yourself on this one. It’s a biggie and can ruin an honest partnership,” Wasil adds.
9. There’s reciprocation.
If you’re giving and they’re simply taking, it’s an uneven seesaw and that’s unhealthy, says relationship coach, Chris Armstrong. “If we expect reciprocation but someone isn’t giving it and we stay, we’re teaching them that this is okay,” he says.
10. You’re ambitious.
We’re not talking about money or social status, but about the effort, pride, and caring you both put into the relationship and yourselves. “An ambitious partner is a problem solver. An ambitious partner has their eyes and their mind on ways to better people and situations. If your partner is not ambitious, you will quickly get frustrated about their tendency to rest in place or make goals and never achieve them,” says Armstrong.
11. You have trust and honesty.
Above all else, a strong relationship requires trust. “Relationships that have trust can surpass a multitude of conflicts and misunderstandings. The absence of trust allows insecurities and jealousy to overpower the relationship,” says Ritter. Honesty also builds trust and gives each partner the permission to be vulnerable.
12. You’re spiritually aligned.
In today’s polarized environment, having a partner you see eye-to-eye with is important. “My observations indicate that couples who share a common spirituality, common values, are stronger in their relationship. They seem to place a higher value of sustaining their union,” says Budash.
13. You’re proud and public.
Along with respect, strong relationships are proud and public. You hold hands, post pictures, and are seen out and about together. “There is no shame of the relationship, and everyone knows they are an item, and probably a power couple,” says Ritter.