Dos and don’ts for a happy and long-lasting relationship

A happy couple near The London EyeRelationships are, in ways, like our careers. Let our careers drift along as if they are going to work out OK, without putting in enough time and effort, and we’ll most likely not succeed. Allow our relationships to simply drift along, and they too, in time, will most likely fail. We must do what it takes to make our relationships a success.

“All you need is love” is a catchy line in a hit song. But in real-life, thinking that love is enough to keep a relationship alive and happy long-term, is simplistic and unrealistic. Ideally partners want to feel happy, loved, wanted, needed, special, appreciated, cared about, confident and worthwhile.

Below is a list of dos and don’ts that I’ve compiled to help us have happy, loving and long-lasting relationships. Does it seem a bit daunting? Just applying a few relevant tips might boost the happiness of a relationship. But I say the more the merrier. Think it’s all too much work? Romantic relationships are very important to many people, so surely it’s worth investing the necessary time and effort into these relationships so that they are happy. Let’s start the list:

  • Don’t be cruel. So, for example, don’t insult our partners by calling them nasty names, nor make snide remarks.
  • Don’t be too critical
  • Don’t treat our partners, and say things to them, as if they are worth less than us, or they are, actually, worthless
  • Don’t belittle or humiliate our partners
  • Don’t talk in a patronizing, gruff, nasty, lecturing… tone of voice. Both what we say and how we say it are important, and affect our partners’ feelings, reactions towards us and so on.
  • Do be kind, thoughtful, polite, considerate and respectful
  • Do be warm, loving, caring and patient
  • Do be tactful. How we word things can be the difference between extra peace and harmony in a relationship, and fights and not talking to our partners.
  • Do boost our partners’ self-esteem and confidence
  • Do talk in a warm, kind, friendly, non-patronizing, non-threatening… tone of voice
  • Don’t stonewall. This happens when one partner refuses to talk to their partner about problems in the relationship. The stonewalling partner might go out of his or her way to not find solutions to these problems, and pretend the problems don’t exist. Cathy Meyer is a Certified Divorce Coach, Marriage Educator and Legal Investigator. She said that, “In my opinion, stonewalling is the number one reason marriages end up in divorce court.”
  • Don’t be over defensive
  • Don’t be a bully – verbal and/or physical
  • Don’t throw temper tantrums
  • Don’t throw things or break things during fights and arguments
  • Do have fair, clean and kind disagreements. Disagree with others without being disagreeable.
  • Do have good communication skills. Learn these, if necessary.
  • Do be a good listener. Good listening skills include looking for the meaning behind what our partners say, showing them that we’re listening by looking at them when they speak, giving appropriate feedback (such as nodding our heads while they are talking) and so on.
  • Do make up from fights and arguments quickly. Long, drawn-out, nasty arguments are a relationship killer. Never go to bed angry with our partners. Make disagreements as kind and quick as possible.
  • Do apologize quickly if we’ve said or done something that upsets our partners. Drop our pride, if necessary; it’s worth it to add extra happiness to the relationship. No one is right all the time. Learn from the situation to avoid a similar thing happening in the future.
  • Don’t “hit below the belt” – say insults that are hurtful, unfair and, often, too personal
  • Don’t nit-pick or nag our partners
  • Don’t tease, taunt or mock our partners
  • Don’t be sarcastic in nasty ways, such as to put-down our partners
  • Don’t avoid disagreements for long periods of time, then “explode” when we can’t take it anymore. Talk to our partners about the problems long before it gets to this stage.
  • Do get the ratio of positive emotion to negative emotion correct. John Gottman has studied over 3,000 couples for about 30 years. One of Gottman’s findings is that for marriages to survive, the ratio of positive to negative emotion in a given encounter has to be at least five positive to one negative. Apparently, if Gottman analyzes an hour of a husband and wife talking, he can predict with 95% accuracy whether that couple will still be married 15 years later.
  • Do be empathetic
  • Do support our partners in words and actions. Be there for them in times of need. Listen to them when they talk about their goals in life. Watch them when they play sport.
  • Do be tolerant
  • Do be honest and trustworthy
  • Don’t be too judgemental
  • Don’t regularly rehash past arguments that have been resolved
