Relationship Advice for Couples: 12 Principles for Lasting Relationships

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Love is amazing. It’s not only what makes the world go round, but it’s probably the most beautiful part of what makes us human. And yet love is also complicated and confusing. Relationships are challenging and rarely straightforward. How do we make the best of the love in our lives, especially as it pertains to romantic relationships? By learning and working to be the best partners we can be. To that end, we’ve put together this guide featuring some of the best relationship advice for couples.

There are many ways to have a successful love story. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. However, many psychologists, relationship experts, and even philosophers have devoted much of their life to diving deep into what real love is and how to find and keep it. We can look to these experts to help us understand what works best in most marriages and relationships, translating that into practice in our own lives. 

We’ve distilled all of that wisdom into what we think is a practical guide for couples: 12 principles that can help create a lasting, loving relationship.

Make spending quality time together a priority

Without a doubt, one of the keys to a successful relationship is spending time together and genuinely connecting. 

What does this mean?

This is more than just scheduling regular date nights (although we definitely support date nights together for finding romance and adventure. Check out all of our best date ideas for couples). Quality time can take on a variety of forms and formats; what matters is that both you and your partner feel like you’re doing something that allows you to authentically connect. 

This may be something you have to prioritize and plan, especially if you have kids or busy schedules. Quality time doesn’t usually just happen, but when you make an effort to incorporate it into your week, you’ll find that it makes a big difference in your relationship.

Quality time does not have to be lengthy or complicated: it can be as easy as sharing a cup of coffee together for a few quiet minutes every morning. This is one idea on our list of relationship rituals: simple habits that couples can adopt to create these moments of connection. (Also read more about the top habits of happy couples).

Photo of couple in love in a cozy room cuddles among the New Year's garland of lanterns

Take responsibility for your own needs

We should certainly look to our partners for support, encouragement, and help. There are absolutely things that partners need from one another. However, it’s very easy to fall into a trap of wanting our partner to meet and fulfill the entirety of our needs; looking to them to fix things for us.

I am guilty of doing this when I was first with my husband. I had lots of anxiety worrying about his feelings for me and looking for constant reassurance from him that he loved me and was committed to me. I thought “if only he would say or do such-and-such, I’d feel better and these worries would go away.”

But the truth is, we’re all responsible for our selves: our emotions, our actions, our self-worth, etc.

By asking my husband to provide me with the reassurance I desperately needed, I was creating additional problems (and an endless cycle of needing reassurance in a relationship). What I had to do was get my own sh*t together and figure out this issue, not put it on him. Ultimately, this is exactly what I did, and it made a huge difference in our relationship.

It’s the mature, adult thing to do to recognize that we’re in charge of our own emotions. This helps us avoid looking to our partner to “fix” us, and it helps us avoid playing the blame game; thinking our partner is at fault for the way we may be feeling. According to PsychCentral, it is “our beliefs and expectations about a person or event or situation [that] directly influence and, many would argue, cause our feelings.”

What does being responsible for our own needs look like?

It’s about taking ownership of your emotions in a conflict situation. It’s about controlling negative emotions and not taking them out on your partner in an unhealthy or unkind way. And it’s about realizing that you’re in charge of dealing with the baggage you’ve got, from your past relationships, childhood, or whatever.

Of course, long term relationships or marriages are a breeding ground for these past issues to come to light. When we are so comfortable with another person, this allows us to be vulnerable (for better and for worse). This is when “stuff” comes up. Your old issues, neuroses, anxieties. 

When this happens, remember to take a step back and recognize the truth of what’s going on. Observe where these emotions are coming from (hint: it’s probably from deep inside you).

Read Next: What a Wife Needs from Her Husband | What a Husband Needs from His Wife

Compatibility matters but action matters most

Compatibility is a huge part of selecting your life partner. And while it’s certainly important to pick someone you’re compatible with, there’s so much more to it than that. Happy relationships can be had between people who aren’t necessarily compatible on paper but who make a tremendous effort every day to understand one another, communicate clearly, and strive to meet each other’s needs. Effort is the most vital principle of making a relationship work.

Of course, there’s something to be said for relationships that are going to be somewhat “easier” from the get-go and compatibility can help facilitate that. Compatibility goes far beyond sharing similar interests or opinions. Sharing the same values is what points most to relationship compatibility, because you’re both approaching the relationship (and life) from very similar perspectives. (See more signs you’ve met the right partner). This is going to make things go much smoother for you in many ways.

Ultimately, compatibility is just a word. What matters most is choosing the right partner and being the right partner yourself. Being good partners and good people. 

