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The Enduring Love? research project interviewed over 5,000 couples to understand what made their relationship last – and it busted various myths in the process.
Enduring Love? found that people in long-term relationships tend to say that small acts of kindness and appreciation are much more important than big declarations of love. Laughing together, being friends and showing love by bringing a cup of tea or sending a thoughtful text, is often more important than saying it. Read more about the importance of kindness.
Communication came up over and over again in Enduring Love?. When asked what they liked best about their relationship, most important were laughing together, sharing values and interests, being best friends, feeling supported, safe and secure, being happy, talking and listening. Sex didn’t even make the top ten! Read more about the importance of communication.
The Enduring Love? research actually showed that lots of people value arguments, especially small disagreements, because they help to vent tensions rather than let them build up. They also let you learn what’s important to the other person and so can bring you closer. The key is to just be aware that you may have different communication styles, and to respect this. Read more about arguments.
So many of the myths we hear about sex are wrong and unhelpful. As Enduring Love? showed, sex isn’t always necessary in a relationship and we all have very different needs when it comes to sex and physical affection, and these often change over time. Also, great relationships can be both monogamous and non-monogamous, and it can be helpful to re-think about what we might think of as ‘faithful’. Read more about sex and intimacy in a relationship.
Enduring Love? found that lots of people find a good relationship sometimes involves getting closer together and, at other times, moving further apart. For example, people can find it helps to have separate interests or space and time to do their own thing alone or with friends. Also, as Enduring Love? showed, more and more people in long-term relationships are opting to ‘live apart together’. Read more about spending time together and apart.
While partners are definitely important in each other’s lives, lots of people have ‘significant others’ who are just as – and sometimes even more – important. And for many of us ‘me time’ is just as important as ‘us time’ in a relationship. For many people a third element – whether that is another person, pet, or personal interest – often helps to stabilise the relationship rather than harming it.
For some people, being monogamous (being committed to just one person) is an essential component to a relationships but research shows that about 5% of relationships are openly non-monogamous. Among young people there also seems to be a trend for relationships to be more informal and casual. One study showed that ‘having friends with benefits’, is becoming more acceptable.
Whatever kind of relationship we are in it seems most of us are content with our lot. A 2015 survey by the charity Relate, The Way We Are Now, showed that 87% of the 6,000-plus people who took part were happy in their relationships. Sharing problems was considered to be the top sign of commitment in a relationship, while the top three things considered to be most important for relationships were honesty (33%), communication (22%) and commitment (19%).
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