Couples Who Stay Together Forever Do These 10 Things
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Photo: Mrs. Rachel Sama and Mr. James Michael Sama
If I asked you to think about the happiest couples you know, who pops into your mind first?
For me, it’s quite obviously my parents who’ve been happily together for over 40 years, and also my late grandparents who were together for over 60 years.
I also can name a variety of friends who are in happy, healthy relationships.
While the dynamics of all of these couples are different, there are certain similarities that they all seem to share.
When you really pay attention, observe, and ask questions about what makes a happy and healthy relationship thrive for a lifetime, you’ll notice some of the answers will start repeating themselves.
Here are ten things you’ll find the happiest, longest-lasting couples doing:
1: They forgive each other.
Grudges are like termites in a house. Termites are those pesky little tiny bugs that slowly eat away at the foundation until, if left to their own devices long enough, destroy it completely.
It might not seem like a big deal if you just see a couple of them, but it’s a warning sign of things to come.
Lack of forgiveness in a relationship has a similar impact. You may let a few things slide at first, or overlook something that bothers you, or leave an issue resolved in order to avoid conflict — but over time — these are the very things that end up destroying the foundation.
Forgiveness, on the other hand, is how we eliminate the termites once we see them coming.
And, forgiveness doesn’t always mean resolution. It’s not guaranteed that we’ll always agree with each other, and we definitely can’t take back things we said in anger, even if we try.
You know it’s true — words have a lasting impact and can be remembered for years to come, even if we say they won’t.
This is why true forgiveness is a form of absolution. It’s not about forgetting and pretending something never happened, it’s about accepting it and being willing to move on just the same.
Is it easy to forgive someone when you’ve been hurt? Of course not, but it is necessary if you want to keep loving, respecting, and caring for your partner.
- *[An obvious note]**
Never have I said, nor would I ever say, that you should forgive any form of abuse whatsoever. I also think there should be a zero-tolerance policy for cheating. The forgiveness I am referring to here (as with all of my advice) is to be applied within the walls of an otherwise healthy and functional relationship. Abuse, cheating, or intentional harm immediately void any advice herein.
2: They save space for growth and change.
I first started this blog more than 10 years (and 40 million visitors) ago.
How different are you from the person you were that long ago?
More importantly, how different are you going to be decades into the future?
There’s really no way to tell — life throws us curveballs that we need to adjust to, and that change us in the process. Yes, we can (and should) set goals, choose an identity for ourselves, and live every single day in accordance with our values and standards.
None of that, though, guarantees that things go according to plan.
Now — add someone else into the mix. Start a relationship. Perhaps, a family.
How are they going to change over the decades? If you can’t predict your own evolution, you sure as hell cannot predict theirs.
Nor can you predict how you’ll grow and evolve together as a couple.
This is why expecting things to stay exactly the way they are today is a recipe for disaster. It’s quite literally impossible, and we all know that it is.
Think about all of the changes that await us in the future — both good and bad.
We’ll move, we’ll change careers, we’ll accomplish life-long goals, we’ll lose family members, we’ll face illnesses, we’ll gain weight, we’ll lose weight, we’ll get injured, we’ll have good and bad days…
Committing yourself to someone means accepting and embracing them during all of these times, whether it’s them going through it, you, or both of you together.
The beauty of it, though, is watching them grow and evolve into new versions of themselves that you get to fall in love with all over again.
3: They lay ALL of the cards on the table.
Rachel and I have had more than one conversation about secrets.
Our marriage is founded quite literally on the basis of communication as we started talking during the beginning of pandemic lockdown and didn’t meet in person until almost 3 months later.
That means we talked about nearly everything before we even saw each other in real life.
But, naturally, we all keep our most intimate, private, or embarrassing secrets to ourselves. Or, we avoid the most difficult or uncomfortable conversations.
While this works for a time, if you hope to spend the rest of your life with someone, the rules of the game begin to change.
We must know all there is to know about each other and conversely, be willing to share all there is to know about us.
Even more importantly, though, we must be willing to have the difficult conversations in our relationship when they arise.
Is something bothering you? Is something not working? Are they making you feel unwanted or unattractive? Are you hurt by something they’ve recently done?
Instead of expecting to “get over it,” or just ignoring it and hoping it someday won’t bother you anymore, you have to be willing to openly and honestly communicate with your partner about everything.
Not “even if” it’s uncomfortable, but especially because it is.
These are the conversations that, if approached correctly, can strengthen and solidify a relationship over time.
4: They learn to “fight fair.”
Didn’t expect to see a point about fighting in this article? Well, here we are.
Just look back to #3, laying ALL of the cards on the table. If you think that doing this is going to be smooth sailing for the next 50 years, think again.
In fact, if you think that anything is going to be smooth sailing for that long, I’ve got beachfront property in Idaho to sell you.
But, I digress. The point here is that arguments are going to happen, and how you choose to handle them is going to influence the success or failure of your relationship.
Things healthy couples DON’T DO during arguments:
- Insult each other.
- Criticize THEM instead of their ACTION(s).
- Use their insecurities as weapons against them.
- Prioritize being “right” over finding a solution.
- Get violent or emotionally abusive.
Arguments, although uncomfortable, can provide opportunities to find a common ground about an issue and remember the root of your relationship: Each other.
It should be about “me and you vs. the issue,” not “me vs. you.”
When you can shift this perspective and try to find a solution that works for you both, you’ll begin facing (and moving) forward together, rather than facing each other and spinning in circles.
5: They maintain their own identities.
If I’ve said this once, I’ve said it a million times. One of the biggest downfalls I see in relationships is when one partner absorbs the other.