Here’s some more guidance on what to look out for when picking the right partner:

Vacation couple walking on beach together in love holding around each other. Happy interracial young couple, Woman and Caucasian man.

Express love daily (and love your partner in the way they need to be loved)

This bit of relationship advice for couples is so simple, and yet it can be more complicated than we think.

Your partner needs to know that you love and treasure them. The happiest couples express this to one another every single day. Relationships in which both people feel secure and cherished are those in which individuals can flourish. In such a relationship, you feel safe enough to take risks, be vulnerable, and grow into the best version of yourself. It’s awesome.

It is up to both partners to express love to one another, and to learn how to do it in the way your partner most feels loved.) The key to this is understanding your partner’s love language. The 5 love languages are an excellent resource we can use to understand this principle. Check out our five love languages summary and intro guide.

PS: Learning one another’s love language is one of our top tips on how to strengthen your marriage every day

But whether or not you understand the love languages, most of us know instinctually how to express love. We can write special notes to our partners (see: 25+ Romantic Open When Letter Ideas for Couples), we can present them with thoughtful, meaningful gifts (see: 100 Reasons Why I Love You List and Gift Ideas), or we can simply hold them close and tell them they’re wonderful. The most important thing is the intent to be loving and compassionate. 

Practice selflessness at every opportunity

Speaking of being loving and compassionate, what is more loving than putting another person’s needs before your own? This is a massive part of marriage and relationship success: the ability to make necessary sacrifices or concessions out of love for your partner. 

Let’s face it: relationships are not easy. And if you’re with someone for decades, you’re bound to face some challenges and trying times. This is going to require a lot from you, and it’s scary. As humans, it’s a little frightening to set our own needs aside sometimes and care for another. It’s often uncomfortable, inconvenient, and just plain trying. 

It is often said that marriage is 50/50, but the reality is that this ration is changing all the time. In some seasons of your relationship, it’s going to be 60/40, or even 90/10. Sometimes, your partner might be going through something that doesn’t allow them to give much of themselves to the relationship. They might be experiencing a serious illness. They might be burdened by intense depression.

Whatever the reason, a relationship is not going to always be “fair” and balanced. Sometimes, perhaps often, you will have to give more than you get. Perhaps much more. Can you do it? It won’t be easy but being able to do this for the ones we love is vital, and it is one of the most essential elements of creating a lasting relationship. 

For that reason, practice now. Strive to be selfless at every possible opportunity. Grow accustomed to giving without expectation of receiving. I’m willing to bet you’ll not only see improvements in your relationship, but you’ll discover new benefits personally, too.

Read Next: 18 Powerful Prayers for Your Husband

Never stop learning about healthy relationships (one of our top pieces of relationship advice for couples)

This may be one of the simplest relationship tips to remember: keep on learning and growing in your relationship. Anything you want to be good at takes practice. Relationships take skill. So don’t hesitate to seek out the resources that will help make that happen! 

We always think that couples counseling is a great tool for couples. You don’t need to be having “problems” to go to couples counseling, either. Think of it like regular maintenance. It’s simply a good way to address anything that could be improved in your relationship, alongside a professional therapist.

But reading is also a huge part of learning about healthy relationships. We’d love to have you back reading on Two Drifters frequently, of course!) but we also recommend checking out some of the best marriage books and listening to the best marriage podcasts.

Some of our favorite healthy relationship resources to read next:

Never stop striving to be a better person

Similar to continually learning about relationships, working on yourself is a major part of a successful partnership. Want to have an amazing relationship? Be a great partner! 

This is great life advice in general, whether you’re single, dating, or married or in a long-term relationship. 

One of the ways we’ve personally experienced self-betterment is by working on our anxieties. Nathan and I both suffer from various kinds of anxiety and if left unchecked, these could be detrimental to our marriage. So it is important to us to learn to manage them as best as possible, both for our own mental health and happiness and for our relationship success.

We’ve got some resources on that for you here: How to Deal With Anxiety in Relationships

Portrait of happy multiracial couple hugging in park in sunny day, copy space. Love story, romantic date

Handle relationship struggles/problems as a team

Even the most loving, intimate, and happy of relationships are not without their rocky points. Challenges in relationships are natural, and more than that, should be expected.

So how do you deal with them? As a team.  

No matter what may come your way, it is key to remember that you and your significant other are in this together. You are on the same team. This is a great thing to recall even when you’re in a typical argument. You’re not in conflict with one another. You are in conflict with the problem: the two of you against the issue, attempting to come to a resolution that preserves and strengthens your relationship

This team mindset will serve you throughout your marriage/relationship and will ultimately help you to avoid some unnecessary conflicts as well. 