  • Don’t discuss personal problems in public that could cause our partners to feel embarrassed or distressed
  • Don’t turn small problems into big problems – “make mountains out of molehills”
  • Don’t let “wounds fester”. Resolve problems as quickly as possible.
  • Do think win-win in the relationship, so both partners benefit from the relationship, both are happy, and so on
  • Do make the relationship a top priority
  • Do be aware of our body language. Non-verbal communication is important.
  • Do praise our partners often for things we like about them, things they’ve done well, and things we appreciate them doing. Everyone wants to feel appreciated.
  • Do know our partners’ likes and dislikes. Consider these in all areas of the relationship, such as when we’re with friends and family, out shopping, alone together, and so on.
  • Don’t put our own needs in the relationship above those of our partners’ needs. Make both needs a high priority.
  • Don’t ignore our partners for days, weeks… on end
  • Don’t play nasty mind games
  • Don’t read the newspaper, write text messages etc while having conversations with our partners. Show that we’re interested by being attentive, looking at our partners when they speak, and so on.
  • Don’t try to get our partners’ attention in ways that annoy them. Find better ways to get attention that create win-win situations.
  • Do be generous
  • Do be helpful
  • Do have realistic expectations about what’s involved in keeping relationships happy, how much our partners can give us, and so on
  • Do be ourselves. If we are naturally quiet, for example, pretending to be very outgoing will only work for so long. Our true selves will eventually be revealed.
  • Do show enough affection. Find out what affection our partners’ like and dislike, and strive to make them happy. The happiness will flow back to us. Be open and honest about our personal likes and dislikes as well.
  • Don’t deliberately start fights and arguments for fun, or for the thrill of it
  • Don’t be over controlling
  • Don’t be selfish
  • Don’t be a doormat to our partners’ needs and desires. We can make our partners happy without overdoing it, and sabotaging our own happiness, needs and so on.
  • Don’t expect our partners to be mind-readers. So avoid saying things to them, when we are upset with them, such as: “I’m not going to tell you what you did wrong. You should know.”
  • Do laugh together often. Lots of lovely laughter keeps the love alive longer, and helps make it stronger!
  • Do things together regularly that both partners enjoy, and do enough of them. Both quality time and quantity time are important for relationships.
  • Do keep the spark in the relationship alive. Do exciting things together, if we are up to it. Adventurous sports and past times help keep relationships exciting.
  • Do keep the connection alive in the relationship. If we find that the connection is disappearing, or it has gone, is it worth reviving? See a marriage counselor, read books or blog posts on relationships etc, if needed.
  • Do remember happy times that we’ve had with our partners, and talk about them together. This can strengthen relationships, and make them happier.
  • Don’t make our partners feel like everything bad or wrong in the relationship is their fault
  • Don’t look for all the negative aspects of our partners and what they do, and forget the positive ones
  • Don’t over analyze, or over highlight, our partners’ shortcomings, mistakes etc to our partners, their friends, family and so on
  • Don’t try to solve our partners’ problems if they don’t want us to. Sometimes people just want someone to listen to them. Just talking about problems can sometimes help the people talking solve the problems themselves.
  • Don’t roll our eyes when our partners say things that we disagree with, think are nonsense, and so on
  • Do make an effort to separate work-life and home-life
  • Do remember that little things mean a lot, and lots of little things amount to big things. Remember birthdays, anniversaries and other special dates. Write them in a diary, calendar or Blackberry… if we need to.
  • Do be attentive to our partners’ needs
  • Do get professional help with the relationship, if necessary. Marriage counseling, books and articles by relationship experts etc can be helpful, and might save relationships that are in trouble.
  • Do pick a suitable partner. Sadly, no matter how hard some couples might try to keep a relationship alive, they might be mismatched. For these couples, finding more suitable people to be with long-term might be the best thing to do. The strongest relationships are physically, emotionally and spiritually compatible.

written by Nyomi Graef

Meyer, C, 2008, Stonewalling,,

Wilkes, R et al., 2005, Positive and Negative Emotions in Marriage, Thriving Now,

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