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You can make your love last past Valentine's Day by following these tips.
While love is always in the air around this time of year, couples can struggle with how to keep the romance alive the other 364 days.
“For couples that have been together for a while, I would suggest they remember that it was probably a lot of small things that got them together, like notes and phone calls or texts that say, ‘I’m interested in you, and you are on my mind,’ so never stop doing these things," said therapist Darren Wilk of the Gottman Institute, also known as the "Love Lab." "After children come along and life’s responsibilities take over, there is a massive shift in couples to focus on the big stuff and this is why only 33% of the couples are still happy and feel connected. They forget to keep doing the things that got them together.”
The Love Lab's leader, Dr. John Gottman, and his researchers have studied thousands of couples over 40 years, from newlyweds to people in long-term marriages, and he says he can predict with 90% accuracy within the first three minutes of meeting a couple whether their relationship will make it or not. Here are the behaviors he and his researchers have isolated that make the difference between breaking up and going the distance:
1. Start strong to stay together
“Couples starting out must realize that how they start their relationship can predict how they finish," Wilk said. "They are making a long-term investment but do not even know it. Eventually their relationship will rely on these early memories to get them through tough times later on." If you're in a new relationship, get to know your partner now by asking lots of questions.
2. It's OK to fight, but you have to be friends
"In my research, I found that 69% of the time, couples fight about perpetual issues in the relationship that never get resolved. That's OK!" Gottman wrote in a Facebook post. "What matters is not solving these problems, but the affect around which they are discussed." That means even if you're in a disagreement, try to communicate with humor, affection, and acceptance. If things really get heated, take a 20-minute break — that's how much time you need to calm down.
3. The magic numbers are 5:1
Gottman found that of the couples he observed, the most stable relationships had a ratio of five positive interactions to every negative one. That 5:1 ratio is a key indication that a marriage will last — Gottman saw that more negative interactions were more likely to lead to divorce. "Maintain this ratio of positivity during an argument by avoiding the following three statements completely: you never, you always, and anything insulting or superior," he advises.
4. Turn to each other
Couples who look to each other for support, in what Gottman calls making "bids" for their partner's attention and affection, form stronger bonds than those who don't. "In one particular study, I found that newlyweds who were still married six years after their wedding had turned towards each other 86% of the times while in the lab," Gottman writes. "Those who were divorced six years later, however, had only turned towards each other 33% of the time." To maximize your emotional connection, don't take the little things for granted. "It is my philosophy that the small things done often make the most difference in a relationship."
5. Stay positive
“It’s a choice to really cherish your partner, and if your partner really is the right person for you, you have to actively cherish your partner’s positive qualities and think in your mind how fortunate you are to have this person in your life," he advises. "If both people do that with one another, then a relationship can last forever.”