It’s also good to acknowledge that conflict and challenges are normal and healthy. It’s not normal to never fight or never disagree. Healthy conflict is an important part of a lasting long-term relationship.

Read Next: How to Help Your Partner Feel More Secure in Your Relationship

Communicate with patience, honesty, and openness 

Communicating can be one of the hardest things in relationships. It seems straightforward—you’re just talking, right?—but in reality, communication is so nuanced and complex. It’s more than words. It’s tone of voice, body language, subtext, etc. And in a romantic relationship, it goes even deeper. We’re communicating with the people who know and loves us best and with whom we share a life. All that means it’s bound to get a little sticky.

So, learn about how to communicate with your partner. This is 100% a skill that can be built upon in a relationship. Communication is tough, and healthy communication does not always come naturally to us. So learning how to talk to and listen to our partner is something that takes plenty of effort and practice. 

Ultimately, good communication boils down to patience, honesty, and openness. If you focus on those things, you’re most of the way there. Check out our jam-packed guide on 5 Ways to Improve Communication in Relationships, plus these 9 couples communication exercises you can try.

Put time and energy into romance

We are all about finding romance in your relationship! Romance is something we strive to incorporate often, in ways big and small.

But how do you do that? How do you keep the spark going in your relationship? How do you keep the romance alive? What if you don’t even know how to be romantic?

WELL, our entire site is dedicated to ideas for romance and adventure, so feel free to browse around for tons of inspiration, but ultimately, we can boil it down to three quick tenets:

1. Take adventures

Want to experience more romance in your relationship? Try new things! Doing something new together, whether it’s a wild activity like skydiving or something tamer like taking a cooking class, doing something new has a tremendous impact. It strengthens your bond, creates shared memories, and unites you even closer than before. (101 ideas for you are on our couples bucket list).

We also highly recommend planning a romantic getaway as often as possible. This doesn’t have to be far from home. Even a romantic staycation or a nearby weekend getaway is a great opportunity to connect and rekindle your romance.

2. Continue to flirt

Never stop flirting with your partner! Flirting keeps things interesting and reminds your partner that you find them attractive and intriguing. Flirting can be as simple as sending one of these fun, flirty texts for him or flirty texts for her. (PS: These loving texts for him are wonderfully sweet and romantic too).

3. Prioritize intimacy

Sex and intimacy are an essential part of a happy marriage. Make time for sex and closeness as often as possible. While it may feel “unsexy” to schedule your sexy time, busy couples know that this is sometimes a necessity. One couple we know says they’ve had sex almost every day for 9 years, and it has been key to building intimacy in their relationship. While daily sex may not be practical, you can certainly make an effort to connect physically as often as possible.

Intimacy and romance are doable even when you’re in a long-distance relationship, when you make the effort, so there’s no excuse not to find the time and energy to connect. Even couples who are not long distance may find wisdom in these tips for a long distance relationship

PS: Need some inspiration to feel more romantic? Check out these romantic words and quotes to get you in a romantic mood:

Embrace vulnerability as key to true intimacy

Be vulnerable. 

So much beauty and magic emerges out of our ability to be truly vulnerable. It is the element of vulnerability that makes relationships their most sacred and meaningful. 

Vulnerability does not come easy. We’ll talk more about vulnerability in relationships in a future post on the blog, because it’s a subject that deserves a deep dive. 

One place to start with vulnerability is prioritizing the friendship aspect of your relationship. Friends are the people we turn to to share our deepest secrets and be accepted for who we are. This should be the same in a relationship. Take a look at our post on friendship in marriage for more about this.

Commitment is everything

This guide to relationship advice for couples would be incomplete without mentioning the importance of commitment. 

We believe wholeheartedly in making a commitment in our relationships. For us, marriage is a lifelong promise. For us, divorce is not even an option. We are in this for life. 

For maximum relationship success, we think this level of commitment is necessary. Without that, what motivation do you have to stick it out when things get tough? Without that, how can we depend on our partner to be there even when the going gets tough? Commitment is vital.

Now, I fully understand that we don’t know what the future holds. To say something with absolute certainty is not possible, but the point is that we should enter into marriage or long-term partnerships with this as our goal. 

PS: Fear of commitment is pretty normal. (We list it as one of the possible reasons he hasn’t proposed). That’s okay. Working on being comfortable with commitment can be a long process, and it’s normal if it doesn’t feel as though it comes naturally. 


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