Meaning, one person loses sight of their identity and conforms themselves to whatever the other person wants.
They stop doing what they love, stop pursuing their passions, stop standing up for their values and beliefs, and essentially stop being the person that their partner fell in love with in the first place.
It’s not hard to see how this can lead to disaster.
How can you respect someone (Hint: Point on this incoming) if you don’t even know what they stand for? You cannot simply love an echo of yourself just as you wouldn’t love yourself if you became an echo of them.
A healthy relationship can only be comprised of healthy individuals within the relationship. They must each pledge to stay focused on their physical, mental, and emotional health with the understanding that these things are quite literally the foundation of a healthy human — and if we start to falter in these areas, our relationship will inevitably be influenced in the process.
This is why it’s important to fully trust our partners, because maintaining their own identity means giving them space to do so.
They must be able to go off on their own, do the things they love, pursue career advancements, build bonds with friends…
All, of course, while honoring and respecting the relationship and you in the process.
6: They RESPECT each other fully.
a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
Have you ever dated someone that you don’t really respect? Maybe you secretly disapprove of their life choices, or can’t understand why they’re letting their potential go to waste, or feel more like their parent than their partner.
Inevitably, over time, the entire relationship will crumble under the weight of these feelings.
Because you can’t fully trust or count on someone you don’t respect, and you certainly cannot love someone you don’t respect.
How do you confide in them? Go to them for advice? Cheer them on as they pursue their dreams? Support their decisions? See them as an equal teammate in your life?
If you don’t respect them, you can’t (really) do any of these things with your whole heart in it. And, we’re talking about a life-long commitment, which you simply cannot maintain half-heartedly.
7: They maintain realistic expectations.
I am a staunch defender of having high standards in your relationship. I am also a proponent of having realistic expectations.
The simple reality is that no person or relationship is ever going to be perfect, and we need to accept the ups-and-downs that come along with love and commitment.
There’ll be days that you don’t want to be around your partner, or are annoyed with them, or mad at them, or simply feel like shit and want to be left alone.
Does this mean you want the relationship to end? Does it mean you’ve fallen out of love?
Of course not.
But, if we have a Disney-esque view in our mind of what love is supposed to look like 24/7/365, then any variation from this perception will make us feel stressed and anxious that things are about to end.
Real love looks all different ways at all different times. It is rooted in a dedicated commitment to ride the rollercoaster of life alongside the partner you’ve chosen. The sooner you accept that there’ll be bumps in the road, the smoother your ride will be.
8: They keep the romance alive.
Earlier I mentioned that my parents have been together for over 40 years. One of the (many) things I admire most about their relationship is that they’ve consistently made time for each other.
They both own their own businesses (dad is now retired) and have done very well for themselves, but, that of course comes with much dedication to the company. And, while my brother and I were growing up, much dedication to us.
One thing that always remained consistent, though, was how they’d stay romantic with each other and kept doing the small things. Drinks by the fire on a winter’s night, a spontaneous dinner out, an overnight stay now and then for a change of scenery.
Also, things like doing the laundry, or dishes, or setting the table for Sunday dinner — all ways to show love, affection, and appreciation.
Big or small, we must keep doing things to make our partner feel the warmth. Not just in the beginning of a relationship, but for its entire duration.
Important: This effort must go both ways, or we risk someone feeling taken for granted when they’re always the one giving, and never receiving.
9: They’re a team.
Sometimes I refer to partners in a relationship as teammates. I like this term because on any successful team, there are players whose skills coincide with each other to form a great combination.
Quarterback and receiver, pitcher and catcher, passer and shooter.
If one player doesn’t do their job, the team won’t succeed.
Long-lasting relationships work in similar ways. Who’s better with housekeeping? Who makes more money? Who’s better with the kids? Who is better with DIY projects?
When we know who can bring what to the table in terms of skills and interests, we can create a relationship dynamic that allows us to thrive as one single unit. We can allocate strengths where they’re needed the most and, most importantly, set expectations for each partner so we know what our responsibilities are on the day-to-day.
When these parameters are set, it helps to avoid arguments and misunderstandings about what “you were supposed to do.”
What’s more, when we’ve got clarity around all of this, we know where we can step in and support our teammate. We can work to pick up the slack, or do something for them when they’re not feeling well.
The team always wins the game.
10: They choose each other every day.
(For the right reasons).
The truth about relationships is that they can be unpredictable, messy, stressful — peaceful, loving, serene…and over time, they’ll be all of these things eventually.
The one thing that we can control in all of this is choosing the person we are with on the journey, and choosing them for the right reasons.
Not because someone thought they’d be good for us. Not because we were lonely. Not because they’re beautiful, or handsome, or have a lot of money.
But because they inspire us, love us, respect us, and treat us with kindness — as we do for them.
Because there is nobody else we could picture being on the journey of life with.
Because we can trust them and count on them.
Because when we look into our future, they are there by our side.
Every single day when we wake up in the morning we make a decision about who we do (or don’t) want to have next to us — and the happiest couples will consciously and passionately choose each other every single morning for the rest of their lives.
At the beginning (and end) of the day, that’s the secret sauce. If you are confident in that decision, you’ll build a foundation too strong for any termites to destroy.
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Finding success in creating hundreds of viral articles and videos on building limitless confidence and healthier relationships, James has accumulated over 39 million visitors to his website and a collective social media following of over 400,000.
James speaks at live events and in the media across the U.S. and has become a go-to expert with outlets such as CNN, Bravo, The New York Post, The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, CNBC, The Boston Globe, CBS, and more.
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